- Backseat is roomy enough for adults
- The LE Eco's high fuel economy
- A lot of standard equipment and safety features for the money
- Smooth ride quality on the highway and in the city
- Accelerates slower than its main competitors
- It's just not that exciting to drive
The Toyota Corolla marked its 50th anniversary last year, a continuous production milestone that places it alongside nameplates such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911. Toyota has sold 43 million Corollas, through 11 generations, and claims it as the best-selling nameplate of all time.
And yet Toyota's small sedan still gets little respect from car critics. You'll often see it described as a soulless appliance, a vanilla steel cage for transport from point A to B. The 2017 Toyota Corolla doesn't make great strides in changing that narrative, but there's still a lot to like. The Corolla's interior has a fresh and stylish edge, an easy-to-use infotainment system, and loads of rear legroom compared with most compact sedans.
For 2017, the Corolla also makes a great leap with new safety features and driver aids on all models, including a rearview camera, forward collision warning, lane departure intervention and adaptive cruise control — features that aren't commonly standard even on luxury sedans. Add the Corolla's high fuel economy and great reputation for resale value, and you have all the ingredients for a car that pleases more than it disappoints.
But keep in mind that if you like cars with quick reflexes and that boost your mood on an open road, the critics aren't wrong. Between its softly tuned suspension, dull steering and "just-enough" power and speed, the Corolla is a bit of a snooze behind the wheel. Other sedans including the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 are more fun to drive and similarly fuel-efficient. You can also get plenty of value from the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte, while the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf are also strong all-around contenders.
Still, the 2017 Corolla does the most important things well. It's not a flashy pick, but it's a smart one, and it should serve you well in the years to come.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
For 2017, the Toyota Corolla gets some front-end work done (including new LED headlights), upgraded interior upholstery, a standard rearview camera on all trims, and a bundle of safety features not usually found on a compact sedan.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Toyota Corolla is available in L, LE, LE Eco, XLE, SE, SE 50th Anniversary edition and XSE trim levels.
Standard equipment on the base L model includes 15-inch steel wheels, bi-LED headlights, LED running lights, power mirrors, doors and locks, air-conditioning, adaptive cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a six-way adjustable driver seat and four-way front passenger seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker Entune audio system with 6.1-inch touchscreen, voice controls, a CD player, a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and, for iPhone users, the Siri Eyes Free voice control system. The Corolla's extra safety features are detailed in our Safety section.
The LE adds 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, keyless entry, metallic cabin accents and automatic climate control.
The LE Eco starts with the LE's features and adds engine and suspension tuning designed for maximum fuel efficiency, 15-inch steel wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires, a rear spoiler and enhanced aerodynamics.
Upgrading to the XLE gets you keyless ignition and entry, upgraded headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, simulated leather upholstery (Toyota's SofTex), heated front seats, an upgraded driver information display, and the Entune Audio Plus audio system that builds on the basic Entune features by adding a 7-inch touchscreen display, satellite and HD radio, and an app-based navigation system (Scout GPS Link).
The SE is the sporty Corolla, although we use that term loosely. The SE builds on the LE's features and can be had with either a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or a six-speed manual transmission. The SE features 17-inch alloy wheels, unique front-end styling with a black mesh grille, heated color-keyed side mirrors with turn signal indicators, a rear spoiler, a chrome-tipped exhaust, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters (for CVT models), sport front seats, a sport-style gauge cluster and, for manual transmission models, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, and the upgraded Entune audio system.
The XSE takes the SE CVT features and adds a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat. There's also an SE 50th Anniversary edition that adds anniversary badging, gray-painted 17-inch wheels, and upgraded upholstery and trim with Black Cherry contrast stitching.
A few options packages are also available. LE and LE Eco models can select the Premium package, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, bumper-integrated LED running lights and Entune Audio Plus. A sunroof can be added to this package for LE models (it's included with the package for LE Eco).
