Though Toyota's compact Corolla sedan has long been a sales leader, the current model is beginning to feel a bit outdated. It still enjoys an unparalleled reputation for reliability, but more modern rivals have surpassed it in terms of fuel efficiency, cabin quality, convenience features and driving refinement.
In most respects, the Corolla recalls a bygone era when compact cars were simple, spartan transportation devices that traded flash for durability and ease of use. For example, its utilitarian interior features basic, user-friendly controls and rock-hard but extremely durable plastics - a marked contrast from newer rivals that boast stylish dashboards and upscale soft-touch materials.
The Corolla is powered by a 1.8-liter sedan that produces 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission, while the optional, antediluvian four-speed automatic dings city mileage by one mpg. While solid, those numbers are no longer spectacular in a time when many other compacts can hit 40 mpg on the highway.
Out on the road, the Corolla excels as a quiet, softy-sprung commuter. Its suspension is well-tuned for ride comfort, with the downside being the car doesn't feel particularly nimble or engaging.
All models feature a standard all-weather package. The Corolla base model features 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, P195/65 R15 tires, a color-keyed front grille and exterior door handles, a heavy-duty rear window defogger with timer, AM/FM/CD audio with four speakers with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio jack, and auto sound leveling, air conditioning with pollen filter, intermittent windshield wipers, daytime running lights, black folding power mirrors that are larger for improved rear visibility, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, multi-information display with outside temperature, instant fuel economy, average fuel economy, average speed and travel distance, fabric-trimmed six-way adjustable drivers seat, four-way adjustable front passenger seat, 60/40 split folding rear seats and a 12-volt auxiliary power outlet.
The Corolla LE grade adds variable intermittent windshield wipers with mist cycle, color-keyed power heated outside mirrors, AM/FM/CD audio with six speakers with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio jack, and auto sound leveling, cruise control; multi-function in-key remote keyless entry system with lock, unlock, trunk release, panic and remote illuminated entry, power windows with driver side auto down, tilt/telescopic sport steering wheel with metallic accents and audio controls and power door locks with shift-activated automatic locking feature.
The sporty-styled Corolla S grade adds designed 16-inch alloy wheels and 205/55 R16 tires, multi-reflector halogen headlamps with black housing, color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, sport side rocker panels, unique S badge and rear mudguards, color-keyed rear spoiler, integrated fog lamps, front sport seats, chrome-tipped exhaust, an new tilt/telescopic sport steering wheel with audio controls, chrome exhaust tip, sport fabric-trimmed six-way adjustable drivers seat and four-way adjustable front passenger seat, metallic style interior trim and analog sport instrumentation.
The Corolla LE and S grades offer a power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade, and an AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, XM Radio, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, CD text display function, auto sound leveling, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology.
The Corolla LE offers a Premium Package that includes 16-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels with P205/55R16 tires, integrated fog lamps, power tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, XM Radio, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, CD text display function, auto sound leveling, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology.
New for the latest model year, an optional Navigation and Entune package brings a 6.1-inch touchscreen display with a navigation system and Entune, a multimedia system that offer apps like Bing search services, iheartradio.com and Pandora music and concierge services like OpenTable and movietickets.com.
For the latest model year - the current-generation Corolla's last on the market - Toyota is offering a pair of limited-production versions of its small sedan.
The Corolla LE Special Edition builds on the LE trim level with 16-inch wheels, Display Audio with Navigation and Entune, and power-adjustable, heated front seats upholstered in beige leather. Outside, the LE Special Edition features unique Black Currant Metallic paint and "Special Edition" badging.
The Corolla S Special Edition starts with the S trim level and adds Display Audio with Navigation and Entune, 17-inch wheels and "sport" fabric seats coordinated with a unique Hot Lava exterior color.
All Corolla models come standard with dual front, dual side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
The Corolla faces stiff competition from a number of more modern competitors like the Americanized Volkswagen Jetta, the sleek Kia Forte and the thrifty Honda Civic.