|Positives: Dark trim bits add even more style, great daily driving comfort, respectable steering and handling, insane reliability.|
|Negatives: Lacks the power to match the chassis and steering, lame CVT, mediocre infotainment.|
|Bottom Line: The Corolla is one of the easiest cars to live with on a daily basis, and the Nightshade Edition gives it an even better appearance. Too bad it's not undergirded by more power.|
Though we would stop short of calling the new Corolla dynamic, it's almost a complete 180-degree shift from the outgoing model. It's not vague, spongy, numbing, or boring. It's just too bad it's not faster.
Ride Quality: It's definitely firmer than the old car, but it's not rough. And the new car that rides on the TNGA platform feels smoother but also more connected to the road surface.
Acceleration: Even though the XSE gets the more powerful engine (169 hp versus 139), it still gets a CVT and lacks verve despite having an actual physical first gear built in. The paddle shifters feel like a slap in the face because they're trying to simulate a sequential manual, but they're almost pointless. 0-60 comes in a little over 8 seconds.
Braking: The Corolla's stopping distances are about average, and the pedal has good progression. There's a little bit of nosedive under hard braking, unfortunately.
Steering: The electrically assisted power steering is light on effort but responsive, making it way better than the old Corolla.
Handling: The handling is the biggest change next to the car's steering. Though we wouldn't take it to an autocross, it's actually kind of fun to toss.
In-car tech is still a challenge for Toyota, and that's too bad. While the new system is better than the last generation infotainment system (known as Entune), it's not a truly noticeable upgrade.
Infotainment System: The screen is clear, but the system still isn't that attractive to look at or quick to operate. At least there's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which work better and looks better than the Toyota interface
Controls: The small rectangular buttons that flank the screen are hard to press while driving, and audio knobs are too small stubby to grab and use quickly.
The Corolla sedan is already a very attractive car, but the addition of black trim pieces gives it an even more upscale look. No one would call this a bargain sedan by looking at it. The proportions are right, and everything looks good. The cabin is fine, but it won't win any design awards.
Front: The black mesh trim reduces some of the protrusion of the front fascia and adds some sportiness. We like the Corolla's bladed headlights, and the black Toyota badge just aft of the hoodline looks good.
Rear: This is where the black trim is perhaps the most beneficial. The trim between the taillights, the thin spoiler, and the rear valence and faux diffuser provide a sportier look that really does deviate from the stock Corolla.
Profile: The Corolla sedan is well-proportioned and sporty looking from the side. The lack of chrome, the black wheels, and the black window trim add to the sporty appearance.
Cabin: The inside of the Corolla is dramatically different than the old sedan. Plastics quality is better, and the overall design no longer looks like it's seriously dated and drab. Even with dark coloring, the cabin looks good.
The Corolla sedan is roomier in back than the hatchback, and it manages to be just about right for four adults, even tall ones. Everything looks and feels better inside compared to the old car.
Front Seats: The seats feel comfortable with the right balance of bolstering and support.
Rear Seats: There's almost five more inches of rear legroom in the sedan, making it much better for two passengers. The middle position cushion is too high, compromising headroom for the center passenger.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Like all Toyotas, the sedan is well-built with no noise problems. The droning of the CVT can be heard when the engine is pushed.
Visibility: Sightlines are good, and the back isn't too bad even though the pillars are on the thicker side. The sloping nose in front helps place the car in tight spaces.
Climate: The climate system works well, but the vents should be upsized for a bit better airflow.
The Corolla does very well in safety tests, and it comes with a great set of standard safety features that are class-leading.
IIHS Rating: It earned the Top Safety Pick, just missing the top score due to "marginal" and "acceptable" headlights, depending on trim. It nailed every other category.
NHTSA Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 has a full set of great features like Pre-Collision System w/ Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert w/ Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams, Road Sign Assist; Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Seatbelt Warning, and an Integrated Backup Camera w/ Projected Path.
Optional Tech: None.
Sometimes styling has to eclipse practicality. Though the Corolla will have plenty of space for most folks, it's only about average when it comes to trunk space and cabin storage.
Storage Space: Aside from the center console's cupholders, the small armrest, and a shallow cubby in front of the shifter, there's not much for gear in the cabin.
Cargo Room: The trunk is only about average with 13 cubic feet of space. The seats fold down but not completely flat, and the hinge setup intrudes on the usable space.
The Corolla's small engine and CVT help with the mileage. We just wish there was an option for turbocharging, which would help with the power without damaging the EPA rating much.
Observed: 36.3 mpg.
Distance Driven: 68 miles.
Our tester came with the upgrade JBL audio system, and it's very good. You get a lot with the system (including navigation) with the $1,795 package, and it's worth it. The sound system has good bass, clarity, and there was no distortion.