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As one of the longest-running nameplates in the world and the best-selling car in history, the Toyota Corolla has provided the template for affordable personal transportation: affordable, durable and efficient. In creating the latest generation of its venerable 4-door sedan, Toyota added a bit of style with a redrawn exterior and revamped cabin.

The new look remains relatively fresh as it finishes up its second model year, but the real advantage of owning a 2015 Corolla is what's under the skin. Our LE Eco Plus model derives it motivation from a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, which drives its front wheels. That power is delivered through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the EPA rates it at 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway with a combined average of 34 mpg. During the course of our drive, the Corolla recorded the highest mpg figure, tallying 35.4 overall, besting its next nearest competitor, the Ford Focus, by a full mile per gallon.

Part of that efficiency is due to the CVT. While much improved in its responsiveness, the "gearless" automatic still felt a bit elastic and was prone to let the engine drone at cruising speeds. This was further compounded by the fact that overall noise, vibration and harshness levels were higher than the other cars in the test except for the Subaru, with quite a bit of road, tire and wind noise intruding into the otherwise handsomely appointed interior.

2015 Toyota Corolla at a Glance

2015 Toyota Corolla Compact Car Graph

The overall driving experience is what you'd expect from an economy car-the seats were comfortable but didn't have any more padding than absolutely necessary, while the rear seat is fairly roomy for a car of this class, though taller rear passengers will find headroom at a premium. The dynamics are competent-the electric power-assist steering is accurate with a light touch. It's not a car that tempts you to seek out back roads on which to flog it, but the Corolla's unobtrusive road manners makes it a good daily commute partner. Coming in at just under $23,000, the 2015 Toyota Corolla LE Eco Plus offers such features as automatic climate control, a backup camera, cruise control, steering wheel buttons for the phone and audio system, remote keyless entry and a 6.1-inch touch screen. Toyota's Entune infotainment system is easy to use, with redundant knobs making volume adjustment and station selection a breeze.

Even though it is a relative bargain, we wish there were a few more convenience features on the car, like an exterior trunk lid release (you could pop the trunk using the keyless entry fob), as well as trunk-mounted releases for the rear seat back. The trunk itself has plenty of room, cargo liftover is low and the rear seat has a center fold down armrest. The Corolla has earned a reputation for affordability, fuel economy, quality, dependability and reliability, all qualities that the 2015 model shares in abundance. For the next go around, perhaps Toyota could infuse it with a bit more spirit, a bit more noise dampening and even more style.

Here's how the 2015 Toyota Corolla stacks up against the others:

Toyota Corolla vs. Dodge Dart

The Dodge Dart also has a stylish exterior and great infotainment system and a lot more power from its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. However, the Corolla exhibited better throttle control making it easier to drive and delivered considerably better fuel economy than the Dart's 27.9 mpg.

Toyota Corolla vs. Ford Focus

The Ford Focus felt more comfortable and was the quietest car in the test, while delivering fuel economy second only to the Toyota. The roomier Corolla had the added advantage of a more usable back seat as well as a fold-down armrest that the Ford lacked.

Toyota Corolla vs. Honda Civic

In a classic throwdown between these two longtime rivals, the Honda beats the Toyota's CVT for responsiveness and seamless operation. The Civic is also considerably quieter at speed. But the Corolla's Entune system proved much easier to use, especially for common tasks like changing a station or adjusting volume.

Toyota Corolla vs. Mazda Mazda3

The Mazda3 has an elegant design, richly appointed interior and the dynamics of a sport sedan without sacrificing fuel economy. However, some of that is due to the fact that the Mazda3 was also equipped with a 6-speed manual instead of an automatic. The Corolla was easy to drive with a bigger back seat.

Toyota Corolla vs. Subaru Impreza

The Subaru offers all-wheel drive as standard equipment and has the roominess and functionality you'd expect from a hatchback. In particular, the rear seat accommodations are more generous and better finished. However, the Impreza was noisier at speed and paid a fuel economy penalty for AWD.

Toyota Corolla vs. Volkswagen Jetta

The Jetta comes across as a more elegant and refined car that has the look and feel of a class-above sedan. The VW commands a premium over the affordable Corolla, but the Toyota also has a better track record when it comes to quality and reliability.

More Compact Cars

Build and price your own 2015 Toyota Corolla, read our full review or check out our Compact Car Buyer's Guide to see more options in the segment.

 

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