2018 Toyota Corolla: Adding sportiness and safety to its reputation

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In the seventh year of its 11th generation, the 2018 Toyota Corolla sedan continues its legacy as a top-selling sedan. Currently the ninth top-selling vehicle and third best-selling sedan in America, Corolla has gained a 52-year-reputation for being a sensible, practical and reliable car, and recent engineering has gained it a sportier demeanor.

Corolla offers minor upgrades for 2018, following last model year’s enhancements in which it received sportier exterior styling and Toyota Safety Sense-P. All Corolla models come standard with TSS-P, a system that bundles the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; and Automatic High Beams. Having standard TSS-P puts Toyota four years ahead of the model-year 2022 industry target for standard automatic braking supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

For 2018, all trim levels gain driver and front passenger illuminated visor vanity mirrors. The XLE and SE grades feature a leather-trimmed 3-spoke steering wheel with controls for audio, Multi-Information Display, Bluetooth® hands-free phone, and voice command. Part of the Corolla’s popularity can be attributed to its wide appeal. The model line covers the gamut of tastes and needs with the L, LE, LE Eco, XLE, SE, and XSE grades. There’s a sporty, sophisticated look to all thanks to Bi-LED headlamps on the L, LE, and LE Eco grades, and Multi-LED headlamps come standard on SE, XSE, and XLE grades. The sporty SE and XSE trims roll on standard 17-inch alloy wheels.

Striving to add sporty to safety, the Corolla SE I tested was part of the 2017 restyling that included front end freshening, with a glossy-black mesh grille, sculpted body lines, and faux brake-cooling ducts. Unibody construction utilizes high tensile-strength steel, a rigid platform for precise handling, and quality fit, finish and materials including an acoustic glass windshield, floor carpet insulation, an instrument panel seal between the cowl and the windshield, fender insulators, and an inner dash silencer pad that provide a luxury quietness in the cabin.

The compact Corolla measures 183.1 inches long, 69.9 inches wide and 57.3 inches high on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, providing ground clearance of 6.7 inches and a curb weight of about 2870 lbs. Corolla has been known for its fuel economy and that continues this year. The 2018 Corolla offers two efficient 1.8-liter, all-aluminum inline-four-cylinder engines. The base 1.8-liter unit with VVT-i is available on all trims but the LE Eco, and is rated at 132 horsepower and 128 lbs.-ft. of torque. The Corolla’s LE Eco trim level is equipped with a 1.8-liter engine with Valvematic, to bring a five-percent improvement in fuel economy and engine output, at 140hp, but the system loses a bit of torque to 126 lbs.-ft. Economy is a factor here with the main plant rated at about 28/city and 35/highway for about 32mpg combined for most trims. The Eco setup gets 30/40/34. My mixed-use tests showed an average of 31.7mpg in an LE.

But Corolla’s fuel economy is a trade off with acceleration quickness. Corolla has always been known more for economy than for acceleration, and this year’s entry is no different. While the ride was comfortable, Corolla is hesitant from a start, though slow and steady during uphill and passing maneuvers. Typical of a fuel-efficient compact, time trials seemed tedious as a sprint from zero to 60mph took 9.8 seconds and a quarter-mile lasted an interminable 17.6 seconds. At speed on the highway, passing power was good after initial unwillingness, so passing needs some strategizing.

With seating for five, Corolla’s cabin is compact-niche cozy, with 38.3 inches of front headroom and 37.1 inches in row two; legroom stretches out a bit at 42.3 inches in the first row and a comfortable 41.4 inches in the second seats and shoulder room is comfortable at 54.8 in both rows. The cabin is packed with infotainment, climate features, cool upscale lighting and instrumentation and various informational displays that are driver-friendly.

From a safety perspective, Corolla is built with front and rear energy-absorbing crumple zones, side-impact door beams, energy absorbing collapsible steering wheel, head impact protection structure and high-tensile strength steel body panels. Installed safety items include Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, driver and front passenger advanced airbag system, driver and front passenger front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. The 2018 Toyota Corolla Base L sedan starts at $18,600. Third up among the six trims was the sporty SE trim I tested, basing at $20,545. The top-of-the-line XSE starts at $22,780. My SE had a sporty front fascia with a Gloss-Black Mesh-Pattern grille, Multi-LED headlights, integrated backup camera with projected path, and a Sport Instrumentation Cluster with speedometer and tach. Blue Crush Metallic exterior paint came with the SE Premium Package for $1535 that included infotainment, GPS, Siri® Eyes Free, power/tilt/slide moonroof, 7-inch touchscreen, iPod® Connectivity and Control, Bluetooth® wireless technology and much more. Mudguards were $129, a four-season floormat package added $373, door edge guards added $125, and a Body {Protection package with body side moldings, and door sill and rear bumper protectors added $487. With delivery, processing and handling fee of $920, the price-as-tested was $23,194.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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