Toyota’s multi-million-seller compact brand adds more size and sizzle and also moves up a notch in its fuel-efficiency ranking.
Base 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine; five-speed manual transmission and four-speed automatics remain; fuel-sipping CVT optional, but standard with LE Eco model.
For a small car, the Corolla has some big numbers to brag about. Like the fact that in 47 years Toyota has sold more than 40 million of them and currently operates 16 factories worldwide that ship Corollas to 154 countries. The all-new 11th-generation North American version comes on strong with a bit more style – especially from the windshield forward – than its broad base of customers are used to seeing. Nothing too radical, mind you, but just enough design drama to create some politely muffled ooh’s and ah’s. Where the new Corolla shines, however, is in passenger accommodations and comfort. The car has grown about four inches in overall length and in distance between the front and rear wheels. In addition a slightly wider cabin also contributes to more passenger space. Interior styling has also improved, but in a conservative way that differs from more daring competitors. Likewise, engine choices eschew anything performance-related. A 132-horsepower four-cylinder carries over from the previous generation and is connected to a six-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional for the base L, while a new continuously variable unit (CVT) is optional for the LE and S, but standard for the new LE Eco. To reduce that “rubber-band” sensation of varying engine speed that’s prevalent with many CVT applications, Toyota’s engineers added seven artificial shift points that function automatically (or can be controlled through available steering-column-mounted paddle shifters) to simulate the action of a regular automatic transmission. The LE Eco is also equipped with a 140-horsepower version of the 1.8 that’s rated at 30 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway, compared to the base 1.8′s 29/38 numbers (with the CVT). Aside from a more efficient engine with special variable valve timing, those figures are achieved with the help of underbody panels that improve the car’s aerodynamics (and reduce highway-speed fuel consumption). As before, entry-level Corollas come with air conditioning and basic comfort items, but likely more popular will be the LE that includes climate and cruise control touch-screen audio communications interface plus a backup camera. “S” versions add sport bucket seats, sport suspension plus 17-inch wheels (16-inch rims are standard). Of course a wide assortment of comfort, communications and crash-mitigating safety options are offered for each model.
Base price (incl. destination): $17,600
Type: Four-door sedan
Engine (hp): 1.8-liter DOHC I4 (132, 140 LE Eco)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; four-speed automatic (opt. on base); continuously variable (opt. on LE and S, std. on LE Eco)
Mileage (city/hwy): 28/37 (6MT); 30/42 (LE Eco)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver’s side knee airbag; front-passenger seat-cushion airbag; anti-lock brakes; stability control; traction control
Weight (lb.): 2,800