Bang For Your Buck

By Eric Peters

March 1, 2018 6 min read

Technically, the Toyota Corolla is an entry-level compact sedan -- a notch down in size and price from the midsize, mid-priced Toyota Camry sedan.

But when it comes to passenger space, the Corolla has almost the same interior space and more back-seat space, 41.4 inches instead of 38 inches.

You also get adaptive cruise control, a 6.1-inch LCD touch screen with Siri Eyes Free voice control, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a six-speaker stereo, LED headlights with automatic high-beam control, automated emergency braking, steering assist and pedestrian detection.

That's all standard -- and all for a lot less than the cost of a Camry.

Toyota doesn't put that in Corolla's press kit. But it might be something you'd like to know.

*What It Is

The Corolla is a small sedan that isn't small in the back seat.

The price is $18,550 for the base L trim with six-speed manual transmission. There are LE, fuel-sippy LE Eco, luxury-trimmed XLE and sporty SE trims.

And there is also a five-door hatchback version, the Corolla iM. Base price for the manual-equipped version is $18,850, and with the continuously variable automatic transmission it's $19,590.

*What's New

The Corolla was updated last year; the 2018 carries over with just a few minor changes to trim and options.

*What's Good

It's exceptionally roomy.

It has exceptional fuel economy (40 mpg on the highway for the LE Eco trim).

It's exceptionally well-equipped.

*What's Not So Good

It costs significantly more than several models with which it competes.

If you don't need a midsized car's back-seat space, you can save thousand of dollars by going with a rival like the Kia Rio, which is similarly nice and similarly equipped but has a starting price sticker of $14,200, or the Nissan Versa sedan, whose starting sticker is $12,110.

*Under the Hood

The Corolla comes with a 1.8-liter engine in two states of tune, depending on the trim you choose. All trims except the LE Eco get a 132 horsepower version, which you can pair with either a six-speed manual transmission (L trim) or the otherwise standard CVT transmission (in the higher trims).

The LE Eco gets a modified version of the 1.8-liter engine that makes 140 horsepower. This version comes paired only with the CVT automatic.

The 140 horsepower LE Eco with the CVT automatic gets the highest mileage: 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. The SE Corolla with six-speed manual transmission gets 27 mpg city and 35 highway.

*On the Road

Mash the accelerator and the Corolla will eventually accelerate. Best-case scenario is zero to 60 mph in the mid-high nine seconds. This isn't palsied. It's just ... not quick.

But the Corolla doesn't care. Or rather, the people who buy Corollas -- and there are lots of those people -- don't care because speed is not what the Corolla is about.

Comfort is. And quiet.

On those counts, the Corolla pulls away from the rest like a Chevy Corvette does from a Chevy Chevette.

Toyota went to a lot of trouble to tune out the outside world. The Corolla has a acoustic laminated glass on the windshield, an inner dashboard silencer pad, extra sealing in the cowl area near the base of the windshield and inner fender insulators. Close the door and it's tight -- like the deep-sea submersible James Cameron used to descend to Titanic's watery grave.

The absence of road and wind noise is exceptional and has a calming effect on the driver. This car is a refuge in traffic, a fortress of solitude in the stop-and-go hell of the morning (and evening) commute.

Acceleration isn't exceptional, but the lack of engine/drivetrain noise is.

*At the Curb

You would literally have to move up to a full-size car -- like Toyota's Avalon sedan -- to find comparable back-seat legroom. And even then, the Avalon still hasn't got quite as much back-seat legroom as the Corolla.

The Space Factor sets the Corolla apart. There isn't another car available at this price that's not only viable as a family car but also desirable as a family car.

And that's not just because it's spacious.

Like its entry-level rivals, the Corolla has more standard amenities than luxury cars used to offer -- including a 6.1-inch touch screen. But the Corolla steps it up with adaptive cruise control and automatic LED high beams, standard Siri voice control, automated emergency braking, and lane-departure warning with steering assist and pedestrian detection.

*The Rest

The hatchback Corolla has more cargo room -- 20.8 cubic feet, about twice the sedan's 13 cubic feet -- and the space is more usable because of the hatchback's liftgate, as opposed to the sedan's trunk lid. But be advised that back-seat legroom in this version is much less than that of the sedan, just 32.7 inches -- about the same as in the Ford Fiesta.

*The Bottom Line

Heard about getting more for less? Here's one that gives you more than your money's worth.

Eric Peters’ column, “Peters’ Garage,” can be found at

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