Road Test: 2018 Toyota Corolla XLE

The 2018 Toyota Corolla marches on for another model year with several technology and feature changes, providing more standard equipment and a better value proposition.

Design
Corolla has always been known for being functional. The high roofline may not lend itself to the sleekest exterior, but the difference it makes in headroom and rear passenger space is notable.

The sleek front end is handsome with LED daytime running lights mounted in the lower fascia. Full LED headlights have an artistic design while providing some incredible nighttime illumination. The wide lower grille is separated from the upper by a large Toyota badge which houses the radar module for the standard safety systems.

Toyota designers put extra effort in to ensure the 2018 Corolla is as aerodynamic as can be. The heated side mirrors feature shapes to improve airflow turbulence and reduce wind noise.

16-inch Toyo tires mounted on stylish wheels look great and are an important part of the Corolla’s comfortable ride and minimal road noise.

Interior
The majority of time spent with a car is from the inside, and Toyota made it extra comfortable and purposeful.

Simple knobs, switches, and buttons are in place for just about every function. The cruise control stalk is now illuminated, as are all the leather-wrapped steering wheel controls. A 4.2-inch color multi-information display sits between the two analog gauges and provides trip, fuel economy, audio, nav, radar cruise, and vehicle settings information.

The front seats have a good amount of side bolstering with power seat adjustments for the driver. Contrast stitching, piano black trim, and metallic accents dress up the cabin.

We like the center armrest padding but the door armrests could use a thicker material. The doors and the cabin in general is well-designed with storage bins, large door pockets, and a two-tier center armrest storage bin.

The rear seat is one of the best space-wise. Legroom is an incredible 41 inches and three adults can sit side by side with ease. Seat cushions are firm and supportive.

A large trunk opening swallows an impressive 13 cubic feet of stuff.

Tech

Toyota surpassed the competition when it announced that safety systems such as automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, radar cruise, and automatic high beams would be standard on every one of their vehicles by 2018. Auto emergency braking in and of itself won’t be required until 2022, showing Toyota’s commitment to safety.

But it’s not just safety tech, the radar cruise system works perfectly on the highway at keeping the Corolla a safe distance from the vehicle directly in front of it. The calibrated distance selections are on the conservative side as compared to some other vehicles we’ve driven, and that’s OK–the others tend to follow a bit too closely and have a slight braking delay.

Lane keeping assist works well at highway speeds, and the automatic high beams are perfect. Turning off the second another car’s lights are spotted, and back on right as it passes.

On the infotainment side, the 7-inch display leaves a bit to be desired. The color lacks depth and contrast, even with the available adjustments. The menus and buttons are easy to use while moving, and voice dictation works well. The volume and tuning knobs are appreciated but shouldn’t be made of a piano black finish–rotating them is a slick operation.

Performance

Toyota’s ubiquitous 1.8L is as solid as any engine can get, having been in production for several decades now. It’s reliable, efficient, and perfectly matched to the Corolla. Producing 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque, power is routed through a CVT for optimal efficiency.

Acceleration is good. It’s no race horse, but we never felt we needed more power when merging onto the highway. It’s a perfect balance considering the fuel and emissions reductions the engine provides.

Outside noise is kept at bay thanks to an acoustic windshield, floor carpet insulation, an instrument panel seal between the cowl and the windshield, and fender insulators.

Braking is very good, with solid pedal feel.

Crash Test Results

2018 Corollas earn 5-stars from NHTSA and earned a 2018 Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 8
Braking 9
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 9
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 9
Seating 10
Visibility 10
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 7
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score 93


Facts
Make: Toyota
Model: Corolla
Trim Level: XLE
Engine: 1.8L
Transmission: CVT
Options: Entune Audio w/ Nav, Door Sill Enhancements

Base Price: $19,445
As-Tested Price: $23,717

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