What would you say is the best-selling car of all time? If you think it’s the Ford Model T, you would be mistaken. If you say it’s the Volkswagen Beetle, you would be wrong again. The correct answer is the Toyota Corolla. Yes, the Toyota Corolla. Forty million of them have been sold worldwide since 1968—over nine million here in the U.S.
The Corolla is on track to sell over 250,000 models here in 2018. It’s not hard to see why it has been so successful. First of all, there’s the Toyota reputation for reliability, but beyond that the Corolla is a spacious compact sedan, with great gas mileage and a reasonable price. But I want to emphasize that I’m talking about the Corolla sedan, not the Corolla IM hatchback, which is a different car, and will be reviewed separately.
Styling of the Corolla sedan is much the same as it was when this latest version was introduced for 2014. It’s got a sleek nose that’s highlighted by a sloping hood, slanting headlights and a wide grille. Inside, my top-of-the-line test car was attractive. Leatherette seats with body-color piping, a leatherette-covered dash and soft-touch material on contact surfaces looked high-quality. However, lower-range models, with fewer appointments and more hard plastic, are not as pleasing.
The Corolla cabin is spacious for a compact sedan. Front seats have plenty of travel, and a power adjuster for the driver is available. The rear seats have a surprising amount of head- and legroom, even for six-footers, although three adults may feel a bit cramped for hip space. The trunk capacity, at 13-cu-ft. is a good size for its class.
The dash is straightforward and free of clutter. Radio and climate controls are user friendly. The infotainment system on the Corolla is activated by touchscreen. The graphics are bright, and the system is easy to operate. The only fly in the ointment is the absences of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for easy access to your smartphone.
Toyota offers the Corolla sedan in six versions, L, LE, LE Eco, SE, XLE and XSE. The L and LE are pretty basic, with the LE adding automatic climate control and keyless entry and start. The LE Eco gets a specially tuned engine for better gas mileage— 33 mpg. The sportier SE has an available manual transmission and 17-inch wheels. The XLE and the XSE provide more creature comforts and differ just in styling details. All models have safety features, such as pre-collision warning/ braking, lane-departure monitoring/intervention and adaptive cruise control, but blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are not available.
Corollas are powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates a modest 132 horsepower (140 in the LE Eco). A CVT transmission transfers power to the front wheels on all models, except the SE 6.MT. Gas mileage is rated an excellent 31 mpg. Acceleration is modest, but adequate, in normal operation. However, drivers can switch to a manual mode to select any of seven simulated gears. This format gives the Corolla a bit more punch when you need it. The biggest problem with the power train is noise. There’s a constant up and down droning from the engine as the CVT keeps changing the engine’s speed. More sound insulation would be welcome.
On the road, the Corolla’s handling and ride are about average for its class. It feels sure-footed on back roads, and it corners with only moderate body-lean, but the steering does not convey much feedback to the driver. The ride is reasonably comfortable on mostly smooth pavement, but on rough roads, the Corolla bounces around a lot.
Corolla pricing starts at just $19,620 for the base L model, and ranges up to $23,800 for the top-of-the-line XSE.
Great Gas Mileage