Test Drive: The Toy­ota Corolla is solid, safe

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - Mark Kennedy

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.

STAN­DARD FEA­TURES

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.

BOT­TOM LINE

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY MARK KENNEDY

The Toy­ota Corolla is one of the best-sell­ing com­pact sedans in Amer­ica.

STAFF PHOTO BY MARK KENNEDY

The in­te­rior of our Toy­ota Corolla tester is com­fort­able and func­tional.

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