It might surprise readers to learn that the writing staff at TTAC do not spend the majority of their time in gullwinged supercars or week-old BMWs. We do occasionally put down the jar of Grey Poupon and clamber aboard practical cars – y’know, the type which people actually buy.
The humble Corolla is likely at or near the top of the list made by shoppers who want simple transportation. Your author knows more than a couple of people for whom Corolla could actually be a parallel for the term ‘default car’. This series examined the Civic a couple of months ago, so it’s only right we do the same for the other popular machine in this segment.
We’ll return to six-figure hypercars next week.
Toyota is in a unique position – for now, until Honda shows up with the Civic Hatchback later this year – in that it has both four- and five-door options for those seeking a car with the word ‘Corolla’ on its rump. The sedan has a starting price of $20,075, branded as an L trim, and equipped with a 1.8L engine making 139 horsepower. That’s harnessed by the bane of all enthusiasts, a continuously variable transmission.
For just $450 more, dealers are likely to have the LE trim in stock, adding the likes of a better infotainment system and a fold-down armrest for rear seat urchins plus a USB port back there to limit complaining about not having anywhere to charge the all-important handheld device. The LE also includes 16-inch wheels (still steelies), automatic climate control, and – oddly – variable intermittent wipers compared to the single-speed intermittent motor on the L. Your author truly thought that latter feature went out in the ’90s.
Bumping up to the 2.0L four-banger with a much more acceptable 169 horsepower and the six-speed manual in sedan form means taking a walk to the SE trim which stickers at $23,225. If it is this type of powertrain you seek (and it should be), the smart money will look across the showroom to the Corolla Hatch. Its entry-level trim is the SE, equipped with a 2.0L and the all-important stickshift. Price? Just $20,815.
Other bonuses with the SE hatchback? Despite a sticker just $290 more than the LE sedan, it features – in addition to the better drivetrain – a boatload of equipment not found on the similarly priced four-door. Push-button start is part of the deal (and yes, that makes a difference for some drivers who hate digging for keys), as is a leather-trimmed steering wheel and extra USB charging ports. Other infotainment details are equal, so that’s a wash. In terms of driving aids, the manual transmission forces deletion of lane tracing assist but all other items like dynamic radar cruise control remain intact.
Plus, it’s a hatchback. While the sedan is about 10 inches longer than the hatch, the latter has equivalent headroom and front legroom, though rear seat occupants may feel the pinch with less hip and leg space thanks to platform differences. At least the cargo area is much more versatile, so judge your priorities accordingly.
Our priorities include a manual transmission and more horsepower, making our choice easy.
Please note the prices listed here are in United States dollars and currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less (obscene market conditions notwithstanding). Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.
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