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2016 Toyota Corolla With 2017 Updates Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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The benchmark vehicle for small sedans

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

            • SEE ALSO: Toyota Research and Buyers Guide


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The current Corolla is the eleventh generation of Toyota’s ever-popular small sedan, and 2017 will see the biggest changes since its debut for model year 2014. But the Corolla that showed up in my driveway last week wasn’t a 2017 model. It was a 2016 Special Edition.

Why I love model-year turnover, reason number 4,127… You and I want to know about the 2017, but at the moment both model years are available. And the end of the model year is likely the best time to buy, as there are often incentives from the manufacturer on down. Move `em out!

What's changing? Most obviously, the front styling. Meaning a new grille and bumper fascia, plus LED headlights in all grades. There are minor changes inside as well, including a larger touchscreen for upper levels. The Toyota Safety Sense-P electronic safety system will be found in all 2017 Corollas. It bundles the Pre-Collision System With Pedestrian Detection, Lane-Departure Alert With Steering Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beam systems. And, no surprise, there will be an SE-based 50th Anniversary Special Edition, as the Corolla nameplate debuted in Fall, 1966 for the 1967 model year. There are changes to the grade (Toyota for trim level) nomenclature, with S replaced by SE, and additional XLE and XSE premium grades plus the anniversary edition.

Under the skin, meaning unibody, drivetrain and suspension, there are no major changes. The L was offered with either a four-speed torque-converter automatic or six-speed manual transmission previously. Recognizing that sticks are bought not by those looking for lowest price, but for greater involvement and perhaps performance, the stick is only offered in the SE for 2017. And the L’s ancient 4A gives way to the CVTi-S continuously-variable transmission used in all other grades. The S got rear disc brakes instead of drums, same case for the SE for 2017. Power for all but the LE-Eco is from the tried-and-true 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The LE continues with a re-tuned version of that with a little more horsepower (140), slightly less torque (126 vs 128 lb-ft) and a bit better fuel economy.

So if this week’s 2016 Corolla Special Edition, based on the S, is not quite identical to anything in the 2017 lineup, the differences are in the details, and an SE is close, depending on options. The basic car is the same, and as Corollas have been doing for the past fifty years, it provides a fine combination of comfort, space, economy, and decent performance for a reasonable cost. That’s value, and that could be the reason the Corolla has been going so strong for so long.




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APPEARANCE: While the "Iconic Dynamism" styling was developed from the larger Camry and Avalon, and the Corolla's smaller size dictates a proportionally larger passenger greenhouse compared to its hood and trunk, it doesn't have the "baby" proportions of many other small sedans. Its well-raked windshield and rear window give a profile that would have been called "coupe-like" not long ago. The S gets a unique front clip, with a more complex shape to its grille and a sportier look. LED foglamps are set into faux brake vents,but the "splitter" at the front, small spoiler at the trailing edge of the trunk, and a near-full undertray do help decrease aerodynamic resistance for that extra bit of fuel economy. Sharp character lines are used on the sides and at the rear to banish visual boredom.

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COMFORT: Toyota got the negative message regarding cheap-looking interior materials, so the Corolla, especially in upper levels, looks almost like an entry-luxury car inside. Yes, the seating material is SofTex leatherette, not real leather, but the steering wheel rim is stitched leather. Multiple textures and materials in a pleasantly conservative, functional design give an upscale look to the interior. Here, the moderately-bolstered front seats have heatable cushions. The climate control system works very well, and quickly, even in triple-digit temperatures. Instruments are easily seen in all lighting. Premium trim levels mean pushbutton start/stop with proximity un/lock and the optional availability of Sirius/XM radio in addition to full suite of audio choices from AM and FM through CD, USB and jack, and streaming audio. A rearview camera is standard. The rear seat is spacious for the Corolla's size and not highly contoured. That and a low central tunnel makes it okay for three people, if they aren't too large. Trunk space is also good for the size, and there is a space-saver spare under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: As do all current Toyotas, the Corolla comes standard with the Star Safety System™, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control, antilock braking (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist. It also has the Smart Stop Technology brake over-ride system and an electronic tire pressure monitoring system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Use of high-strength steel results in a relatively light weight for the newest Corolla's unibody structure. Additional bracing improves rigidity compared to the previous generation. The suspension is the class-standard, with MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam axle in the rear. Design changes improve response and ride quality compared to the previous version, and the S model on which the Special Edition is based gets firmer springs with matched shock dampers and bushings. It's more sporty than sports, with no loss of comfort. Electrically-assisted steering is more efficient than hydraulic, if a bit numb -- like most such. The S's four-wheel disc brakes are a good improvement over the standard disc/drum setup.

PERFORMANCE: The Corolla’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine would have been race-car exotic in the early days of Corolla history. Only the near-legendary AE86 of the early 1980s, called the GT-S in the US, even slightly compares, as it was a fuel-injected, dual overhead cam design. Today’s Corolla engine, like all current Toyota engines, is a four-valve per cylinder design with dual overhead camshafts, both with VVT-i variable phasing and lift, with aluminum alloy block and head. Like all Toyota engines, it proves that such a design can indeed have good low- and medium-rpm torque. It works well, with minimal thirst. Its performance and economy are assisted by the CVT-iS, when even in D never really feels like a CVT. Because of the engine's power characteristics and the car's character, there is never any real need to use the manual shift mode, but that does work well, and “S” sport mode keeps revs higher, useful when the road gets interesting or on a steep hill. The typical Corolla buyer is likely more interested in mpg than mph, and at around 32 overall no matter what, it does well for a not so small gasoline-powered sedan. Acceleration is good enough to deal with everyday traffic.

CONCLUSIONS: The Toyota Corolla is a benchmark for small sedans.







SPECIFICATIONS

2016 Toyota Corolla Special Edition

Base Price $ 20,635

Price As Tested $ 23,520

Engine Type aluminum alloy 16-valve DOHC inline 4-cylinder with VVT-i variable valve lift and timing

Engine Size 1.8 liters / 110 cu. in.

Horsepower 132 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 128 @ 4400 rpm

Transmission CVT

Wheelbase / Length 106.3 in. / 183.1 in.

Curb Weight 2865 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 22

Fuel Capacity 13.2 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P215/45R17 87W m+s Firestone FR740

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / torsion beam axle

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 29 / 37 / 32

0 to 60 mph 9.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Entune Premium Audio Package With Integrated Navigation and App Suite — includes: Entune Multimedia Bundle: 6.1-inch touchscreen with split-screen display, 6 speakers, AM,FM, SiriusXM radio, jack and USB port, voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, music streaming via Bluetooth®, Siri Eyes Free, Entune App Suite, HD radio, HD predictive traffic and weather overlay, AM/FM cache $ 1,200

Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof $ 850

Destination Charge $ 835