Who could have known that 50 years ago, a little econobox on wheels would become the best-selling car in history? That would be the Toyota Corolla, now a half-century old.

The 2016 Toyota Corolla, two years removed from a redesign, represents the milestone with its usual array of trim levels plus a Special Edition.

Last year, the minor additions to the Corolla included a fold-down real center armrest in all trims except the base L model and a Driver Convenience package as standard equipment.

New Corolla Honors Sedan’s Legacy

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The Special Edition was my weekly test drive, an homage to the brand and limited to 8,000 units. Its basic are the S Plus trim, plus a host of add-ons. The S Plus trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension tuning rear disc brakes (versus the standard drums) and eligibility for the sunroof and Driver Convenience package.

The special edition of the 2016 Toyota Corolla. Image, James Raia/2016
The special edition of the 2016 Toyota Corolla. Image, James Raia/2016

The Special Edition also has a continuously variable transmission and the alloy wheels have a gloss black finish, which several observers commented on. There’s also extra badging, keyless entry and ignition and an all-black interior with red contrast stitching and red accents on the instrument panel. The sunroof and Entune Premium audio are stand-alone options on the S Special Edition.

Like previous years’ models I’ve driven, the 2016 Toyota Corolla is a keen reminder of the definition of reliable transportation. Like many smaller sedans, the Corolla is rated to seat five, but it’s more comfortable for four adults. It’s front-wheel drive and powered by a 1.8-liter, 16-value engine with 140 horsepower.

Driving the Corolla can be spirited. As a small sedan, the top-line has some spunk, although it shouldn’t be mistaken for a sports car on any level. The drive is smooth and steady, and the vision is good and void of any blindspots.

I like the layout and functionality of the gauges and dials. The navigation systems is ideally placed and the six-inch screen offers a clear picture and sound directions with plenty of advance warning.

Several reviews of the new Toyota have cited its generic presentation and personality. The entry level L trim is a basic vehicle, yes. And that’s a good reason to consider upper levels.

Likes:

Strong fuel economy.

Lengthy standard features list.

Comfortable ride.

Dislikes:

Tight front seats.

Not the quickest small sedan in the industry.

Facts & Figures: 2016 Toyota Corolla

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, unavailable, 9.6 seconds.
Airbags: 8.
Fuel economy: 29 mpg (city), 37 mpg (highway), 32 mpg (combined) six-speed continuously variable transmission.
Horsepower: 140.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $20,635.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.toyota.com.
Price As Tested: $23,520.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“Although the Corolla is hardly an excitement machine, it remains as dependable as ever, boasting excellent reliability scores from all groups who keep track.” — AutoTrader.com.

“The ride is smooth and confident, with bit of playfulness in the sporty S. Interior noise levels are on par with most compacts in the class, although we think the Ford Focus is a tad quieter inside. The Corolla’s front seats could do with better lower back support, but most of our test drivers found them comfortable even on long drives.” — Kelley Blue Book.com

“While the current version isn’t what you might call charming, it’s more interesting and engaging that its anodyne predecessors in earlier generations.” — CarConnection.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“It’s hard to find too much fault with the Toyota Corolla. It’s still the best-selling car in history. But the more I drive the competition, the more I believe several manufacturers offer vehicles at least as good, if not better.”

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