Engine: 1.8-liter, DOHC 4-cylinder; 140 horsepower; 126 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
EPA Ratings: 28/city, 35/highway, 31/combined
Base Price: $22,680
As Tested: $23,545
Overview: Everyone knows when it comes to reliability, Toyotas are bulletproof. While the 11th generation Corolla — launched as a 2014 model — has evolved, little has changed in almost 50 years, except safety technology borrowed from the Prius. Most Corollas come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), although a six-speed manual is available. Toyota’s CVT is better than most, designed to feel like a seven-speed automatic.
Walkaround: The Corolla design is referred to as “iconic dynamism” by Toyota, whatever that means. Its wheelbase is long for a compact car — 183 inches — with a wide stance. That adds 4 inches of interior room and 5.1 of legroom over the previous generation. The steep windshield adds a hint of wedge to the profile, with the window line running up behind the rear doors. There are LED headlamps and running lights, and the XSE (our test driver) sports a black grille.
Interior: The split-level dash layout moves the corners toward the windshield and away from the passengers, adding to an already spacious interior with good visibility. There are soft-touch surfaces with attractive molded-in stitching complementing subtle pinstriped accents in contrasting colors on the dash and door panels. Material quality is good, with nice seats. There’s excellent rear legroom; however, the 60/40 seat is too narrow for three adults. But it folds for cargo, and the trunk offers 13 cubic-feet with a low floor. Rearview camera is standard in most Corolla models — but not all.
Behind the Wheel: The 140 horses and 126 pound-feet of torque move the Corolla along quickly enough to hold its own on the freeway or mountain pass. The variable-valve timing (VVT) in our test driver added 8 horses to the standard powerplant. Yet it isn’t the horses but the response VVT delivers that’s the difference. The CVT tends to feel sluggish at low speeds — especially uphill — but acceleration levels out when you get moving and isn’t noticeable in city driving. We drove the Corolla over Blewett Pass to Leavenworth and back, and were quite happy with the overall performance, handling, braking and comfort levels.
Bottom Line: It’s hard to go wrong with the Corolla — high fuel economy, an excellent CVT plus outstanding reliability and resale. What more can you ask for?