Ask just about anyone, and they probably have some sort of memory about the Toyota Corolla. Mine was a decade ago with my now-wife as we took our first vacation together road tripping through the southeast in her 2003 Corolla. The Corolla isn’t an exciting car, but Toyota has sold so many of them over the years (more than 44 million since 1966, to be exact) that it is the best-selling nameplate of all time.
That brings us to this test drive review. While all the Corolla news lately has been focused on the new 2019 Corolla Hatchback, the sedan soldiers on as a solid and popular option in the compact sedan segment. It’s impossible to argue with the success Toyota has had with this car, but we were still looking forward to our seat time with the 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE to see how the current generation stacks up against much newer rivals like the Honda Civic, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza and Chevrolet Cruze.
Keep reading to find out for yourself.
2018 Toyota Corolla Exterior
From a design standpoint, the current Corolla has remained surprisingly fresh as it doesn’t show its age compared to much newer competition. One thing that helps is the sporty-looking SE/XSE trim levels, which borrow a page from the bigger Camry to deliver a more aggressive appearance using only slight tweaks to the front and rear.
Up front, the Corolla SE/XSE gets a nose that is totally different from other trim levels with a smaller upper grille, fake air vents with vertical LED daytime running lights and LED headlights. This look also includes stylish 17-inch alloy wheels with a two-tone finish, while the rear of the Corolla XSE gets a decklid spoiler and chrome exhaust tip. Our tester was painted in the Slate Metallic, and it had a slightly cooler look with the aftermarket window tint.
2018 Toyota Corolla Interior
The interior of the 2018 Toyota Corolla is a pretty straightforward deal with a functional design and lots of space. The first thing you notice about this Corolla XSE is its color combinations pairing Ebony leather-like materials (SofTex) on the seat with blue accent stitching and piping throughout. In addition to the faux leather seating, the XSE comes with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, eight-way power driver’s seat and proximity entry with push-button start.
When it comes to space, the compact Corolla delivers big time with roomy front seats and some of the best rear legroom in this class. The overall experience that the Corolla XSE offers feels a grade above what you might expect from an economy car in this price segment. Cabin materials are either some sort of soft touch or a high-quality plastic; nothing about this interior screams “cheap.” Even better, this tester was equipped with the $525 Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, which uses a large display screen controlled either using touch-screen buttons or the knobs for volume and station tuning. Sadly, this system does not yet offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
2018 Toyota Corolla Powertrain
All 2018 Toyota Corolla trim levels use a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, and all but the LE Eco trim level have an output of 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. Paired to a CVT, the Corolla offers great efficiency without a lot of complexity with EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway**. Putting the CVT in its Sport mode brings some virtual shifts for a sportier feel and slightly quicker acceleration.
The biggest reason why the Corolla has been so popular for 50-plus years is that it’s a straightforward economy car that delivers everything buyers expect from a compact sedan. It’s easy to drive, easy to park and smooth on the road.
2018 Toyota Corolla Safety
Look at the standard list of safety features, and it isn’t hard to see one of the biggest reasons why the 2018 Toyota Corolla is so popular. The Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) comes with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, while the STAR Safety System includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology; the Corolla also comes with eight standard airbags. With all this equipment, the five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety make perfect sense.
2018 Toyota Corolla Overall
The Toyota Corolla might not be as exciting as a Mazda Miata or Ford Mustang, but one way or another, it’s a car that is experienced by the majority of drivers and passengers out there. Even though the 2018 Toyota Corolla must content with much new compacts on the market, the Corolla continues to be one of the strongest sellers. And its size, efficiency and value are great reasons why. With a starting price of $18,600*, the 2018 Corolla is an extremely affordable option whether you’re looking for a first car or downsizing from a larger gas-guzzler, and even with all of the standard equipment on this sporty-looking XSE trim level, the Corolla still doesn’t break the bank with an as-tested price of $24,150.
So what’s your Toyota Corolla memory? Make a new one by visiting your local AutoNation Toyota dealership and checking out the 2018 Toyota Corolla today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.