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2017 Toyota Corolla Review By Steve Purdy

2017 Toyota Corolla Review (select to view enlarged photo)

Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

We think of the Toyota Corolla as the epitome of a ‘white-bread’ sedan. It has, from its inception, been a small, efficient, economical, dependable conveyance without much character to distinguish it from the competition. Well, most of that is still true, but Toyota has managed to add a bit of personality to the latest edition of the Corolla while maintaining all those other desirable attributes and, in this case, adding a bunch of unexpected content.

2017 Toyota Corolla Review (select to view enlarged photo)
1980 Toyota Corolla Liftback SR5

The Corolla nameplate is now just over 50 years old and in its 11th generation. This five-passenger compact sedan experienced a mild refresh for 2017, including some cosmetics, LED lighting, some infotainment and control upgrades and substantial improvements in safety/driver assistance features. All Corollas now come with lane departure warning, rear view camera, blind spot warning, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and automatic high beams. It has also scored the top rating by IIHS in all its crash mitigation categories including the moderate-overlap test that many cars failed.

From a styling perspective the bold and brash front fascia with sculpted cheek vents and in-your-face grille dominate the small car’s looks. The rear and side views remain mostly nondescript but with enough shape to look modern. Lesser models come with 15-inch stamped steel wheels with plastic wheel covers while upper trim levels get good-looking alloy wheels in either 16- or 17-inch diameters.

The surprisingly attractive and upscale interior on our up-level test car shows that Toyota is paying attention. The quality of materials, stylish design and precision of assembly go well beyond what we used to expect in a low-end car from a mainstream manufacturer. This is, as we noted, the top trim level but the design and materials will be the same in the lesser trim levels as well.

2017 Toyota Corolla Review (select to view enlarged photo)

Interior volume is generous so it does not feel oppressively small. The driver’s seat is mounted low enough that ingress and egress accommodates even a big guy like me. Rear seating is bigger than expected as well with room for full-size people and trunk space will swallow more than you might think. The rear seatbacks fold 60/40 but the release mechanism is awkward and ill-designed. The release knobs are mounted far enough inboard that it is hard to reach, particularly on the ‘60’ side, and their shape and material allowed my grip to slip painfully. That needs to be rethought for sure.

Corolla comes in multiple trim levels beginning with the L model starting at $18,500 on the sticker. XLE model with faux leather, sunroof, power seats, and other premium content we formerly thought of as luxurious, starts at $21,825. There is even a 50th Anniversary Edition of the SE trim. Our test car is the loaded XLE and we found the content quite generous. When you consider the included features, that price seems mighty reasonable.

2017 Toyota Corolla Review (select to view enlarged photo)

One engine powers the entire line of Corollas – a 1.8-liter 4-banger making a modest 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. The Eco model gets different valve actuation and tiny bit more horsepower with just a couple extra mpg. While a CVT (continuously variable transmission) transfers power in most models the Corolla SE is one of the rare new cars these days that can be had with a 6-speed manual. The EPA rates Corolla at 28 mpg in the city, 35 on the highway and 31 mpg combined on regular fuel. Even though most of our driving this week was not on the highway we managed just over 33 mpg. The 13.2-gallon fuel tank makes for a decent cruising range.

The driving experience is not one to inspire comment. While Corolla is pleasant enough the dynamics will not engender much praise. Steering, suspension tuning, cornering ability and all those attributes we auto writers like to dwell on do not stand out except in terms of their basic competence. The powertrain, while feeling rather tepid, was enough to get me up to speed on our cloverleaf freeway entrance. Many cars do not. Of course, if we had the manual transmission version it would be much more interesting to drive just for the novelty of doing our own shifting. As with most CVTs it can be rather buzzy in spite of artificial shift points programmed into the transmission.

Toyota’s new car warranty covers the Corolla for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Routine maintenance is free for the first 2 years or 25,000 miles.

Even though the sedan segments of the auto market are rapidly giving way to CUVs we still have plenty of choices in compact sedans, and they range from basic transportation to even luxury and sport versions. Corolla fits somewhere in the middle - more than basic transportation but not particularly sporty or luxurious. For the price, and considering Toyota’s well-earned reputation for durability, this could be a good choice for a variety of customers.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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