There's nothing economy-looking about the new Corolla S.

2016 Toyota Corolla S Premium Review

Updated tech and engaging driving additions make the S a sporty choice

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: December 4th, 2015

After 49 years the Corolla is still a best-selling compact sedan. The paragon of reliable transportation, the Corolla is a great choice for shoppers looking for a dependable, affordable, efficient vehicle. The 2016 Toyota Corolla marks the third model year of the car's 11th generation, and with it, Toyota aims to continue its long-standing tradition of practicality, while infusing a little pizzazz into the vehicle with sharp exterior styling and the latest technology inside.

THE RUNDOWN: -Crisper outer look -Supple, supportive sports seats -Classy interior accents -Updated music and nav tech, but lacking driver-assist safety programs -Sport mode and paddle shifters will keep you engaged on the road

  • Exterior: A more memorable facade

    The 11th generation Corolla is characterized by a sleeker, sportier exterior, far more visually appealing than the rather vanilla 10th gen carCrisp lines give it an athletic shape, meant to be more aerodynamic, while standard LED headlights bump up the style. This Corolla is three inches longer than its predecessor, translating into legroom and cargo space gains. Our sportier Corolla S model came with a blacked-out grille, accented by chrome trim, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Plus, an integrated rear spoiler visually raises the rear end in spite of its functional uselessness on a car like this. Overall, the design changes of the 2016 Corolla S give it an attractive profile that's not as easily overlooked. This is a vehicle with some presence.

  • Interior: The Corolla gets fancy

    Inside the Corolla is a spacious, attractive cabin. Though still erring on the conservative side, the design elements of the dashboard are fluid, with knobs and buttons conveniently located around the 6.1-inch touch-screen display. Equipped with Entune Premium Audio, the display features an integrated navigation display, app suite, and backup camera.

    The interior is where the S model really stands out among the others. Soft dashboard materials, chrome window accents, piano-black trim and stitched accents in some places give it a refined, elegant feel. The S model also comes with SofTex faux-leather body-hugging sport seats for a comfortable ride if you have a long commuter or plan on taking road trips. They are smooth to touch, yet provide firm support with enhanced bolstering. Backseat passengers will also rejoice at the unprecedented space for them in back, thanks to the longer wheelbase. The S Premium also comes with creature comforts like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, keyless entry, and a power sunroof.

  • On The Road: Smooth, steady sailing

    The 2016 Corolla is available in four trims: L, LE, S, and LE ECO. If you enjoy driving, the S model is the only way to go. It's powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, putting out 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. Buyers can pair it with either a six-speed manual gearbox or the continuously variable transmission (CVT). We had the CVT, and with the sport model comes the benefit of a sport-tuned rear suspension that delivers a smooth, linear ride.

    Hitting the Sport button will activate the car's Sport Mode, which firms up the steering and adjusts shift points to give a sportier, more engaging driving experience. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel also give further control. While it's a little heavy on the takeoff and the engine can get a bit buzzy, the S Premium provides a composed ride, absorbing shock from uneven roads easily, while tightening up the steering to give you more flexibility with your driving, whether you're taking a tight corner, or passing on the highway.

    Another bonus of the S model is the slick sport gauge cluster. Both the speedometer and tachometer light up in a blue hue, with a 3.5-inch TFT monitor smack dab in the center, providing real-time information on distance, temperature, and fuel-consumption. Fuel-efficiency is still a top priority for the Corolla, and the CVT gets the best gas-mileage, aside from the LE ECO, with an EPA-estimated 37 highway mpg and 29 city.

    In terms of safety, the Corolla earned the highest 5-star overall rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), though it only received a "marginal" rating on the small front-overlap crash test. It comes with eight standard airbags, along with Toyota's Star Safety system, which includes basic safety systems like vehicle stability control, traction control, brake assist, etc. Unfortunately, what the Corolla lacks are the advanced driver-assist safety systems that are quickly becoming an integral part of new vehicles.

  • Final Impressions: Go S or go home

    While changes to the new 2016 Corolla are not drastic, they are necessary maintenance items. Efforts to update the technology with standard Bluetooth and LEDs, and the optional backup camera and Entune audio systems, plus new design flairs help make the car of the masses even more appealing. Rated the most dependable compact car by J.D. Power, the Corolla also remains a strong value. The base L model starts at just $17,230 while the base S is $19,295. If you can part with the extra $2,000, it's well worth it in terms of interior sophistication and overall driving experience.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder

    Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT)

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 132 horsepower / 1288 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 29 city / 37 highway

    Base Price: $23,055

    As Tested: $23,890 (incl. $835 destination)

    Standard S Features:Bluetooth, USB port, LED headlamps, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, rear spoiler, Sport Drive Mode, Sport instrumentation with TFT display, paddle shifters, 16-inch steel wheels, backup camera, Entune Audio

    S Premium Features:>17-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, SofTex-trimmed heated front seats, Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, moonroof

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