On the Road Review: Toyota Corolla Redux

Earlier this year, a new Corolla in sporty S trim paid a visit. Endowed with a hint of more elevated performance — trim pieces, special wheels, sportier stance, contrasting interior bits and pieces — the longer, more spacious Corolla did not reveal any extra action during its stay here. It did, however, reassert why it is the world’s top selling car; it works very well in the humdrum world of daily driving.

By stretching the wheelbase 4 inches, Toyota added a more spacious trunk and rear seat area to a compact car that wasn’t all that small. Now, the new Corolla is the size of a 1992 Camry, a midsize offering that really isn’t anymore as cars continue to expand their waistlines and girth — just like their owners.

{gallery}redux{/gallery} Recently, another Corolla visited, an LE this time to either cement earlier impressions, or, to remind us this Corolla is mostly new and really worthy of more attention than the enthusiast press will shower on a car with mostly plebian intentions.

The LE trim level is the Corolla’s top-selling. Now featuring a standard CVT automatic transmission, the Star safety system (including front knee airbag for the driver), LED daytime lamps (very bright!) as well as LED headlamps, auto climate controls, Entune Audio with touchscreen, folding rear seat, back-up camera and steering wheel controls, the Corolla has greater content — especially the most commonly requested features. Add a rear deck spoiler, heated mirrors and ECO mode for the CVT for extra fuel economy and Toyota projects that the latest Corolla will hit consumers’ sweet spot whether you lease or buy.

The base sedan starts at just under $18,000, including delivery. Our nondescript LE lists for $19,510 with no options. Given that the current average new car purchase price in America is hovering over $30,000, the Corolla sounds like a bargain.

And then you pull up to the gas pump for refueling and the Corolla really shines. I might fracture a speed limit or two during our press fleet automotive visits, however, mileage calculations are earnest and honest and should reflect a true perspective on what a new car can realize for fuel economy when driven under real-world conditions. First tank in the Toyota: 38.9 mpg for over 320 miles. Next fill-up: 41.3 mpg for almost 200 miles. That is 40.1 mpg for a combined rural, highway and city driving week during which the CVT’s performance was examined with certain frequency. The EPA says this Corolla LE will return 30-city/42-highway/35-mpg combined. The Corolla may look vanilla, but frugal never had so much curb appeal.

That’s because the interior is roomy, comfortable and offers very good outward visibility. The controls are simple, easy to access and work as designed. Function over form.

The Corolla accelerates smoothly, not briskly, but adequately, even though highway slogs over uneven terrain force the cruise control to work overtime.

The LE comes with 15-inch wheels and tires (actually less expensive to replace), but the hubcaps — plastic hubcaps no less — have gotta go. Surely Toyota could leverage some business with a wheels supplier for something spiffier than plastic hubcaps.

The Corolla’s styling is more contemporary. The new car fits into today’s life better and returns greater fuel mileage than last year’s sedan. What’s not to like, Corolla fans?

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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