Test Drive: 2018 Toyota Corolla
Entry Price: $18,600
Price As Tested: $23,457
Relying on renowned owner satisfaction ratings and offering a car that attracts consumers in all demographic age groups, our tester this week is the 2018 Toyota Corolla, arriving in mid-level XLE trim. Completely restyled last year, Corolla is no longer the tiny lightweight compact we experienced when it debuted in North America in 1968 riding on a 90-inch wheelbase.
Today, Corollas traverse highways on a 16.3-inch longer wheelbase along with growth roominess and curb weight. These modern day dimensions find Corolla categorized as mid-size vehicles on the EPA fuel mileage estimate chart, a fact that solidifies Corolla as one of the “biggest little compacts” out there.
Now in its 11th generation and undergoing several nice upgrades along the way, the ’17 and ’18 Corollas feature new front end designs, LED headlights and the elimination of the outdated four-speed automatic in favor of a contemporary automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Our XLE tester listed at a base of $22,035 well equipped. The entry “L” starts at a most impressive $18,600 while the LE starts at $19,035. The remaining Corolla models, each with increasing amenities and features, find the LE Eco (economy) starting at $19,435, SE at $20,545, and top-line XSE for $22,780 giving prospective buyers six different Corollas to choose from.
Notable are the standard features on the entry “L,” including all the powers, keyless entry, a great sounding stereo, and USB and Bluetooth features. Therefore, don’t think the entry model is a stripped down Corolla because it isn’t.
With the exception of the LE Eco, Corolla comes powered by Toyota’s proven and fuel efficient 1.8-liter four-cylinder that delivers 132 horsepower and 128 lb. ft. of torque. It performs all duties adequately with surprisingly good low end torque. If you want to shift manually, you still can still purchase the SE model as it comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission.
Fuel mileage is near identical be it manual or CVT. The six-speed churns out 28 city and 35 highway versus the CVT, which does one better highway at 28 and 36, respectively. The LE Eco comes with a 140-horse 1.8-liter engine, lighter curb weight, less coefficient of drag and is a California emission LEVEL 3 model. It generates 30 city and 40 highway EPA, the best of the bunch. From millennial to baby boomer, Corolla’s outstanding low entry price coupled with the above EPA estimates and an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick makes it a winning choice. Your Toyota dealer is awaiting your visit to explain all models and features.
Equally important, if not most prominent, is Toyota’s dedication to safety. Every Corolla built comes with Toyota’s Star Safety System and Toyota Safety Sense Pre-Collision systems. The “Star Safety” includes all traction controls, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, rear view safety camera, and Smart Stop technology. The Safety Sense features a pre-collision system, lane departure, stability control, electronic brakeforce, brake assist, pedestrian detection, and much more. Add eight airbags and you’re riding in one safe vehicle and I applaud Toyota for offering all of its top line safety even in the entry L. This shows how dedicated Toyota is when it comes to protecting occupants of its vehicle regardless of the model they can afford.
The XLE line, not surprisingly, features a bevy of extra amenities. Included are power tilt/slide moonroof, enhanced LED headlights, daytime running lamps, heated front seats, push button start, upgraded interior, 16-inch Toyo Proxes tires on machined alloy wheels, comfortable seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, fog lamps, heated outside mirrors, cruise and power front seats. New for ’18 on the SE and XLE trim is a standard leather wrapped steering wheel.
Notable is Toyota’s Entune Premium Audio system, which is a $525 option and a solid addition if your pocket book allows. This setup includes Navigation, Toyota’s App suite, 7.0-inch split touch screen, AM/FM/CD, MP3/WMA playback, USB 2.0, six speakers, SiriusXM satellite with 90 days free, HD radio with iTunes, iPod, Bluetooth, hands free phone capability and much more. Unlike prior years, the Entune subscription is now totally free.
On the road, Corolla may not be a high-performance acceleration muscle car, but it does get you up to speed with a degree of liveliness. You’ll also enjoy good handling and the comfortable XLE ride thanks to a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear setup. The cabin is quiet and has a nice “mid-size feel” to it with excellent leg and head room both fore and aft.
Our Corolla came with three other options including a $224 carpet and trunk mat set, a $199 door sill enhancement, and a $79 rear bumper protector. With $920 destination, the final tally came in at $23,457 retail.
Important numbers include a curb weight of 2,870 pounds, 106.3-inch wheelbase, 6.7 inch ground clearance, 13 cu. ft. of cargo space, 35.6 ft. turn circle, and a 13.2 gallon fuel tank.
In summary, Corolla is one of the most affordable compact cars out there. The incoming 2019 models are identical, so you might want to ask your Toyota dealer what year-end incentives are in force for a 2018 leftover. If you want a hatchback, the 12th generation 2018 Corolla iM (formerly the Scion iM) is also available and starts at $18,850.
Likes: Price, upgrades, top line safety, history.
Dislikes: Rear drum brakes still used on L series models, not much else.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications.