By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 8.5
The 2017 Toyota Corolla is destined to remain a best-seller, thanks to new styling, a simplified model lineup, improved interior, and a host of standard safety equipment that's unheard of in this class, or even in cars costing much more. It all adds up to a tremendous value, and while the Corolla hasn't been equated with excitement for decades, its reliability, low price and predictable driving dynamics keep it not just competitive, but a leader in the compact-sedan market. Okay, it's not as fun to drive as the Mazda3, Ford Focus or even longtime rival Honda Civic. But the Corolla costs less, is exceptionally roomy front and rear, and its 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine makes up in fuel economy what it lacks in horsepower.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla may very well be the perfect first car, with its excellent standard safety equipment, low price and fuel-efficient drivetrain. It even looks good these days, thanks to this year's styling updates, and feels more refined than ever.
Like all Toyota models, the Corolla isn't available with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, both of which are rapidly becoming the gold standard for smartphone connectivity. Even with the SE model's manual transmission the Corolla isn't particularly fun to drive.
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Toyota Safety Sense-P is standard equipment on all Corolla models, adding adaptive cruise, automatic collision braking and more for a base price that's less than $20,000. The model lineup has been simplified to match the Toyota Camry, the interior gets a materials upgrade, and the exterior styling is also updated and improved.
Enthusiasts won't find much to like about the 2017 Toyota Corolla, but remove that sliver of the buying populace and you have a car that's inarguably one of the most...
... popular vehicles ever made. It's comfortable, with a ride quality that absorbs bumps without making the car feel like it's wallowing around. The SE models even have the tiniest bit of bite to their suspension, and the manual-transmission SE could even be considered beginner-level fun. The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder favors fuel economy over acceleration, but at least now it's paired with the continuously variable automatic transmission in all models -- 6-speed manual notwithstanding -- which makes the most of the engine's meager output for respectable acceleration and passing, as long as you're willing to let it rev. At full throttle it gets noisy inside but the rest of the time the Corolla is certainly quiet enough for day-to-day living.
STANDARD TOYOTA SAFETY SENSE-P
Adaptive cruise control, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams. Features like these are usually optional, if they're even available at all. Yet they're all standard on the 2017 Corolla, even on the base model.
For 2017 the Corolla also gets a nice update to the interior, expanding the use of soft-touch plastics, upgrading the look of various components, and overall just generating a nicer feel for an interior that was already roomy and comfortable.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla interior may be short on pizazz, but it's quiet, comfortable, gets the job done. This year there's a new dash design with round air vents, a new climate-control interface, a new infotainment system, improved and more legible gauges, and a multi-information display. Yet with the upgrades, Toyota smartly left the good stuff alone. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the rear seats are surprisingly roomy, even for tall passengers. Even with the new features everything is easy to use and see, and there's good cargo space with split-folding rear seatbacks to help with longer objects.
The 2017 Corolla offers two different exterior designs, reflecting the new model lineup. The L, LE, XLE and LE Eco offer a nose-and-tail treatment that's distinct from the sportier SE, XSE and 50th Anniversary models. Yet both offer similarities. There are standard LED headlights, with a 2-element version on the SE-type Corollas. The SE-based models also get vertically styled front vents and LED fog lights, plus all-red taillights, while LE-type models use subtle cues, such as 2-color taillights, to look a little more upscale. The 50th Anniversary model comes in a particularly fetching Black Cherry paint with 17-inch alloy wheels.
We've already mentioned the array of active safety systems now standard on even the base 2017 Toyota Corolla L. Beyond that the Corolla L offers LED headlights, a rearview camera with path projection, air conditioning, cruise control, and tilt-telescope steering with audio and Bluetooth controls on the spokes. There's a USB port for phone recharging and audio integration, and a 6.1-inch touch-screen display audio system that includes Toyota's Entune multimedia bundle and Siri Eyes Free, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't available at all. The 6-way-adjustable driver's seat and the rest of the interior are upholstered in comfortable cloth.
Corolla LE models get automatic climate control, a multi-information display (MID) between the gauges, and nicer interior trim. The XLE and XSE get faux-leather seating surfaces and an 8-way-power driver's seat, nicer instrumentation with a color MID, and push-button start and keyless entry. If you want a "sporty" Corolla, the SE can be equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. SE models are generally equipped a little better than LE models, offering a color MID among other things. XLE, XSE, SE manual and 50th Anniversary edition Corollas get a standard 7-inch infotainment system, which can be upgraded with an integrated navigation system.
There are two versions of the same 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine for the 2017 Toyota Corolla. The one used in nearly all models offers 132 horsepower, routing it through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), or in the case of the SE, an available 6-speed manual transmission. The Corolla LE Eco offers a 140-horsepower version of the same engine, but it's no hot rod, instead being tuned for better fuel economy. Fuel economy is good, especially the Eco getting up to 40 mpg on the highway, but these days that's par for the course instead of class-leading. Some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy numbers due to changes in EPA testing.
1.8-liter inline-4 (L, LE and S)
132 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
128 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/35 mpg (SE 6-speed manual), 28/36 mpg (CVT, 16-inch wheels), 28/35 mpg (CVT, 17-inch wheels)
1.8-liter inline-4 (LE Eco)
140 horsepower @ 6,100 rpm
126 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/40 mpg (15-inch wheels), 29/38 mpg (16-inch wheels)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
Prices go up on the 2017 Toyota Corolla, with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $19,400 for a base Corolla L. That's about $1,300 more than last year, but the new Corolla comes with a lot more stuff, including the TSS-P safety package and the standard CVT automatic. On the other end of the scale is the Corolla XSE, which comes in fully loaded at just above the $24,000 mark. That's a pretty good bargain on both ends; on the low end, the Civic LX with the Honda Sensing package comes closest, but still runs about $1,000 more. On the high side, a loaded Corolla is notably less than many competitors. Check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their new Corolla. As for resale value, the Corolla outpaces virtually everything but the Civic, where the two run neck-and-neck.