Road Test: 2017 Toyota Corolla SE

The Toyota Corolla is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, marking an incredible milestone for a car that hit the U.S. market in the summer of 1968. There’s even a unique 50th anniversary special edition model that’s for sale right now in a beautiful Black Cherry color.

Corolla is the number one selling car in the world and for good reason. It does everything well, is engineered to last and for 2017, is safer than ever.

Ride and Handling
Corolla rode smoothly and absorbed bumps and potholes well. The shorter sidewall of the 17″ tires contributed to handling that was better than expected on twisty roads.

The sporty looking wheels fill the fender area nicely.

The vented front disc and solid rear disc setup provide confident braking with great pedal feel. Braking force is smooth and linear.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy
This is one of the many places that Corolla shines. Under the hood is the ubiquitous 1.8L four-cylinder engine that has proved incredibly reliable over the years. The fun part is the 6-speed manual transmission that Toyota mated it to on our sportier SE model.

Clutch engagement happens early and rowing through the gears is effortless. Toyota engineers spent some time to refine this setup and it in no way feels like a “penalty” or bare-bones transmission. With the TRD air filter and exhaust setup, this felt (and sounded) like a very hot car. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

We drove the Corolla around town and commuted to the office, then took it 250 miles south to Manhattan. Fuel economy hovered around 33 mpg while going above the speed limit. The EPA rates the Corolla at 27/35/30 (city/highway/combined).

Road and wind noise are minimal, but that’s because the TRD exhaust likely masks everything. It’s not as noticeable at highway speeds.

Excellent LED headlights project a wide and far path of light, with very strong high beams. Vertical LED daytime running lights in the lower fascia have a good on-road presence. Automatic high beams are standard and work beautifully, switching off the instant another vehicle is detected and back again very shortly after they’re not.

Interior Fit and Finish
Toyota designers did a good job of keeping the interior interesting, with the use of contrasting stitching on the seats and dash, silver and blue trim pieces in the dash and doors, and blue inserts in the seats. All the touch points feel of quality, especially the leather wrapped steering wheel, and gaps are tight throughout.

SE trimmed Corollas feature SofTex bolsters with fabric seat inserts. SofTex is a synthetic leather that has better durability and comfort properties than traditional leather. We found the seats to be comfortable around down and on a long drive. A manual lumbar adjustment would provide greater comfort across various drivers.

The door elbow rests taper toward the back of the door, which could irritate some elbows; maintaining the width and additional padding would benefit occupants. The center armrest is well-padded. The second row provides expansive legroom thanks to the nearly flat floor and well-shaped seat.

Cargo room measures in at 13 cubic feet with a wide trunk opening and fold-down seats.

Visibility is excellent all around thanks thin pillars and large windows. The standard backup camera makes any parking situation a cinch.

Gauges and Controls
Clean, well-lit gauges and controls provide all information at a quick glance.

Knobs and buttons feel good but we’d like larger and textured finish volume and tuning knobs.

Everything is well-organized and group together in a logical way. Smart Key system on the front doors and trunk making getting in and out of the Corolla easier, and push-button start means no more key fumbling to start.

Toyota’s Entune system handled all of our music and vehicle customization needs. The 7″ touchscreen responds quickly to inputs and features Siri Eyes-Free for hands free messaging, calling and anything Siri-related.

USB,  CD, HD radio and Bluetooth streaming inputs provide endless entertainment and are easy to set up.

Here’s where Corolla shines. It’s the only vehicle in its class to feature Toyota Safety Sense-P. It provides a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, and lane departure alert with lane-keeping assist. The radar cruise works well and lane-keep assist serves as a good guide for making driving easier.

Crash Test Results
The Corolla aced IIHS testing, earning a Top Safety Pick+ award, and earned all 5 stars in the NHTSA crash testing program.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 8
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 9
Noise 8
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 9
Seating 9
Visibility 9
Gauges and Controls 9
Infotainment 8
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score 90
Make: Toyota
Model: Corolla
Trim Level: SE
Engine: 1.8L I4
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Options: TRD Filter, Exhaust, Door Sill Enhacements
Base Price: $21,665
As-Tested Price: $23,586


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