The 2017 Toyota Corolla won't surprise many buyers with out-there styling or innovative looks, and that's part of the plan. Despite being instantly recognizable as a Corolla, the new model sports a few touches—albeit a little peculiar—to help differentiate it from its predecessor.
The Corolla is an example of "Iconic Dynamism," according to Toyota. We see bits and pieces of other compact sedans in both its overall shape and some of the finer details. Derivative Dynamism might be more accurate, but that's not really a put-down. The current model does what it needs to while avoiding the overtly generic look of so many previous Corollas.
It's still average in our books, which is why it earns a 5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Its long wheelbase brings the wheels close to the corners of the car, which not only gives it good interior space but makes it look almost sporty. The design is finished off with LED headlamps and running lamps. At the very least, the XSE and 50th Anniversary editions will sport a blacked-out grille borrowed from the sportier S trim last year. It gives the car a relatively more menacing look—and perhaps a slight underbite, if you ask us.
The Corolla's interior has a two-tier dashboard design that also adds to the impression of interior space, pushing the corners further from the front-seat occupants toward the base of the steeply raked windshield. The dash surface itself is a soft-touch material with molded-in stitching, along with a handful of subtle pinstriped accents in contrasting colors on the dash and door panels. It doesn't sound all that effective, but somehow it comes across as fresh—at least for a Corolla.
The seats in sportier trims such as the S get slightly more bolstering than base models. The seats are pleasant, but not as firm as those in some rivals, including the new Honda Civic.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla mixes it up with two new trims for this year, but the aging sheet metal is due for a redesign.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla carries over mechanically unchanged from previous years. Under the hood are two different 1.8-liter inline-4s that prioritize frugality over fun. Still, the current model is a little more rewarding to drive than its predecessors.
The base engine, a 1.8-liter inline-4, is rated at 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque.
It's a good ride, but not all that thrilling, which nets a 6 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
A second engine, which is more potent (but not any more exciting), in the LE Eco model adds Toyota's patented variable valve timing—dubbed Valvematic—to the 1.8 for better fuel economy. That engine is rated at 140 hp and 126 lb-ft of twist. Toyota may apply that engine to more Corollas this year, but it's unclear if, or where, that engine may appear beyond the LE Eco model.
The Valvematic system allows the valves to "float" during coasting, to reduce drag when going light on the throttle at higher speeds. It also broadens the torque curve—though peak torque is a bit lower at 126 lb-ft. So while it may have more horsepower on paper, don't expect the Eco model to feel noticeably quicker.
The base Corolla L, however, is still saddled with an ancient 4-speed automatic. It’s slow when you need a quick burst of passing power, because of the wide steps between its ratios, and its fuel economy ratings are lower than Corollas equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The gearbox for almost all Corollas sold in the States will be the CVT, and Toyota has done a good job of tuning in a reassuring, almost linear feel during light and moderate acceleration. There's less of the "drone'" that plagues CVTs used in some small cars, and the sportier S model gets a special tune for its CVT that makes it behave just like a 7-speed automatic, with simulated gear ratios and paddle shifters behind the leather-trimmed steering wheel to let drivers click through them at will.
The CVT cars feel lackluster from a standing start—especially when pointed slightly uphill or loaded with passengers—due to their tall starting gear ratio. But highway passing response is acceptable, and they feel perkier once underway compared to the automatic.
Finally, if you want to shift for yourself, the base L and "sportier" models can be ordered with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The linkage isn’t sport-sedan precise and the throws are fairly long, but the clutch takes up lightly and predictably. That makes the rare manual Corolla easy to drive in stop-and-go traffic.
All Corolla models have a torsion-beam rear suspension that mounts bushings at a slanted position, minimizing noise, vibration, and harshness and tightening rear-end behavior near the handling limit. It's not an independent rear suspension, though, so jolts from bumps can be transferred from one side to the other.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla won't out-perform many cars on the road, including many in its class.
Just a few years ago, the 2017 Toyota Corolla's dimensions would have placed the car firmly in the mid-size competition. The Corolla's 183-inch length is even longer than the early-1990s Camry. With the growing expectation that even the smallest sedans accommodate more passengers and more gear, Toyota updated the Corolla in 2014 to gain almost four inches in wheelbase and a whopping 5.1 inches in rear leg room. Four 6-footers can ride in comfort, which is something earlier Corollas just couldn't manage.
Good front seats, back seats, and comfortable space earn the Corolla an 8 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Up front, the seats have enough adjustments and travel that they can accommodate longer legs. The Corolla sports a natural driving position, making it fairly relaxing to drive.
In back, long-legged occupants can be comfortable, without asking those in front to slide their seats forward. What betrays the Corolla as a compact is mainly the narrow back seat, which still won't comfortably fit three adults across, even if leg room is sufficient.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla sports 13 cubic feet of trunk space, which is on par with the competition. While there's no hatchback like the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, the Corolla makes use of its trunk space with a wide opening; a flat, low floor; and 60/40-split folding rear seats. If you're looking for a hatch—and it must be a Toyota—consider the iM, which is as-near-as-makes-no-difference a Toyota Corolla hatchback.
