2013 Toyota Corolla S
2013 Toyota Corolla S
2013 Toyota Corolla S. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

A last-place finish (out of nine) in last year’s Compact Car Comparison Test pretty much sums it up: this current Corolla generation started life a half-step behind its competitors and has been losing ground ever since. But for this review it’s appropriate to take off my “I love to drive” hat and put on that dowdy “I need a transportation appliance” hat that’s been buried at the back of my closet since, well, forever.

We’ve already established that the Corolla registers zero on the emotional appeal meter, so let’s also turn off the right side of our brains and find out how the left side – that part of the brain that uses logic and reason to make decisions – would like this entry in the fiercely competitive compact car segment.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, this car checks many boxes. The Corolla CE’s starting price of $15,450 gets it off on the right foot, even though A/C, cruise control, and power windows are optional. You need to fork over $1,000 to go from a five-speed stick to an automatic transmission, but even then it only has four forward gears. The base CE includes 15-inch steel wheels, four-speaker audio with an auxiliary input jack, rear seat heater ducts, power heated exterior mirrors, dual vanity mirrors, tilt and telescoping wheel, and a centre console with armrest.

The $1,495 Convenience package brings the Corolla up to more acceptable standards; A/C, Bluetooth connectivity, USB audio input with wheel-mounted controls, and power door locks with keyless entry are all along for the ride. Unfortunately, buyers will need to fork over another thousand bucks to get power windows and cruise control, both part of the enhanced convenience package. That group also includes heated front seats. A moonroof is another $420. So what I would consider a well-equipped Corolla is about $19K with the automatic – a far cry from the $15,450 starting price.

The $21,170 Corolla LE includes everything in the loaded CE, plus the aforementioned slushbox, metallic trim, 16-inch alloys, variable intermittent wipers, and fog lights as standard equipment. Two enhancements are available on the LE: the $23,165 LE with upgrade package, which includes climate control, keyless start, automatic headlights, and power driver’s seat; and the $24,765 LE with premium package, which nets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood-grain trim, satellite radio capability, and wheel-mounted controls for Bluetooth.

2013 Toyota Corolla S2013 Toyota Corolla S
2013 Toyota Corolla S. Click image to enlarge

While the LE goes after those seeking luxury in their compact ride, our $20,605 Corolla S tester looks to appeal to the sporty side of the Corolla customer base. While powertrain options don’t change, the S gets sport seats and a body kit including rear spoiler and side skirts. What the S is missing compared to the LE, in base form at least, are heated front seats and a moonroof. Both transmissions are available on the S.

The $1,655 Moonroof package gets more than just a moonroof: it also comes with push-button start, automatic headlights, and climate control. Add another $2,850 and you get our tester: a full-load S with Technology and Leather package that, as the name suggests, adds leather seats and navigation along with a couple of other goodies. With the automatic, our tester rang up a heady $26,155 before destination and taxes. That’s a huge sum for a compact car, especially considering what the competition is offering with respect to features and technology. At the time of this writing, Toyota Canada has a $2,500 cash incentive on this model; perhaps they agree that the car is overpriced.

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