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Sunday, March 25, 2018

2018 Toyota Corolla Review

2018 Toyota Corolla Review
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Perfectly average in every way, the Toyota Corolla is thoroughly competent, but not at all interesting.

MSRP: From $19,445

Horsepower: 132 hp to 140 hp

MPG: Up to 30 city / 40 highway
Review continues below

Dimensions: 183” L, 70” W, 57” H

Curb weight: 2,840 to 2,885 lbs.


The 2018 Toyota Corolla is the white bread of new cars. Satisfying sustenance without much excitement; a car that does its job with only the occasional hint of flair.  

That’s not an insult. Toyota has sold more than 40 million Corollas globally over the last few generations and the car is as much a household name as is Wonderbread. And about as thrilling, which is why we’ve scored it a reasonable but not top-notch 6.3 out of 10.

The latest Corolla rolls into 2018 largely identical, aside from the deletion of a 50th anniversary special edition (51st anniversary doesn’t have quite the same ring). Illuminated vanity mirrors are now standard on all models, while XLE and SE models add a leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel to their roster of equipment.

An important note: Toyota offers two different versions of the Corolla, each with its own story to tell. We’ve grouped them together—the Corolla sedan and the Corolla iM hatchback—since they share a name and a basic outlook on life. The Corolla iM, known briefly as the Scion iM before that brand was folded into Toyota’s portfolio, is essentially a European-market 5-door hatchback. It has its own interior design and, underneath, its suspension is considerably more sophisticated. Our rating is based on the sedan, which significantly outsells the iM, but we’ll make note of differences between the two designs as necessary.  

The Corolla sedan is available in L, LE, LE Eco, XLE, SE, and XSE trim levels, all with 4-cylinder power and a commendably high level of standard safety equipment. The Corolla iM is only offered in one configuration that slots in about equivalent to the Corolla SE sedan.

Regardless of body style, the Toyota Corolla scores well for its comfort and efficiency, as well as its crash-test record, but it loses some points for a chintzy feel inside, its questionable value, and because many rivals deliver more personality without diluting the practical nature that makes the Corolla so appealing.

The 2018 Corolla range is fitted with a 1.8-liter inline-4 engine rated at 132 horsepower in most sedans; the Eco sedan, as its name implies, is tuned for efficiency and, oddly enough, its version of the 4-cylinder engine offers 8 more hp. Most Corollas are equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), although a 6-speed manual is available on the SE sedan and the iM hatchback. Make no mistake: the Corolla’s underpinnings and steering are tuned for comfort and not performance, although the iM’s multi-link rear suspension endows it with a little more curvy road tenacity.

All models are well-equipped from the get-go, although none is a particularly stellar value in terms of their lists prices. Similarly, the Corolla range scores in the 30 mpg combined neighborhood, which is on the high side for compact cars—but not quite class-leading.

Styling
It's not bad inside, but the Toyota Corolla somehow manages to be awkward without being interesting outside.

Always something of a wallflower, the Toyota Corolla isn’t exactly the kind of car that’s going to make you stand out in a parking lot. For many of us, that’s just fine.

We’ve pulled a point off for a few awkward lines to the Corolla sedan’s exterior style and its curiously high ride height, but the Corolla iM hatchback is a little more interesting to behold. As it is, the 2018 Toyota Corolla is a 4 out of 10 in our eyes.

L and LE trim levels are the humblest of the group, with plastic hubcaps covering their steel wheels and little in the way of exterior adornment. SE and XSE trim levels stand out more with their stylish alloy wheels and a few revisions to their front and rear bumpers. They’re not quite sporty, though, given how high they sit. In the real world, that’s fine since the Corolla has an unusually high 6.7 inches of ground clearance.

Inside, a nearly vertical dashboard presents all controls in a logical, easy to sort through manner. It’s not the most stylish look, but the Corolla’s interior is nicely done with interesting use of blue lighting, attractive seat fabrics on most models and pleasant contrasting stitching running across the dashboard’s edges. Unfortunately, even a loaded model has a few switch blanks that detract from an otherwise pleasant ambience.