Interior material quality is good, though clearly designed with cost in mind. The two-tier dash helps maximize perceived space up front, and the cabin almost seems to be trying to rival mid-size interiors.
The Corolla isolates its engine noise well, and the longish wheelbase provides admirable ride quality in any of the four models. On the whole, refinement is good, though not best in class.
Toyota's conservative approach has paid off in the 2017 Corolla—it's pleasing, comfortable and spacious.
The biggest difference between this year's model and last year's are the available active safety features that Toyota brought over from the Prius.
Toyota is making available its Toyota Safety Sense-P safety package on all trims of the Corolla. The suite of active safety features includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane-departure warning with active lane control to help steer drivers back into their lane. The automatic emergency braking includes pedestrian detection.
It's likely that Toyota's Safety Sense-P will become available or standard on many of the automaker's cars in the future, so its application in the popular Corolla makes sense here. It also covers one of our safety gripes from the 2016 model: Toyota was simply missing technology that others had already adopted.
Federal regulators gave the 2016 Corolla five stars overall, its highest score, and five stars in every specific test except rollover, where it received four out of five. The NHTSA hasn't yet rated the 2017 edition.
In IIHS testing, however, this year's Corolla earned top "Good" ratings in all crash tests, including an improved small-overlap score. That combined with the new safety features make the car a Top Safety Pick+ this year.
We're basing our safety rating on those scores and its good standard safety features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Corolla also has Toyota's Star Safety system, plus the now-standard suite of vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking, electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist. There's also a Smart Stop system that automatically cuts engine power in some cases if the brake and accelerator pedals are simultaneously pressed.
The current generation of Corolla comes with eight airbags as standard equipment, including a driver’s side knee bag as well as a front passenger seat cushion bag that blows up to prevent the passenger from sliding under the dash in a crash. That's in addition to driver and front passenger front and side airbags, as well as side-curtain bags that cover outboard occupants front and back. The Corolla offers good outward visibility, and a rearview camera is standard in most versions.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla's active safety features help make the car one of the safest in its class.
|Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:||(4/5)|
|Overall Side Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Barrier Rating:||Not Rated|
|NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating:||(4/5)|
|Side Impact Test||Good|
|Roof Strength Test||Good|
|Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint||Good|
|IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results||Marginal|
|IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
The 2017 Toyota Corolla adds two new trims this year: the XSE and 50th Anniversary Special Edition, the latter adds a few trinkets to an SE-equipped model. The Corolla lineup has been rejiggered to align more closely with the Camry lineup.
Base Corollas start with the L trim. A few creature comforts and bigger wheels comprise LE models (including LE Eco models), with the new XLE trim topping the "commuter line." We're expecting a range of features including an upgraded center display and paddle shifters on the XLE.
Decent base equipment and a good 6.1-inch infotainment screen help it earn a 7 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Last year, the S trim served as the only car in the Corolla's "sporty line," but that was expanded for 2017. There's an SE trim level (the 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is based on it) and a range-topping XSE trim.
All models get a 6.1-inch touchscreen, which can be upgraded to a 7.0-inch touchscreen in XLE, XSE, Special Edition and manual-equipped SE models. Toyota has announced that a rearview camera will be standard on all trims (last year's L models did without it) and that Toyota's Safety Sense-P will be available on all trims.
Finally, Toyota has added a Corolla 50th Anniversary Limited Edition, based on the Corolla SE, that bundles gloss-black 17-inch alloy wheels with dark gray inserts; a black interior with "Black Cherry" contrast stitching, dash and door accents; available moonroof; 7.0-inch high-resolution touchscreen; special floor mats and badges, and a choice of three colors used only on this model—Black Cherry, Blizzard White, and (our fave) Classic Silver.
For 2017, Toyota complements its Corolla packaging with advanced safety that helps bring the car in line with others in its class.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla is a relatively fuel efficient compact commuter out of the box. There are no hybrid options—Toyota reserves that technology for the Prius and larger Camry—but there is an "Eco" model for green-minded buyers dead-set on picking up a Corolla.
The best of the bunch is predictably named the LE Eco model. It adds an Eco Drive Mode button that alters shift points, throttle response, and accessory operation. The base Toyota Corolla LE Eco is rated at 30 mpg city, 40 highway, 34 combined.
If you're generous with options in the LE Eco model, fuel economy may suffer. Adding bigger wheels cuts the 42-mpg highway rating down to 40 mpg and results in a lower combined rating of 33 mpg.
Otherwise, the non-Eco 2016 Corolla models are all rated between 27/35/30 mpg and 28/36/32 mpg, depending on configuration. Based on that configuration, it earns an 8 out of 10 on our fuel economy scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2017 Toyota Corolla's familiar powertrain isn't overwhelming, but it is efficient.