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2015 Toyota Corolla Review By Larry Nutson

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2015 Toyota Corolla

2015 Toyota Corolla
Good value and versatile

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The compact segment is growing in leaps and bounds. Some forecasts say it will grow by 25%. Today’s buyers of compact cars are affluent and successful, and many are downsizing their household fleet, such as active lifestyle empty nesters. And there are many young buyers who want up-market features and the infotainment and connectivity that today’s world offers.

The Corolla is now in its eleventh generation, introduced in late 2013 for the 2014 model year. First sold in the U.S. in 1968, it has celebrated its 45th anniversary with over ten million sold. Over four and a half million Corollas are still on the road in the U.S. The outgoing Corolla was introduced in 2008 and is a big seller in the compact segment. Around the world the Corolla is the best-selling nameplate of all time with over 40 million sold since 1966.

The first thing that gets discussed on any new car is looks. On the outside the new, generation eleven, 2015 Corolla is more expressive. Some say distinguished. And, it is certainly less utilitarian looking than the previous model. It’s bolder and more attractive. You can say the same about the inside with more upscale appearance and nicer fabrics and trims. The increased use of premium grade materials helps a lot. Like many new compacts, the 2015 Corolla is longer, lower and wider. There’s more rear seat legroom, actually, lots of legroom.

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The five-passenger 2015 Corolla is offered in four trim levels: L, LE, LE Eco and S. Power is from a 1.8-L 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine driving through the front wheels. There are three different transmissions depending on model. A 4-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual is offered on the L. An all-new CVTi-S drives the other three models. The S can also be had with the 6-speed manual.

The L, LE and S engine is rated at 132HP. The LE Eco’s engine is rated at 140HP and has Corolla’s best EPA test fuel economy rating of 42 highway mpg and 30 city test mpg, for a combined EPA test rating of 35mpg.

The LE Eco’s boost in horsepower comes from Valvematic , a valve train technology which appeared for the first time in North America with Corolla. Valvematic offers a broader range of continuously variable valve timing (lift and phasing) to provide optimal intake valve (not on the exhaust side) operation relative to engine demands. Valvematic offers more than a five-percent improvement in fuel economy and engine output.

This CVTi-S (i for intelligent, S for shift), available on the LE, S, and LE Eco Corolla models, features several enhancements to improve its efficiency and driving performance with discrete shift points that help create a sensation more similar to a traditional hydraulic automatic transmission. The characteristic CVT “rubber band” driving sensation of the engine winding to its power band upon acceleration has earned detractors and Toyota has rectified this.

Toyota’s engineers improved the drivability of the new Corolla by adapting discrete stepped “gears” or shift points, into the car’s acceleration and deceleration curves. The Corolla’s new CVTi-S even mimics the familiar characteristics of hydraulic automatics creating a sense of positive shift engagement. On the Corolla S trim, up to seven shift-points can also be manually actuated from the shift gate or steering wheel paddle shifters.

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Pricing starts with the L model at an MSRP of $16,950 with a six-speed manual. At the top is the S Premium CVT-E at $22,955. The $825 shipping and handling needs to be added to this along with the price of any options. Noteworthy when it comes to dialing in the full cost of ownership is that the 2015 Corolla comes with Toyota Care which covers all scheduled maintenance for two years.

The most popular Corollas are the S and LE models, with each taking about 40% of sales. The L and LE Eco will each be about 10% and only a couple percent of buyer are expected to go for the manual transmission.

I spent a week driving a ’15 Corolla S Plus with a base price of $19,845. Around town in urban driving it performed well. Toyota says zero to sixty is in the nine to ten second range. Not earth shattering. Stepping deep into the throttle and making the engine work creates some buzz but gets you up to speed. Not the quickest compact around, but adequate.

EPA test fuel economy ratings for the S Plus with the CVT are 32 mpg combined or 3.1 gallons per 100 miles, with 37 highway test mpg and 29 city test mpg.

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The interior is nicely appointed with seats being fairly comfortable. The different materials and surface finishes seem to get along with each other. I found the S seat upholstery fairly pleasing. One small item that bothered me, and it’s one of my pet peeves, is the outside mirror control mounted on the lower left instrument panel. The door armrest is where it belongs so you can stay in your driving position without see-sawing forward and back to adjust the outside mirrors. I did like having a back up camera for city parking maneuvers.

The new Corolla seemed pretty quiet in urban driving with a minimum of ambient, wind, tire and engine noise in the passenger cabin. Acoustic glass windscreen, improved floor carpet insulation, an instrument panel seal between the cowl and the windshield, a fender sound insulator, and an inner dash silencer pad all help to achieve this.

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The 2015 Corolla features eight air bags and Toyota’s Star Safety System which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. It also features the standard Smart Stop Technology brake-override system. An electronic tire pressure monitoring system is also standard.

And keeping us ever-connected is an Entune Premium Audio that includes the Entune Multimedia Bundle with navigation and app suite, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, 6 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology and 6.1 in high resolution touch-screen display with HD radio with traffic and weather, and SiriusXM Radio.

There’s lots more detailed information and specs on the 2015 Toyota Corolla models only a mouse click away at If you want to compare the Corolla to other compact sedans you can do that right here on

In February, at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show Toyota announced the 2016 Corolla Special Edition. Based on the sporty Corolla S Plus grade, it gets sporty styling features inside and out that complement a more-spirited driving experience made possible with steering wheel paddle shifters, rear disc brakes and Sport Driving Mode along with an array of additional standard features. The Corolla Special Edition will be produced between August and December 2015 and will be limited to 8,000 units.

A famous fast-food eatery boasts how many billions of burgers it has sold since 1955. Corolla is in that league when it comes to millions of cars.

© 2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy