“Corolla” and “visually exciting” are two terms you wouldn’t normally associate with one another, but there is a new Toyota Corolla that is turning heads, the 2015 50th Anniversary Special Edition. Decked out in its exclusive “Absolutely Red” exterior paint, standard glossy black alloy wheels and fabric/leatherette seats with unique red stitching and piping, this limited edition model may be the sportiest-looking Corolla ever, if not the quickest.

Only 2,000 of these 50th Anniversary Special Edition Corollas have been built in Cambridge, Ontario and they’re only available in Canada.

To be clear, this is not the 50th anniversary of the Toyota Corolla (which first arrived here in 1967) but a special edition of the Corolla that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Toyota’s operations in Canada, which began in September, 1964. (Yes, we’re obsessive about facts!)

Based on the Corolla S trim, the 50th Anniversary Special Edition Corolla (hereinafter called the 50ASE) starts at $20,960 when equipped with a standard six-speed manual transmission, $1,595 more than the standard Corolla S. With the optional moonroof and automatic climate control, the price of the 50ASE rises to $21,515. If you prefer a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, the 50ASE starts at $21,945. Add the moonroof and automatic climate control, and it’s priced at $22,500.

Our tester was the fully equipped $22,500 model finished in the very un-Corolla-like “Absolutely Red” exterior colour. (Note to Corolla owners: if you choose this colour, avoid driving under the speed limit in the left lane of the 401.) The 2015 Corolla 50ASE is also available in Alpine White, Slate Metallic, and Black Sand Pearl but unlike other Corollas, the 50ASE is not available in Classic Silver Metallic, Blue Crush metallic or Barcelona Red Metallic.

The combination of the Absolutely Red exterior and the glossy black 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, and black-painted upper and lower grilles and rear valance gives the Corolla an aggressive urban performance vibe, however we think it would look much better if the body were lowered an inch or two. The gap between the top of the tires and the fenders seems too wide to us.

Inside, unique red stitching and red seat piping does wonders for the appearance of the standard black interior. The Corolla 50ASE’s cloth/leatherette seats feature speckled black and white fabric seat inserts and simulated-leather thigh and side bolsters and head restraints with red piping around the seatback and cushion perimeters and red stitching on the outer and inner seat bolsters and head restraints. Red stitching can also be found on the centre armrest, door armrests, shift boot, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and even the floor mats. There’s also a subtle red pinstripe across the dash and along the doors. Combined with the discreet silver dash trim and piano black trim around the touchscreen, air vents and shift lever, the overall appearance is surprisingly upscale when compared with the standard Corolla interior.

2015 Toyota Corolla 50 Anniversary Special Edition2015 Toyota Corolla 50 Anniversary Special Edition wheel2015 Toyota Corolla 50 Anniversary Special Edition dashboard2015 Toyota Corolla 50 Anniversary Special Edition seat detail
2015 Toyota Corolla 50 Anniversary Special Edition, wheel, dashboard, seat detail. Click image to enlarge

Since its redesign last year, the Corolla’s cabin has become one of the roomiest in its class: the Corolla’s passenger volume of 2,761 litres is roomier than the Civic, Mazda3 and Elantra sedans. The driver and front passenger have generous headroom and legroom, even with the optional moonroof, and rear outboard passengers have adequate headroom and generous kneeroom and footroom. A folding centre armrest with two cupholders can be lowered when there are two rear passengers, but a third person can be squeezed in the middle if necessary.

On a long highway drive, I found the driver’s seat comfortable despite not having adjustable lumbar support; however the seat cushion is a bit short. With the aid of a manual height adjuster and a steering wheel that tilts for height and telescopes for reach, almost any size of driver can find a good position. To keep your bum warm this winter, both front seats have high/low seat heaters.

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