The redesigned Corolla Hatchback brought back something that was missing in the Corolla for a number of years; being somewhat interesting. With more expressive styling and a new platform that improves driving dynamics, the model has started to shed its image of being bland. But would this continue with the redesigned Corolla sedan? To find out, I spent a week in the top-line Corolla XSE.
- The basic profile is unchanged from the previous Corolla sedan, but Toyota has done their best to make look a bit more exciting. On the XSE, this means a different front clip from other Corollas with the emblem moved to towards the cutline of the hood, a larger lower grille, and deep cuts for the bumper. The distinctive fang headlights are carried over from other Corollas. Around back, not much has changed aside from a new rear diffuser. The updated look does make the Corolla sedan have presence, but I prefer the hatchback in terms of overall looks.
- One item that is shared between the sedan and hatchback is the dashboard. As I noted in my Corolla Hatchback review, the dash features a layered design, faux stitching, and infotainment screen mounted on top - measuring either seven or eight inches depending on the trim. I like that Toyota is taking chances with the design, but also retaining the excellent ergonomics it’s known for.
- My particular tester came with the larger eight-inch featuring the newest version of Entune. While I wish Toyota had done more to make the interface look more modern and feature colors that weren’t various shades of grey. But I cannot deny Toyota builds a system that anyone can quickly grasp thanks to the simple interface design, physical shortcut buttons to various features, and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Those with Android smartphones are left out in the cold.
- Those sitting up front will have no complaints about space, seat adjustment, or comfort. In the back, legroom is about average for the class. But headroom for taller passengers comes up a bit short, especially when you have the optional moonroof.
- Three powertrains are available in the Corolla; a 1.8L four in the L, LE, and XLE; 2.0L four for the SE and XSE; and a hybrid for the LE Hybrid.
- The 2.0L produces 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet. The XSE only gets a CVT transmission, while the SE has the choice between the CVT and a six-speed manual.
- Performance is the same as with the Corolla SE I drove last year; decent around town and leaving stoplights, but really struggles when trying to get to higher speeds. A fair amount of engine noise does make it way inside when driving on the highway.
- EPA fuel economy figures for the Corolla XSE are 31 City/38 City/34 Highway - lower than the Corolla SE hatchback (32/41/35). My average for the week landed around 33.4 mpg on a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving.
- Handling is an improvement over the old Corolla as it feels slightly more lively with better control of body motions. But it cannot match the nimbleness of the hatchback. This likely comes down to the Corolla Hatchback being sold in the European market where a sportier ride is desired. The sedan sold in the U.S. is more attuned to providing a smooth ride.
- The Corolla XSE for the most part is able to smooth over most bumps and imperfections, but the 18-inch wheels does mean some bumps do make their way inside. Road and wind noise is kept to acceptable levels.
- There is one area that the Corolla XSE falters, value for money. With an as-tested price of $28,794, that puts you in the range of a well-equipped Mazda3 that not only offers more power, but has an interior that the Corolla cannot match. For only a couple grand less, a Kia Forte EX offers more equipment and a slightly larger back seat.
- Toyota has improved the Corolla sedan to a point where most of the blandness doesn’t exist. I would have liked to seen Toyota take some of the handling magic used on the hatchback and place it into the sedan. But Toyota knows most buyers don’t really care about this. By taking the strengths and wrapping it up in a package that stands out, it will mean more people may check out the Corolla. But I would recommend sticking with one of the lower trims as they offer a slightly better bang your for your buck.
Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Corolla, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve, Dual VVT-i
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: 169 @ 6,600
Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 31/38/34
Curb Weight: 3,150 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi, Japan
Base Price: $25,450
As Tested Price: $28,794 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation and JBL w/Clari-Fi - $1,715.00
Adaptive Front Lighting System - $450.00
Cargo Mat Package - $249.00