2017 Toyota Corolla XLE Review

We might have found the right car for the everyman


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: One of the most practical everyday commuter cars out there, good front seats, ample cargo space, very safe, good list of amenities.
Negatives: Steering is numb, handling is on the spongy side, interior design needs better styling.
Bottom Line: The Corolla has always been a great-selling car and for good reason. It's pretty much a no-nonsense car that works incredibly well as an everyday driver. No one who buys this car will be disappointed from a practicality standpoint. It only lets you down when you're looking for a bit more thrills from its power and driving dynamics.
 View Our 2017 Toyota Corolla Overview
Though it may seem hard to believe, the Toyota Corolla is the best-selling model in, well, ever. That's right. Toyota has sold more of these economical sedans than Ford did the Model T and VW did the Beetle. It's astounding, but when you capitalize on the fact that its strikes the right chord with mainstream drivers on a budget, you realize that it might just be the perfect car for the everyman. What does that mean? Well, no one will question the Corolla's reputation for reliability and quality, and it also adds roominess, cargo and trunk space, a smooth ride and a comfortable interior and a design that's neither polarizing nor unattractive. It's the right car for so many folks who would rather lean on the Corolla's renown as a solidly built, incredibly safe, and truly dependable car than attempt anything approaching the more risky or dramatic. We drove the top trim XLE model for a week. Read on for our in-depth review.
 

Driving Experience

5.8

 

The Corolla's strong point in terms of the driving experience is its ride comfort. Buyers will find themselves hard-presesed to complain about the way it absorbs bumps and gaps in the road. It's a vehicle that's clearly been created to satisfy the widest bandwidth of consumers without dipping a toe into the enthusiast's pool.

Ride Quality: Comfortable and quiet. The Corolla does a masterful job of managing the bumps and grinds of the daily commute without a hiccup. The tall tire sidewalls surely help, as does the soft suspension.

Acceleration: The CVT is slow at doing its work, and the acceleration is tepid, at best. 0-60 comes in almost eleven seconds with the automatic. Competitors like the Honda Civic and the Mazda3 are seconds faster, but they're also firmer in the ride department.

Braking: The Corolla has a good set of brakes and decent, progressive pedal action.

Steering: The steering is very light, imprecise and off-center. It melds with the ride in the way you expect it to. In other words, not sporty.

Handling: Noticeable body roll and understeer. Take it into a corner and the nose pushes hard.

Technology

6.7

 

There really isn't much that's either excellent or terrible about the Corolla's in-car technology. Like the driving experience, the Corolla does an adequate job that will satisfy most customers looking for an affordable and reliable family sedan.

Infotainment System: The optional 7-inch screen is clear and legible. Tactility is good, and the system responds well. We're not big fans of Toyota's Entune because of the dull colors and dated-looking icons and fonts, but it's pretty seamless to use.

Controls: For the most part, everything works well. We like the existence of physical knobs for audio, but the volume knob is too close to the touchscreen and can result in accidental misfires, while the tuning knob is actually too far from the driver, and we have long arms.

Bluetooth Pairing: Easy and quick. We had no problem pairing our iPhone with the car. Re-pairing was just as easy.

Voice Call Quality: Good voice call clarity but a bit hollow in terms of sound. No transmission issues on either side of the call.

Styling

6

 

This generation's Corolla was redesigned back in 2014 to make its styling more dramatic, edgier and more attractive to the youth set. The result was a much less conservative look that actually birthed the look of the current refreshed Camry. Though it's still not crazy in terms of styling, it is a nice departure from the duller looking previous generations while still looking very much like the Toyota product that's so wildly popular.

Front: The thin upper grille is offset by the large lower portion of the fascia. We do like the copious use of black in the grille instead of chrome.

Rear: The bird-head-like taillights are neither attractive nor off-putting. It's a fairly conservative back end that is cohesive with the rest of the car. The outboard portions of the bumper are a bit too large for our liking.

Profile: The proportions are good, and the Corolla looks good from the side. The simple crease and the raked greenhouse give the car a more sporty appearance than the last Corolla.

