The Toyota Corolla is simultaneously one of the most loved and most hated cars on the market. Millions of people buy Corollas, yet car snobs will go on and on about how much they hate it and how boring it is.
Engine: 1.8L 4-cylinder
Output: 140 hp, 126 lb-ft of torque
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 28 city, 35 hwy, 31 combined (CVT)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 8.3 city, 6.7 hwy, 7.5 combined (CVT)
US Price: Starts at $18,500/$24,070 as tested
CAN Price: Starts at $16,390/$26,928 as tested
Here’s the truth: For what it is — a budget compact sedan — the Toyota Corolla is perfectly fine, especially because it has just been refreshed for the 2017 model year. There are a lot of misconceptions we have to clear up about the 2017 Toyota Corolla.
It’s Affordable, Not Cheap
The first misconception is that we’ve all heard Corolla drivers can’t actually drive, but everyone has witnessed Range Rover drivers and can attest to the fact that these luxury SUV drivers are much worse.
In all seriousness, people will tell you that the Corolla is garbage because it feels like a cheap car, and that’s just not true either. The Corolla obviously can’t match a Lexus or even a Honda Civic in terms of swankiness, but it’s not as bad as you’ve heard especially when you remember how affordable it is.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla gets a new look that gives the sedan some personality, so it doesn’t look as cheap anymore, both inside and out. LED headlights and a backup camera are now standard, but more importantly, the Corolla gets Toyota’s safety technology package as standard as well.
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Where most other cars in this class make you pay extra for that stuff, the Corolla includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic highbeams as standard equipment. That’s a huge deal, considering this car starts at $18,500 in the U.S. and $16,390 in Canada. Last year’s Maserati Quattroporte didn’t even have that stuff. As tested, this Corolla even comes with heated seats, a push-button start, keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror, an eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-like seating, a sunroof, and navigation as options.
The adaptive cruise control system doesn’t work in stop-and-go traffic and is meant exclusively for highway use, but it’s user-friendly and smooth. It works just as well as adaptive cruise systems in cars that are much more expensive. One oddity is that blind spot monitoring is not offered on the Corolla, something drivers may find more useful day to day that should be thrown in with the standard safety package.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla also gets higher quality materials for the seats, a redesigned instrument panel with a cleaner design that looks less cheap, and fancy new circular air vents. The interior is much nicer than the Chevy Cruze, and everything in the Corolla is intuitive to use. There is no ambiguity, and there’s plenty of room in the cabin especially in the rear seats.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze LT Hatchback Review
In terms of value, the Corolla undercuts the Civic on price while still offering more important standard features at base level. Even fully loaded, the pricing isn’t out of whack, but topline models start to step on the toes of much better, more complete cars that might offer a better driving experience or feel more luxurious.
It’s Not That Awful to Drive
That said, another misconception is that the Corolla is awful to drive, which isn’t 100 percent true either. In the city, the Corolla is actually pretty great — remember, it doesn’t provide an engaging drive, but it doesn’t need to. It’s easy and fuss-free to drive and park, it has great sightlines, and off-the-line acceleration isn’t terrible either — it gets you where you need to go without any drama. The turning radius is also nice and tight so navigating tight spaces, parking, and completing U-turns is an easy task.
It’s when you take the Corolla on the highway where it becomes a little depressing. The steering gets extra vague and twitchy, but even worse is that the engine is borderline unresponsive when trying to make a pass. The Corolla is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque (ECO trim), that’s great in the city, but just not very good at higher speeds. Other Corollas get a 1.8L engine with 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque that probably isn’t much better. It doesn’t help that the CVT isn’t one of the better ones. You really do get that rubber band effect with this one, but it’s still much better than the old four-speed automatic it used to have.
ALSO SEE: Honda Civic LX Review
The upside of that CVT and small engine is that it should net you about 31 mpg combined. I drove the sedan around every day for three-quarters of a week before the fuel gauge even twitched.
Room for Improvement
Although all the tech and the looks have been updated for 2017 to bring it up to speed, one area that could use some tweaking is the chassis. Both the torsion beam rear suspension setup and drum brakes in the back are pretty outdated, and the engine still uses electronic fuel injection instead of direct injection, which most of its main competitors use. Although those upgrades might make the Corolla a bit more expensive, it would also make the driving experience much better as well. The Corolla would also benefit from a slightly heavier steering setup.
The Verdict: 2017 Toyota Corolla Review
Toyota has sold more than 43 million Corollas around the world since it first came out 50 years ago, and if that’s not proof that the car doesn’t suck, I’m not sure what is. The car isn’t the best or most exciting car in its class, but it’s roomy, it comes with a huge list of standard features, it will last forever, and it’s affordable. The lesson here is not to believe all the misconceptions out there and to start believing the millions of people who have voted with their dollars because the 2017 Toyota Corolla is everything someone could need in basic transportation.
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