We like the Corolla iM’s more expressive style more. As a five-door hatchback, it boasts a long roofline and a larger greenhouse for passengers and their gear. Some neat styling touches give it a European flair—which isn’t much of a surprise since it’s sold globally with few changes as the Toyota Auris.

Inside, however, the Corolla iM’s dashboard is nearly identical to the Corolla sedan—although its infotainment system isn’t quite as well-integrated.

Performance
It won't thrill you, but the Toyota Corolla rides and handles well enough.

If you plan to get your kicks behind the wheel of a zippy sports car, the Toyota Corolla may not be the ride for you. It’s average in every way, with handling that’s safe and confident without being entertaining, a ride quality that’s smooth but not particularly plush, and engines that are refined but don’t endow this lineup with much verve.

All Corolla models are powered by versions of a 1.8-liter inline-4 engine; most you’ll find on dealer lots will be equipped with a CVT, but a 6-speed manual can be had on the Corolla SE sedan and on the Corolla iM hatchback. The 1.8-liter puts out 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque in most versions of the sedan; the LE Eco uses a special valve timing system to save fuel that has the pleasant side effect of adding 8 hp (albeit at the expense of 2 lb-ft). The Corolla iM’s version of this motor is rated at 137 hp and 126 lb-ft, but we wouldn’t get too lost in the numbers if we were you. In terms of acceleration, all are adequate. The CVT forces them to spend a lot of time at higher engine speeds, but ample sound deadening and a decent stereo should keep most engine rumble at bay.

A thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel (now leather-wrapped on all but L and LE trim levels) hints at a sporting prowess that, even on SE and XSE trims, simply isn’t there. The Corolla’s steering is light with minimal feedback from the road. It gets the job done with confidence, but it’s not there to play. Same goes for the Corolla sedan’s suspension, which offers lots of wheel travel to absorb big bumps and thus delivers a soft ride and a fair amount of body lean in corners.

The Corolla iM’s higher-tech rear suspension endows it with a little more curvy road tenacity. It rides a little more firmly, but not to the point where most road imperfections will jostle passengers.

Comfort & Quality
The Toyota Corolla's interior is roomy and its seats are comfortable, but it feels a litlte low budget for the price.

The 2018 Toyota Corolla checks all the right boxes inside on paper, but in reality it doesn’t feel as nice as its high sticker price asks buyers to pay.

We’ve given it extra points for front and rear comfort but have deducted one for a generally low-rent feel that’s increasingly absent on many of its rivals. 

All models have a height-adjustable driver’s seat; it’s power-adjusted on Corolla XLE and XSE models, which also feature synthetic leather upholstery that doesn’t quite feel like the real McCoy but should wear better over time. Both front seats are supportive and moderately bolstered. There’s good leg room in the rear, although three abreast is a little tight for extended trips.

No Corolla is luxurious inside, but we have higher expectations for the XLE and XSE models. There’s plenty of shiny, overly grained plastic trim where some rivals have put in a muted metallic or a soft-touch panel. Additionally, the infotainment system in the Corolla iM isn’t integrated especially well into its dash, looking instead like an aftermarket unit bought at a big box electronics retailer. Lower-end versions of the Corolla are littered with switch blanks inside, a reminder that you could have spent more. Competitors do a better job hiding their lack of features.

Sure, the Corolla isn’t positioned to compete with high-specification versions of compact sedans like the Mazda 3 and Honda Civic, but it would be nice to see Toyota try a little harder here.

Safety
One of the most compelling reasons to consider a Corolla is for its safety equipment and crash-test scores.

The 2018 Toyota Corolla is an exceptionally safe small car, regardless of which model buyers select. We commend its high level of standard safety equipment and both federal and independent testers have praised its crashworthiness.

Every Corolla is equipped with a high level of safety tech: LED headlights, automatic emergency braking that can detect pedestrians and vehicles, automatic high beams, and lane departure warnings in addition to expected features like eight airbags and stability control. Corolla sedans also include adaptive cruise control.