Cabin: Toyota interiors won't rock your design sensitivities, but the styling is generally clean, with perhaps the exception of the rather disjointed use of both rectangular and round AC vents.

Comfort

7.3

 

This is the Corolla's strong suit. The front and rear seats are accommdating for occupants of virtually all sizes and shapes, and it sits atop the economy sedan heap when it comes to overall daily commuter ease. The Corolla might not be especially quick or especially attractive, but it is a truly comfortable automobile that shoud suit most buyers.

Front Seats: Even in vinyl, these are pretty good seats. They look good for the segment and have good support and cushioning. The seatbacks allowed for good torso room.

Rear Seats: The outboard passengers can rest in some nicely contoured seats, but the middle passenger rests on a firm, tall cushion and a flat seat back. At least there's a good amount of legroom for all.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Quiet and well-built with no vibrations or errant noises. The only noticeable sound is the small engine when it's working too hard.

Visibility: Good visibility all around. The seating position is good, and the rear pillars aren't too thick, nor is the parcel shelf behind the rear seats especially high. It is nice, though, to have the standard backup camera.

Climate: We liked the climate control system a lot. The three long, flat toggle switches made changes easy, and the cabin responded quickly.

Safety

9.1

 

The Corolla nails this category with flying colors. It's one of the safest small sedans out on the market, and its marks and features should put this car at thge top of your shopping list in terms of providing safety for you and your family.

IIHS Rating: A Top Safety Pick+ with good marks across the board. It also nabbed a "superior" score in accident prevention and a top score with headlights and ease of use with the child LATCH system. We found the latter two to be true in our testing.

Standard Tech: As a high point, Corollas come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense-P driver-assistance package, which includes automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beams, and radar cruise control. Toyota even tosses in a backup camera with projected path lines across the board. This is big in this segment, and most don't do it standard.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

7.6

 

The Corolla provides good storage and cargo capacity, though it's not the best in its class. And despite the somewhat odd interior styling, they've made room for daily gear stowage and easy access. The trunk isn't the biggest in its class, either, but it provides sufficient space for most drivers.

Storage Space: The cupholders are easy to access, and the two main storage units, one below the center stack and one in the armrest compartment, are sizable and well-shaped for gear stowage.

Cargo Room: 13.0 cubic feet is smaller than the Civic sedan's 15.1 cubic feet but bigger than the Mazda3 sedan's 12.4. The trunk opens wide, and the opening provides easy access with a mostly flat load floor.

Fuel Economy

7.8

 

The Corolla, rather suprisingly, isn't as fuel efficient as we thought it would be given the lack of power. The 1.8-liter engine is rated at 32 mpg combined, but we saw much less in real world driving (though we tend to be a bit heavy-footed). Statistics show that most drivers are getting anywhere between 19 and 29 mpg combined with the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that was in our tester. The more powerful Mazda3 with the 2.0-liter four actually does better.

Observed: 21.9 mpg combined.

Distance Driven: 232.8 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove the Corolla in urban and highway driving with a more aggressive style to extract more acceleration from the engine. Most owners will net higher mileage, but we think 32 mpg combined will require some seriously conservative driving habits.

Audio

6.5

 

The sound system, an optional upgrade, didn't sound especially premium to us. At least the sound was clear and crisp, though it lacked some fullness and the kind of bass levels we'd like to see in an upgraded system. That being said, $525 for the infotainment upgrade isn't a lot to ask.



Final Thoughts

The Corolla sells incredibly well for numerous reasons, and we can see why. It's non-offensive with broad appeal, and the reputation that it carries with it goes a long way in getting customers in the showroom and driving away in a new Corolla. Even used models still sell very well. We walked away from the Corolla with the same mindset, one that understands that the Corolla isn't aiming for a bulls-eye but rather a large landing pad of appeal to a wide customer base. It provides good comfort, decent design and bulletproof reliability and safety, which is far more than many other cars can boast.
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