When all people demanded from small cars was low cost, fuel economy, and reliability, the Corolla was superlative. But to get in one today is to realize how much the bar has been raised in the segment since the Corolla's heyday. The interior is well finished, blessedly easy to use, and the cloth upholstery is better than most, but amenities are sorely lacking. There's no attempt to make this cabin seem anything more than basic; it's utterly devoid of style. The latter comment applies to the exterior as well. There's really nothing beyond rational measures to make you want this car. You certainly won't be eager to get in and drive it, what with its loose and sloppy steering. And even by coldly rational measures, the aging Corolla is beginning to slip. That's particularly the case in fuel economy, where fresher competitors with more modern, 5- and 6-speed transmissions, direct-injected and/or turbocharged engines now leave the Corolla behind. The Corolla continues to be very popular, and its resale value is excellent, but both of those characteristics look vulnerable as buyers discover more capable, more exciting competitors.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
My, my, how time has marched on. Getting to spend some time in the Corolla was fortunate, as it helps to put the rest of the compact sedan market into perspective -- that is, almost every other competitor is the segment has advanced well past Toyota's offering. While I was impressed with the extremely simple and intuitive ergonomics, the interior quality seems a generation behind everything else on the market; Playmobil-simplicity in controls, good; Playmobil-quality plastics, bad. I disagree with David that it has Lexus-like quality, as I noticed a number of panel gaps and pieces that didn't line up quite right. It is not the segment leader by any means, especially not with the likes of the Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Focus all gunning for the same customers.
With a segment so fresh and new, I am amazed that Toyota's 2011 update did so little. The current Corolla is essentially the same model we saw in 2006, which was just a heavy rework of the one introduced on 2000. No wonder it seems to fall below its class.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor