2018 Toyota Corolla Review & Compare in Lemon Grove, CA

What comes with being the most famous compact car in the world? Just ask the Toyota Corolla

For such a modest and unassuming sedan (its price tag starts under $19,000), the Toyota Corolla compact has a surprising number of bragging rights. It's the world's best-selling nameplate; since 1966, there have been more than 44,000,000 Corolla cars sold globally--and it's likely more than that by now, since it's not uncommon for Toyota to sell over a million of these sedans in a single year. The Corolla has over 50 years of experience under its belt, which means it's learned a lot about what the people want and how to best give it to them.

However, five decades of experience have also taught Toyota what the people don't need, won't want to pay for, and are willing to give up in order to get a really, really low starting price. That means that the Corolla is never going to be the highest-powered option in its class, nor the most luxurious, nor the biggest. But--among those pricier, more muscled, or larger compact sedans--you won't find what the Corolla can give you: unyielding Toyota reliability and durability, stoic quality, and a surprising equipment list for the price.

If you're shopping around for a small car and the Toyota Corolla isn't on your list--you're doing something wrong.

Will the Corolla adopt Toyota's fierce new design language?

You only have to look at the all-new Camry and the redesigned RAV4 to see that Toyota is making a hard push toward a bolder, fiercer new look for its cars; and while we'll have to wait for the next generation to see if the Corolla will get the full treatment, the current model benefits from some of the new, more dynamic design cues.

Even without the full exterior makeover that other Toyota cars have seen, we can appreciate the classic, slightly down-turned nose, the chunky lower grille, and the wide sweeping design across the front fascia. There's only subtle Toyota badging at the front and rear, and overall the Corolla's design is pretty subtle and understated. Nothing about the usual lineup screams "look at me"--but, as the best-selling car in the world, it doesn't need to scream to sell. Plain, simple, practical. That's the Corolla in a nutshell. If you're looking for something a little different, you can look at styling on the new Corolla SE and XSE, both of which feature some sharper, more dynamic designs.

Trim levels for the new Corolla

Since the Corolla is past its 50th anniversary, the 50th Anniversary Edition trim has been retired. That leaves six well-equipped and comfortable trim levels to fill out the lineup. The base Corolla L is the most affordable model in the line, and offers a surprising number of standard features for its sub-19K price tag--including Safety Sense. Read below for more info on features. Corolla LE and LE Eco models start to add package option availability, and the Eco model offers a slightly more powerful engine.

The Corolla SE is the sportiest option, and the only one available with a six-speed manual transmission. It brings 17-inch wheels and an attractive SE Premium package option. At the top of the pyramid of Corolla trim levels, there are two upgraded models--the Corolla XSE and Corolla XLE--that gives you just about everything that you can get in Toyota's compact car. Even the priciest model still stays under $23,000 at base price.

Standard safety that holds up

There's one area where the Toyota Corolla really does stand out from its rivals--and stand out pretty far, in fact. While every small sedan these days offers some package options for safety and driver-assistance, Toyota has fully-loaded its newest Corolla with the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) Package that we're seeing on every new model in the lineup.

This well-equipped package gives drivers Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control--all standard, at no extra charge. It's a groundbreaking new push toward total and comprehensive driver and passenger safety, and it--in part--earned the Corolla an overall 5-Star Safety Rating from the NHTSA, and strong ratings from the IIHS.

Interior quality, features, and seating

There's a good chance you're not going to slide into the cockpit of the new Corolla and forget that it's a Corolla. Because, while the interior is clean, comfortable, and well-laid-out (and what else do you really need in a day-to-day commuter car?) Toyota has had to rely on a few hard-touch plastics to round out the total packaging of this ultra-affordable sedan.

Models like the SE, XLE, and XSE do spruce up the cabin and add a bit of ambience, with some upgraded materials and a broad and functional moonroof. When you choose a model with the slightly larger touchscreen, you can enjoy a more upscale look, with a dashboard that's more fluid and driver-centric. Buttons are easy and close at hand, and you'll never have to guess at what does what. Simple fashion meets functionality in a way that a lot of drivers are really going to like. Seating for five is comfortable and roomy, even for rear passengers, and top-level features outfit the Corolla with premium SofTex leatherette upholstery and heated front seats for the driver and front passenger.

If you're just looking for a solid daily driver, though, even the base Corolla L comes well-equipped: standard with a rearview camera, Bluetooth, voice recognition, steering wheel-mounted controls, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, and the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense functionality. There are plenty of buyers or lessees--especially in the bigger cities where short, tight-traffic drives are common--who aren't in need of any lavish adornments.

Entune Multimedia and Connected Technology

Toyota is one of the few remaining car brands who hasn't yet gotten on board with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality--but its Entune system is a solid replacement for the optional integration features that other cars are bringing in. The system has a few different levels of functionality to cater to different wants and needs, but Toyota brings a smaller touchscreen and a fully-integrated backup camera as standard to be able to satisfy the great majority of drivers who really aren't looking for too much out of their compact sedan.

If tech is what you want, though, consider upgrading to a trim level of package option that includes Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation App--it brings a larger, 7.0-inch high-res touchscreen that's smooth and easy to use. Entune allows you to connect through Bluetooth for seamless streaming, or access with the USB port for connectivity and charging in sync. Navigation runs through an available Scout GPS Link App for step-by-step directions, and upper-level Entune systems also come standard with App Suite--with apps for music, dinner reservations, movie times and tickets, Yelp reviews, and a lot more.

The lineup of new tech in the Toyota Corolla is clean and crisp. But, with growing pressure from competitors, we're interested to see if Toyota will eventually integrate with Apple and Android for their respective smartphone systems.

Pocket-sized performance and practicality

Under the hood, the pint-sized Corolla is pretty smart, too. Every new Corolla comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with Valvematic technology; but your performance will vary based on trim level. Most models are tuned for 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque, but the LE Eco--the most fuel-efficient model in the lineup--actually has more horsepower, at 140 HP and 126 pound-feet of torque. A CVTi-S transmission helps optimize efficiency and economy, and lets this impressive compact car see up to 35-40 mpg highway, making it a great commuter car.

For the best possible fuel economy out of the new Corolla, you'll want the Corolla LE Eco in ECO Mode--one push of the button will actually adjust things like the gas pedal output and the air conditioning to make the absolute most out of every drop of gas.

The final word

While the current-generation Corolla isn't likely to be walking the red carpet for avant-garde styling, it's a solid, affordable, and long-lasting option that hundreds of thousands of drivers continue to buy or lease, year after year.

And, if the Toyota Corolla undergoes a similar redesign treatment to the Camry, it could become an even more dominating compact car, against popular rivals like the Honda Civic, the Mazda3, and the Ford Focus.

Compare the Toyota Corolla vs the Competition