Toyota Comes Strong with Corolla

Gary S. Vasilash

While the current-generation (10th) Toyota Corolla has had its share of knocks due to what’s widely considered bland exterior styling and a not particularly competitive interior execution, recently pointed out that (1) the Corolla is the best-selling compact in the U.S., and (2) Corolla owners tend to be loyal to the car: in April, of the new Corolla sales that had a trade-in in the transaction, 35% of the trade-ins were Corollas.


That said, the people at Toyota know that they’ve got to elevate the game for the Corolla, so for the forthcoming 11th generation (the first Corolla was launched in 1966 in Japan), they’ve not only created a striking, angular exterior (the theme: “Iconic Dynamism”), but what Toyota itself describes as “interior executions that challenge the pre-conceptions about Corolla”—i.e., there are better materials and more attention to detail.


The new car is longer, wider, and lower; the overhang in the front is increased by about an inch and it is tucked in by an inch in the back. The 3.93 increase in wheelbase (to 106.3 in.) translates into more room in the interior, particularly for the rear seat occupants (e.g., the rear seat hip point is moved back 2.95 in. and the backs of the front seats are carved out for additional knee room).


Compact cars for the masses are generally characterized as having good fuel economy, and so to underline that fact there is a new trim level offered—the LE Eco—that Toyota thinks will deliver better than 40 mpg highway.

There are two 1.8-liter, all-aluminum four-cylinder engines, with the LE Eco’s having “Valvematic,” a valve control system that continuously controls lift and phasing for the intake side of the engine; it results in higher horsepower—140 hp @ 6,100 rpm—than the other engine (available in the other three trims), the base, that produces 132 hp @ 6,000 rpm.


Another fuel efficiency enhancement is the use of an available continuously variable transmission (CVT), the first pulley-style CVT that Toyota has offered in North America. Designated “CVTi-S,” with the “I” standing for “intelligent” and the “S” for “shift,” the transmission is said to “provide a more linear connection between pedal effort and acceleration feel compared to previous CVT designs.”

Clearly, Toyota got the message about the Corolla and it is responding in a compelling manner.