When Toyota last redesigned the Corolla it landed right on target, ranking among the top models in its class. The Corolla combines the practicality and frugal fuel economy that compact-sedan buyers want with a roomy interior, upgraded amenities, and a sorely needed shot of style.The Corolla is slightly larger than the old model, which allows for a surprisingly spacious rear seat with ample leg room. Despite the bump in size, the Corolla remains small enough for easy maneuvering and parking. And it's one of the best-riding compact sedans we've tested, absorbing bumps with only muted impacts.
All Corollas are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission -- except the sportier SE, which gets a six-speed manual transmission. With the CVT our Corolla LE delivered an excellent 32 mpg overall and stretched highway mpg to 43. Performance, though, was just adequate.
Though the CVT has a tendency to hold engine revs high under acceleration, the engine and transmission live in relative harmony. The LE Eco version gets a 140-hp version of the same 1.8-liter engine, which is tuned for even better gas mileage. Still, given the frugal performance of the standard Corolla LE, we don't see the need to spend the premium for the LE Eco.
Handling is more responsive and very secure, but it hasn't improved enough to match the best cars in this class. With sportier suspension tuning, the SE and XSE versions are a bit more engaging to drive, with no real loss of ride comfort. But the Corolla is still no sports sedan; the Ford Focus and Mazda3 are more fun to drive.
For 2017 Toyota made the TSS-P safety system -- including forward-collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist -- standard across the Corolla line. That's a major plus in our book.
Interior fit and finish is a mixed bag and doesn't live up to the nicer cabins of the Chevrolet Cruze and Focus. Front-seat comfort is adequate, but some of us missed an adjustable lumbar support feature. The telescoping steering wheel doesn't pull out very far, leaving the wheel a long reach away.
Connectivity features include Bluetooth and a touch-screen audio system with controls that are straightforward and easy to use. Playing music from an Android device, iPhone, or iPod is easy, with very good compatibility. One gripe is that the on-screen preset buttons are small and clustered tightly together.