SEATTLE, March 26, 2018 — As a youth, Toyota Corolla’s were everywhere. The unassuming value car that so many of my peers drove until the cars “puked”, has been an economic favorite for decades.Even though it’s gone through many iterations, its intended customer hasn’t changed much – younger people. Sure, there are exceptions but at its price point being well below the $25k mark, it’s easy to see why it’s a great starter car.
The current model takes aim squarely at the likes of the Honda Civic and Chevy Cruz, more than ever. The Corolla design language definitely screams Japanese with its angular front-end design, but comes across a bit more like a Volkswagen Jetta in the back-end of it.
Under the hood, we have a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s naturally aspirated. It produces only 132 horsepower with 128 lb-ft of torque. While that in and of itself isn’t a lot of power, it’s further crippled when it comes to performance because of the car’s weight and the CVT transmission.
Weighing in at 2,870 pounds, this car is heavier than it appears it should be but still feels light while driving. However, coming in just shy of 3,000 pounds does greatly impede the power output of its engine.
We get it, Toyota went to CVT (continuously variable) transmissions because they’re lighter weight and marginally help improve fuel economy. But the impact they have on performance is easily noticed.It’s liken to driving an outboard engine on a small boat where you just have throttle and the engine simply winds up to its maximum rpm.
Where the Corolla does shine, however, is in safety and reliability. With this car, you still get the legendary Toyota reliability and some good gas mileage and Toyota has really stepped up its game in the safety area as well.
To name a few of the many safety features, you have eight airbags throughout the cabin area, a frontal collision alert system with active braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control. Passive safety includes seats designed to reduce whiplash, 3 point seat belts for all passengers, collapsible steering column and high tensile strength body panels. It’s quite clear that Toyota has sunk a lot of R&D dollars into the safety of this car.
Its interior does look upscale for a car as this price and uses materials that don’t come across as being too cheap. The overall sportiness to it helps – the stitching, seat design and overall layout look great. The front seats offer a combination of comfort and a healthy dose of legroom while the folks in the rear seats aren’t quite as fortunate. Sure, there’s a bit off legroom in the back but it’s very limited – just like it is in all compact sedans.
Toyota’s infotainment center uses a screen that’s easy to navigate and an audio system that needs improvement in regards to its sonic prowess. It provides a mediocre-sounding audio experience at best – a far cry from some of what the competition offers. On-board navigation is present as it a few other built-in apps but most people with a smartphone will still find their phone’s navigation easier to use. Other nifty features include adaptive cruise control, a 6.1-inch display screen for the infotainment center and leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Like other cars in its class, the Corolla isn’t very fun to drive. its paltry horsepower, crippled further by a CVT transmission equate for a less-than-ideal fun scenario. Again, it’s not alone in this as both the Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra also hobble along with a CVT and low horsepower engines.
The real hurt to injury here, however, is the car is obviously aimed at commuters and to that end, its fuel economy isn’t that great for this class of vehicle. It has an EPA rating of 28 around town and 35 on the highway. While these aren’t terrible numbers, they become more disappointing when you consider the lack of power from its engine. We’d like to see it get well over 40 miles per gallon. The best option, if you’re considering this car, would be to opt for the six-speed manual transmission to help give the engine a bit of CPR.
With so many great cars to choose from in the sub-compact economy class, the Corolla’s greatest strength, perhaps, is the fact that it’s a Toyota. That should help create a bit more peace of mind for anyone looking to keep the car, long-term. Even though it offers some nice features,,it’s hard to overlook the hampered powertrain.