Test Drive: The Toyota Corolla is solid, safe
Toyota sold about 28,000 Corolla compact cars last month. That is an impressive number, but it’s fewer than the 31,000-plus Corollas the company sold in June 2017. The rise of SUVs has dented nearly every sedan segment — including Toyota’s fleet — but the bullet-proof little Corolla is still a good choice for those who want reliable, A-to-B transportation.
The Corolla’s secret weapons are a 5-star safety rating and a raft of safety-tech features that only a few years ago were available only on luxury cars. Our test car — an XSE model on one-week loan from Toyota — has Toyota’s Safety Sense package which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights, lane-departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
In a week of commuting to work in downtown Chattanooga, the Corolla tried to break me of the habit of changing lanes without signaling on clear stretches of Highway 27. The Corolla’s internal safety nannies gently nudge you back into your home lane if you forget to signal. The lane-keep assist feature compares to a soft poke to the ribs from your spouse when you fall asleep in church.
All this adds up to an impeccable safety score. On a car that is often an entrylevel vehicle for a young buyer — perhaps with parents writing the check for the down payment — it’s a savvy marketing move. Safety sells.
WHAT IT IS
The Corolla is a five-passenger, compact sedan that has been around since 1966. Generations later, Toyota has sold more than 40 million Corollas. At its sales peak in 2015, Toyota sold about 1,000 Corollas a day in the United States.
WHAT WE LIKE
The advanced safety tech features, ice-cold air conditioning on wilting summer days, simple controls, “sport” driving mode, secure handling, easy-to-reach gauges and pushbutton start.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
There are no rear-seat AC vents and the CVT drones and over-revs during hard acceleration. Too, some of the door plastics are hard to the touch.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Our XSE tester lists for $24,150 including an $895 shipping fee and a $525 premium audio package with integrated navigation. In LE trim, the Corolla starts at $19,135, a mid-trim XLE goes for $22,135 and our top-of-the line XSE tester has a base price of $22,880.
Base Corollas come with a USB port, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, LED headlights, cloth upholstery and steel wheels. Our up-market XLE tester has a power moonroof, 7-inch touch screen, push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and SoftTex leatherette seats.
STYLING AND PERFORMANCE
A yawning, black-mesh grille and swept headlights
give the Corolla a hint of menace, but the 132-horsepower engine limits any bad-boy impulses you might harbor.
The Toyota Corolla banks on safety and reputation. That makes it a low-risk option in a segment where autos are judged more by value than performance.
The Toyota Corolla is one of the best-selling compact sedans in America.
The interior of our Toyota Corolla tester is comfortable and functional.