2012 Toyota Corolla CE
2012 Toyota Corolla CE. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2011 Toyota Corolla S
Used Vehicle Review: Toyota Corolla, 2003-2008

Manufacturer’s web site
Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

Photo Gallery:
2012 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is the bestselling nameplate of all time. Sure it has been sold on a multitude of chassis with enough different looks to make Lady Gaga jealous, but #1 it is; even if it is on a technicality. The current generation Corolla still sells strong (in Canada at least) due to a bulletproof reputation for reliability and a forte for being dead simple to use. In 2012, sales of the Corolla remains strong despite it getting long in the tooth.

The Corolla had its last full redesign in 2009, but the mechanicals date back to 2003 and have been more or less unchanged since then. Powering the majority of 2012 Corollas is a 1.8L four-cylinder engine developing 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque (a 2.4L engine upgrade is optional). Power is sent to the front wheels through a timeworn four-speed automatic transmission. The engine itself is smooth and very quiet at idle and power delivery is fluid. The transmission, while smooth, is lazy — upshifts and downshifts occur on their own time schedule, not yours. As can be expected with a transmission only sporting four forward gears, engine speed at 120 km/h spins at a high 3,000 rpm.

2012 Toyota Corolla CE
2012 Toyota Corolla CE. Click image to enlarge

The theme of simple mechanicals continues with the Corolla’s chassis as our tester, a 2012 Toyota Corolla CE, came equipped with disc brakes up front and drums on the back. Keeping the Corolla planted to the road (barely) are 195/65R15 tires on steel wheels with these strange plastic things attached to them that some refer to as “hubcaps”. An interesting thing to note with the Corolla is that it is actually officially rated to tow 680 kg.

On the road the Corolla is easy to drive and simple in operation. With vague steering featuring a large on-centre dead spot and a suspension setup that feels unsorted at best, the Corolla neither inspires nor rewards enthusiastic driving. No, the Corolla is for those who need a car but are not interested in everything that comes along with vehicular ownership. Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony kept referring to it as the “Anti-Car, a car for those who could care less how it looks or drives, but just need a reliable appliance to get from point a to b.”

2012 Toyota Corolla CE
2012 Toyota Corolla CE
2012 Toyota Corolla CE
2012 Toyota Corolla CE. Click image to enlarge

On the outside the Corolla features a simple design theme keeping with Toyota’s corporate identity from several years ago. In fact, it may do too good of a job blending in as the Corolla heavily resembles an enlarged subcompact Toyota Yaris sedan. The base 15-inch tires look small, and upgrading to the optional 16-inch wheels would be the way to go if you are purchasing a Corolla — they are simply in better proportion with the vehicle. I am not a fan of bulging head lights and tail lights that protrude beyond a vehicle’s dimensions as the Corolla’s do at all four corners. Frankly, it is a design trend that is lost on me.

At a mere 1,255 kg, the Corolla is a relative lightweight for its size and even with the old-school four-speed automatic, delivers impressive fuel economy. Officially rated at 7.8 L/100 km city and 5.7 L/100 km highway, I was able to achieve a fairly frugal 7.8 L/100 km average during my time with the Corolla. I can only imagine how much better this figure could be with a few extra gears or a continuously variable transmission. While I’m rarely one to endorse CVTs, the Corolla is the type of car that CVTs were made for.

The interior of the Corolla feels cheap and looks dated. The radio is a standalone unit not integrated into dashboard, similar to some Subaru units. The sound from the radio is okay and the Bluetooth system is very simple to connect to; almost too simple as it connects to your phone without worrying about entering the usual four-digit PIN. The front seat is comfortable but after two hours in rush-hour traffic the lack of support and short cushion length began to cause me some back pain. Rear seat space is actually generous for a vehicle of its size and trunk space is average at 350 L.

With an as-tested price of $19,990, the Corolla is a good deal from a feature standpoint. My test car came equipped with the Enhanced Convenience Package that added niceties like Bluetooth, six-speaker stereo, USB audio input, air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, power door locks, steering wheel audio controls, heated front seats, and power windows. And that is all many consumers are looking for: price per content. Add in Toyota’s renowned reputation for reliability and great safety ratings and it’s easy to see why people buy the Corolla in droves. However, more attractive offerings do exist out there for shoppers wishing to spend a little more time researching and testing various compact competitors.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Corolla CE
  • Base price: $15,450
  • Options: $4,540 (Enhanced Convenience Package, $3,540; Automatic Transmission, $1,000)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,465
  • Price as tested: $20,555

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