Strengths and weaknesses:
- Comfortable interior
- Soft suspension
- Wishy-washy steering
"You don’t hang around for 46 years and sell some 39 million cars without doing something right."
The Toyota Corolla has both a good reputation and a bad one, clearly indicating not just that you can’t please everybody, but that it’s also tough to pick apart one of the most popular cars in history.
You don’t hang around for 46 years and sell some 39 million cars without doing something right.
Yet through it all, you carry the reputation of being an unimaginative and uninspiring car, some even labelling you “pap” – something lacking in substance that is used simply to fill a void.
However, there is something quite substantial about Corolla. Unimaginative perhaps; uninspiring definitely; but far from pap.
For one thing, it’s cheap – cheap in the inexpensive sense, not in the build sense. It sells for under $16,000 and for that price, you get a couple niceties you wouldn’t expect from an entry level sedan – telescoping steering wheel and a HEPA filter for the ventilation system, for example. You can then upgrade with items such as air-conditioning, remote keyless entry, aluminum alloy wheels in larger sizes, exterior body add-ons, etc. All in, you can pay upwards of $26,000 for a Corolla (which in light of everything added on is not such a bad deal yet).
Our test CE (the entry level trim) added on an automatic transmission and an enhanced convenience package (with, among others, keyless entry, cruise control, heated front seats, steering wheel audio controls and Bluetooth) for a pre-tax price of $18,990. Yes, that’s pushing $20,000 but it’s still under $20,000 – depending on your glass half-empty/ glass half-full outlook.
And you get a car that is entirely comfortable to drive – the steering is maybe a little too vague for performance enthusiasts and the suspension perhaps a bit too soft, but it won’t rattle your fillings out over everyday broken pavement and you won’t steer it off into the bushes trying to avoid those squirrels that dart out in front of you on suburban crescents.
Plus, it looks pretty decent and it’s built in Canada (assembled in Canada ... whatever. Remember the Cadillac XTS is also “just” assembled in Canada).
And, Corolla passengers sit on comfortable seats, with plenty of room to make sure their knees don’t get locked up after a cross-town jaunt.
All the other stuff is gravy – alloy wheels, rear spoiler, lower bodyside cladding, kickass sound system, navigation system, sunroof – you can get it all if it helps make your driving more enjoyable or less routine.
Even my own notes are sparse, indicating I don’t find too much to be thrilled about but I also don’t find many things to pick apart – I like that I can park it just about anywhere without worrying whether it was safe. I also like that I can make a full 180-degree turn in four-lane street without having to pull a three-pointer (couldn’t do that in the Ford Focus!); I didn’t particularly like that it takes very little cornering speed to make the skinny tires lose their grip, or that the weight transfer is pronounced in higher-speed cornering.
I know I can’t drive it like a sport sedan and I think most buyers understand that. But for basic and affordable transportation, they don’t come much better than Corolla. It’s odd that Corolla never garnered the same attention from the modifications crowd that its chief rival the Honda Civic did, even in the days when it was equally bland to look at.
Resolution – I promise not to enter my family Corolla in any motorsports events, if it promises to get me through several years of everyday motoring without requiring too much monetary intervention on my behalf.
Corolla is a plain little car for plain suburbanites on a budget, who need to get the kids and their equipment to hockey practice, pick up the weekly groceries and not have to take out a second mortgage to pay for gas on a weekly basis.