The Premium package for SE CVT models includes Entune Audio Plus and a sunroof, while XLE and XSE models can opt for Entune Premium Audio with an integrated navigation system and the Entune App Suite.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The current Corolla's interior is certainly its nicest one to date, with a stylish dashboard and un-Corolla-like flourishes like a sport-contoured steering wheel and an eye-catching asymmetrical shifter surround. But ease of use remains the priority, and rather than bury the most oft-summoned audio and climate functions in touchscreen menus, the Corolla smartly uses traditional buttons and dials for audio and climate functions.
That said, the touchscreen, regardless of size, is a pleasant surprise. With large virtual buttons, clear graphics, and quick response time to touch inputs, it's one of the easier infotainment systems to use in the economy car class. The available Entune App Suite integrates smartphone-connected services such as Bing, Facebook, Yelp and Pandora, as well as real-time traffic data, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone app integration isn't available.
The Corolla's front seats provide generally adequate comfort, particularly with the firmer bolstering found in the SE and XSE seats, though some drivers might like more lumbar support. Longer-legged drivers might also wish for more extension from the telescoping steering wheel.
The Corolla offers more rear legroom than most small sedans, if not a commensurate amount of headroom, and the nearly flat floor makes the middle rear position more livable. Trunk capacity is average at 13 cubic feet, but the wide trunk opening facilitates loading and unloading.
All 2017 Toyota Corollas come standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a passenger seat cushion airbag. A rearview camera is standard on all trims.
Also standard on all 2017 trims is the Toyota Safety Sense P system, a bundle of technology that includes forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist (to nudge you back into your lane) and automatic high beams.
Note that most 2017 Corollas get rear drum brakes, with only the SE and XSE trims upgraded to rear discs. In Edmunds brake testing, a Corolla LE Eco with the rear drums stopped from 60 mph in 130 feet, a longer than average result.
In government crash testing, the Corolla earned a top overall rating of five stars, including five stars for front impacts and five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Corolla its top rating of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests. In the small-overlap front-impact test, however, the Corolla received a Marginal score, the institute's second-lowest.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Toyota Corolla comes with two versions of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. In all trims except the LE Eco, the engine makes 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. The LE Eco's engine uses a more sophisticated valvetrain to maximize fuel efficiency and makes a little more power, with 140 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque.
Most Corollas come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The SE can be optioned with a six-speed manual transmission, though.
In Edmunds performance testing, a Corolla LE Eco accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds. This is a about a second slower than many other small sedans.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 30 mpg combined (27 city/35 highway) for the Corolla SE with the manual transmission. CVT models with 16-inch wheels achieve 32 mpg combined (28 city/36 highway); the larger 17-inch wheels extract a 1 mpg penalty at 31 mpg combined (28 city/35 highway). Topping the range is the LE Eco with 34 mpg combined (30 city/40 highway) with 15-inch wheels and 33 combined (29 city/38 highway) with the 16-inch wheels.
The Corolla's four-cylinder engine is tried and true but pretty underwhelming. Acceleration is adequate and not much more. The LE Eco's engine adds a few horsepower, but not enough to notice. The CVT has computer-simulated "shifts" to mitigate the constant rpm drone common to these types of transmissions. That drone can rear its head, however, when you switch into Sport mode.
The Corolla's handling, too, is familiar. Sporty SE trim touches notwithstanding, there's no real playfulness present. Any attempt at spirited driving on a twisty road is met with lifeless steering and noticeable body roll. On the upside, the Corolla is all about no-hassle commuting comfort. The ride is compliant and shakes off most of what the road can throw at you. A floaty luxury sedan it isn't, but for a compact car it's impressive. If that describes your daily driving needs, the 2017 Toyota Corolla can make the daily grind seem less onerous.
If you're looking for a small sedan that covers the basics well, the 2017 Toyota Corolla is a smart choice. Several competitors deliver more thrills from the driver seat, but a sensible blend of space, fuel economy and value give the Corolla broad appeal.