TOYOTA COROLLA SALES REACH 40 MILLION IN 2015

2015 Toyota Corolla

By Tom Crosby

Toyota’s Corolla lives in the shadow of the best-selling Toyota Camry but is the most popular automotive nameplate ever sold with sales this year totaling more than 40 million in 142 countries since appearing in 1966.

Smaller than the full-size Camry, which first arrived in 1983, the compact five-passenger Corolla had its eleventh makeover last year and for 2015 made only minor changes in some trims – such as a rear fold-down center armrest with two cup holders.

Our test drive was the LE ECO PLUS with the line-up’s best gas mileage, tweaked from Corolla’s standard 1.8-liter 4-cyclinder engine using a smooth continuously variable transmission that lacks some of the get up and go of Corolla’s competitors in exchange for better gas mileage.

However, Corolla boasts an attractive price point, historically above average resale value due to its reliability, comfortable seating, mainstream technological features and comfortable ergonomic interior design. (Other models with multiple options are L, LE, LE Eco and S.)

A Driver Convenience Package for $1,510 in our tester upped comfort considerably with upgraded audio, multimedia interfaces, navigation, Bluetooth and Smart Key functions with push button start. Also an $850 moonroof option included a sliding sunshade.

Manual seats manipulated well enough to achieve a comfortable position on longer rides – we traveled 1,400 miles – and excellent mileage averaged close to 38 mpg at high-end highway speeds. Cruise control, however, showed some sluggishness in re-achieving set speeds after slowing down.

Other Corolla pluses include ample access to the trunk, satisfactory rear seating space in all three positions and a 6.1-inch touch-screen, that, like all the controls and features, was ergonomically easy to read and use. Apps such as Bing, Facebook and Pandora, among others, are easily linked with smart phones using Toyota’s Entune audio system. The navigation system gives timely voice prompts and can provide traffic alerts on frequently used routes – a strong commuter benefit.

Interior furnishings are pleasant with stitching on some panels and brushed aluminum trim and chrome rimmed control knobs. Handling was average, as Corolla’s style is not designed for race driver wannabes, even riding on the tester’s 16-inch alloy sport-designed wheels. Crash safety scores remain top notch (except in a frontal offset collision) due to Corolla’s unibody construction and reinforced steel.

Outside sharper character lines, a gaping front fascia, raked windshield, rising beltline and subtle color-keyed spoiler create a nice on-street profile.

LIKES: Mileage, price, ergonomics, comfort
DISLIKES: Power, cruise control recovery
BOTTOM LINE: A steady, popular, reliable, wallet-friendly presence in a topsy-turvey market of new models and competitors.

FACT FILE: 2015 TOYOTA COROLLA LE ECO PLUS

  • Base price w/destination fee $20,490 ($23,328 as tested)
  • Curb weight 2,855 lbs.
  • Wheelbase 106.3 inches
  • Length 182.6 inches
  • Width 69.9 inches
  • Engine 1.8 liter, 16-valve, DOHC, 4 cylinders
  • Horsepower 140 hp at 6,100 rpm
  • Torque 126 ft.-lbs. at 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission 4-speed automatic w/variable valve timing
  • EPA Rating 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway
  • Range 13.2-gallon tank, regular
  • Performance 0-60 in just over 9 seconds