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2018 Toyota Corolla 

Starting Price:  $19,520 | Price Yours

Above Average: Great value, attractive looks, excellent fuel economy and resale value. Spacious cabin that doesn’t crowd; Back seat is comfortable for adults. Excellent safety features are standard, including adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, and automatic high-beam headlights. The 2018 Toyota Corolla is unchanged from the previous model year, and returns with a large model range that will appeal to most buyers. Two engines, a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder and 1.8-liter ECO 4-cylinder, CVTi-S transmission and five trim levels. Soft, comfortable ride that appeals to a wide range of purchasers and drivers.

Below Average: Techies need look elsewhere: No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Average driving characteristics. Enthusiasts best look to the Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen GTI or Mazda Mazda3 for behind-the-wheel thrills.

Consensus: The perfectly safe first car, and an exceptional value for more seasoned drivers, the 2018 Toyota Corolla scores on price, fuel economy and reputation.

 

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2018 Nissan Sentra 

Starting Price: $17,875 | Price Yours

Above Average: Seven generations in, the Nissan Sentra is a roomy, fuel-efficient compact that is a smart choice for first-timers and budget buyers. Six trim levels, with two engines and two transmissions, including enthusiast-oriented SR Turbo and NISMO models. Room for five, with safety features including adaptive cruise-control, and autonomous braking. Spacious interior is large for its class.  Active Understeer control is standard on all but base S model. Automatic Emergency Braking standard on all automatic-equipped models except NISMO. Well-earned reputation for reliability, comfort, style and fuel economy consistently makes it a best seller.

Below Average: Available only as a sedan, hatchback fans should look to the Civic, Golf, Mazda3 or Chevy Cruze. Techies should look elsewhere, too. Nissan Voice recognition is the closest you will get to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Twist-beam rear suspension hampers handling somewhat. Enthusiasts will probably pass up the Sentra SR Turbo and NISMO in favor of VW’s Golf GTI and Golf R, Honda’s Civic Si and Type R, and Ford’s Focus ST and RS.

Consensus: Again, a perfect candidate for a first car, with great value but we suggest stepping up from the base model to the better-equipped Sentra SV. Enthusiasts might be left wanting with the SR Turbo and NISMO.

Both the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra are perfectly good cars for first time buyers or those on a budget. Fit, construction and features along with great fuel economy are the key checkmarks here. Those seeking coupes and hatchbacks along with better massaged enthusiast cars should look elsewhere, mainly at Honda (Civic Si and Type R) Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST and RS models.

Toyota Corolla Advantages

Toyota quality, economy and reliability lead the way here, despite a rather bland powertrain.

Nissan Sentra Advantages

Quality through and through, roomy fuel efficiency and enthusiast leaning 1.8-liter Turbo models help the Sentra jump ahead in this pairing.

Similarities

Both the Toyota Corolla and the Nissan Sentra base models feature similar 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engines. The Nissan Sentra jumps ahead though, currying favor amongst enthusiasts with its 1.8-liter turbocharged SR Turbo and NISMO versions.

Final Recommendations

Both competitors are worthy adversaries, and on paper are almost statistically equal, but since we like a little bit of spice on our entrees, we choose to hang out with the NISMO Sentra. 

  2018 Toyota Corolla 2018 Nissan Sentra
Popular Powertrains    
Engine 1.8-liter Inline 4-cyl 1.8-liter Inline 4-cyl
Horsepower 132 hp @ 6000 rpm 130 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 128 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm 128 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Transmission Automatic, CVTi-S Manual, 6-Spd
Fuel Economy 31 mpg (28 city, 36 hwy) 30 mpg (27 city, 35 hwy)
Also Available 6-spd manual 188 hp Turbo on SR Turbo and NISMO models trans,
Specs    
Warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles 3 years or 36,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 4 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 106.3 inches 106.3 inches
Overall Length 183.1 inches 182.1 inches
Width 69.9 inches  69.3 inches
Height 57.3 inches 58.9 inches
Turning Diameter 35.6 feet 34.8 feet
Headroom, Front 38.3 inches 39.4 inches
Headroom, Rear 37.1 inches 36.7 inches
Legroom, Front 42.3 inches 42.5 inches
Legroom, Rear 41.4 inches 37.4 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 54.8 inches 54.7 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 54.8 inches 53.9 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 97.5 cu. ft. 95.9 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 13.0 cu. ft. 15.1 cu. ft.
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