The Toyota Corolla has always been a safe bet for those seeking steady, reliable transportation at a reasonable price. After all, 43 million buyers — Toyota says it’s the best-selling nameplate in the world — can’t be wrong.
Still, the Japanese carmaker decided to celebrate Corolla’s 50th anniversary this year by making it an even safer bet — emphasis on safe. Borrowing from Prius, its especially eco-friendly sibling, the Corolla for 2017 now includes the Toyota Safety Sense P package of active safety features. And it’s standard on all trims.
Using a camera and laser to monitor traffic conditions, the system offers pre-collision warning and pedestrian detection with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with mitigation to steer the car back into the lane, and a back-up camera. Also added this year is blind-spot monitoring.
Plus, Corolla again earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and was declared a top safety pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Marking the anniversary is a special-edition model with its own 17-inch wheels, anniversary badging and floor mats, and a special black-cherry paint color.
Beyond the anniversary chatter, Corolla has added a new sport trim this year, the XSE, which has a black grille with fog lamps, an integrated rear spoiler, and a continuously variable transmission that mimics a six-speed transmission when placed in Sport mode. And, with Scion now merged into the Toyota family, the Corolla line gains a hatchback for 2017: the Corolla iM (which you may remember as the Scion iM).
So there’s lots going on but very little, really, in the 2017 Corolla in terms of style, power and performance. Oh, there’s a new front fascia, taillight elements and a refreshed dashboard design.
But power still comes from an efficient but sluggish 1.8-liter inline-4, which gets 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. If you really get on it (and how many will bother?), it should get to 60 mph in just under ten seconds. So, if you’re looking for a brisk or fun ride, better look elsewhere in the segment. Ford Focus, Mazda 3 and VW Golf come to mind.
Most will opt for the CVT, which is well-behaved and not as whiny as some of them. A six-speed manual gearbox is still available on one model, the SE, for an additional $1,220.
The ride is mostly smooth and quiet, combing over bumps and ruts adequately. Steering feel is next to numb. And Corolla has no interest in attacking corners, so they are best taken casually.
More important to Corolleans is that EPA-estimated figures of 35 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg around town are well within reach and can even be better with the six-speed manual. An LE Eco version actually beats those figures with 42 mpg highway.
Inside, a new gauge cluster, some softer materials and up to a 4.2-inch infotainment screen, depending on trim level, class up the dash a bit. For an extra $309, you can get illuminated door sills, too.
Front seats offer good support and are comfortable enough for long trips. Back-seat space has adequate room for heads, legs and knees. A week’s worth of groceries easily fit into the trunk, which is better-than-average for the segment.
Toyota knows these are the things that matter most to Corolla buyers. Comfort, reliability, economy. But, to honor the car’s 50th birthday, the carmaker threw in a few more features — just to be safe.
2017 Toyota Corolla SE
MSRP: $24,171 (with TRD performance exhaust, sway bar, six-speed transmission)
What’s all the excitement about? Corolla celebrates its 50th anniversary with a high-tech safety package, standard across the board
Powertrain: 1.8-liter inline-4 mated to six-speed manual or CVT
How’s the performance? Well, it’s a Corolla: Underpowered, 0-60 mph in ten seconds, but it’ll get you there every time
What about fuel economy? 30 mpg combined (27 city, 35 highway); LE Eco model rated at 42 mpg highway