Entry Price: $18,600
Price As Tested: $24,150
This week, we’re driving a 2018 Toyota Corolla, arriving in top-level XSE trim and coming off a complete restyle last year. No longer the tiny lightweight compact we learned to love when it debuted in North America, Corolla has grown from a tiny 90-inch wheelbase compact to today’s 16.3-inch longer wheelbase beauty.
In co-op with its growth in size, the new Corolla is now categorized as mid-size vehicle on the EPA fuel mileage chart, a fact that solidifies Corolla as one of the “biggest little compacts” in the world. Now in its 11th generation and undergoing several nice upgrades, the ’17 and ’18 Corollas feature new front end designs, LED headlights and the elimination of the outdated four-speed automatic in favor of a contemporary continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic.
Our XSE tester arrived with a base retail of $22,730 well equipped. The entry “L” starts at only $18,600 while the LE starts at $19,035. The remaining Corolla models include the LE Eco (economy model) starting at $19,435, XLE 22,305, and SE at $20,545. Including our XSE tester, this gives prospective buyers six different Corollas to choose from.
Notable are the standard features even on the entry “L,” including all the powers, keyless entry, air conditioning, a great sounding stereo, USB, Bluetooth and much more. Therefore, don’t think the entry model is a stripped down Corolla because it isn’t.
Equally significant if not most prominent of Corolla’s DNA is corporate Toyota’s commitment 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, radar smart cruise control and much more. Add eight airbags and you’re riding in one safe vehicle.
I will continually applaud Toyota in every column I write as these high tech safety features should be standard in every car built today … but they are not. So, for offering all of its top line safety even in the entry L, Toyota goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to protecting those who shell out decent monies to buy their cars and trucks regardless of which model they can afford.
With the exception of the LE Eco, all Corolla models come powered by Toyota’s fuel friendly 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 with a six-speed manual transmission for $1,220 more. Back in my baby boomer days, consumers paid more for the automatic transmission cars.
Fuel mileage is near identical be it manual or CVT. The SE six-speed manual 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.
Overall, from millennial to boomer, Corolla’s outstanding low entry, excellent fuel mileage estimates and an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick makes it a winning choice regardless of trim.
The XSE line, not surprisingly, features a bevy of extra amenities that make it stand out. Included are power tilt/slide moonroof, enhanced LED headlights, daytime running lamps, comfortable heated front seats, push button start, upgraded interior, 16-inch Toyo Proxes tires on machined alloy wheels, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, fog lamps, heated outside mirrors, rear spoiler and power front seats. New for ’18 on the SE and XLE trims is a standard leather wrapped steering wheel.
Our Corolla came with just one option, a highly recommended Entune Premium Audio system for just $525 more. Included are Navigation, Toyota’s App suite, 7-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. With $895 destination, the final tally came in at $24,150 retail.
On the road, Corolla is actually quite peppy and gets you up to freeway merging speeds easily. You’ll also enjoy good handling thanks to a MacPherson strut front setup and torsion beam rear arrangement. The cabin is quiet and has a nice “mid-size roominess” to it with excellent leg and head room both fore and aft. Traction comes via 17-inch Firestone FR740 all-season tires on really sharp 10-spoke machined alloys with black painted accents.
Important numbers include a curb weight of 2,885 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, right now may be the very best time to snag a leftover Corolla at a great, incentive based discount. Corolla is one of the most affordable “big compacts” available while the incoming 2019s are identical. If you desire a Corolla hatchback, the Corolla iM (formerly the Scion iM) is also available and starts at $18,850 with similar incentives awaiting your visit.
Likes: Price, upgrades, top line safety, history.
Dislikes: Rear drum brakes still utilized on L series models.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive: 2018 Toyota Corolla
Entry Price: $18,600