The IIHS rates the Corolla a Top Safety Pick thanks both to all that equipment and to their crashworthiness in the event of an accident. The NHTSA says that the Corolla rates five stars overall, although it scores four stars in the frontal collision test and four for rollover.

Features
The base Corolla isn't so basic any more and top-of-the-line models feel reasonably special.

The 2018 Toyota Corolla is offered in two body configurations and more than half a dozen trim levels. Even at the bottom end, it is well-equipped and while the range-topping Corolla XLE and XSE models don’t feel like mini-Bentleys, they aren’t missing much, either.

We’ve awarded points above average for the Corolla’s high level of basic equipment and its good technology story.

First, let’s talk about the Corolla sedan, available in L, LE, LE Eco, SE, XLE, and XSE trim levels.
The Corolla L is the gateway to this lineup. It’s only offered in a limited number of colors and has the look and feel of a model destined for lease special ads on the radio. But it’s not a bare bones car: a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with USB and aux input jacks, a rearview camera, air conditioning, adaptive cruise control, power windows and locks, and Bluetooth are all standard.

The Corolla LE and LE Eco add automatic climate control, a flop-down armrest integrated into the rear seat back, a 3.5-inch TFT screen in the instrument cluster, and keyless entry. The LE Eco stands apart with its engine tuned more for efficiency via a special valvetrain setup and its low rolling-resistance tires that help earn it up to 2 mpg combined above the regular Corolla.

LE models can also be ordered with a few options like an upgraded infotainment system that uses a connected smartphone’s data plan to provide an on-screen navigation map and a power moonroof.

The Corolla SE includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, seats upholstered in a combination of leatherette and fabric, a 7.0-inch infotainment system (standard on manual transmission versions and optional with the CVT), and alloy wheels.

Finally, the Corolla XLE and XSE have a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and a proximity key. XSE models differ from XLEs mainly in their exterior styling and interior upholstery.

A full, integrated navigation system is optional on XLE and XSE models.

Notably absent are some upmarket options like branded premium audio, a large moonroof, leather upholstery, and air conditioned seats—features available on many rivals. The difference, however, is that a fully loaded Corolla sedan tops out around $24,000, while some competitors approach or even exceed $30,000. If you want a decadent small car experience, you’ll need to shop elsewhere. Just be prepared to pay it.

The Corolla iM hatchback is outfitted about like a Corolla SE sedan. The only choice buyers need to make, other than color, is whether they want a manual or CVT. All iMs have a 7.0-inch Pioneer-branded audio system, a rearview camera, power windows and locks, and 17-inch alloy wheels. There’s no heated seats, keyless ignition, or power moonroof here, but at roughly $21,000 the Corolla iM way undercuts most of its competitors.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 Toyota Corolla is thrifty, if not quite the thriftiest.

The 2018 Toyota Corolla is fuel efficient, but it's lacking hardware that others use to push it to the top of its class.

This year, the most popular trim levels of the Corolla rate 28 mpg city, 36 highway, 32 combined.

Opt for SE, XSE, and XLE models with their slightly larger wheels and that figure dips to 28/35/31 mpg.

The 6-speed manual Corolla SE, an admittedly rare bird, is thirstier yet: 27/35/30 mpg.

But things turn around with the Corolla LE Eco. Its more efficient version of the standard Corolla’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine combines with special tires to produce much better numbers: 30/40/34 mpg with 15-inch wheels and 29/38/33 mpg with the optional 16s.

Not bad. Also, not great. Several competitors top 40 mpg on the highway without forcing buyers to seek out a special efficiency-oriented model with low rolling resistance tires that may not be great in wet climes. For instance, the bulk of Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda 3, and Honda Civic sedans you’ll find on dealer lots all top 40 mpg while still riding on bigger wheels with grippier tires.

It’s pretty much the same story with the Corolla iM: 27/35/30 mpg with the 6-speed manual and 28/36/31 mpg with the optional CVT.

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