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Simple and proven, the 2013 Toyota Corolla sticks to what it knows best: ease of use, reliability, and affordability. The Corolla has been left behind the rest of the market in terms of technology, refinement, and driving involvement, but a new model coming for 2014 hopes to change that.
The current Corolla, however, is one of the blandest-looking, most innocuous compact sedans on the market. A revised grille design for the 2013 model year tried, but failed, to change that. The Corolla isn't ugly, or off-putting, but it's also certainly not attractive--especially when parked next to its competitive set. The cabin is the same: simple and useful, but devoid of character or style.
People who choose to drive out of necessity and practicality are going to find everything they need from the Corolla's performance, but those who like to drive may find the experience too appliance-like. The Corolla's 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine feels a bit short on power on the highway--particularly with the four-speed automatic, which has widely spaced gears and hesitant responses that can together add drama to highway passes. In general, the Corolla is softly sprung and lacking a handling and ride sophistication that many rivals now have. The electric power steering is dull and overly light, and that combined with the suspension makes the Corolla feel out of sorts on a curvy road.
Functionally, the Corolla hits all the marks--especially with respect to seating space and comfort. Front seats are a bit short and spongy and that's the only caution (really for taller drivers, who might not find them as supportive), but otherwise there's plenty of headroom and legroom as well as decent space for average-size adults in the back seat. Ride comfort is good in most cases, and the Corolla's cabin is well-isolated from road and wind noise; it's really up to par with mid-size cars in this respect. The only blemishes we see are the lack of detailing, the subpar look and feel of some of the materials, and a little more engine noise than is typical.The Corolla remains one of the better picks in this class for the safety-minded. Safety equipment is typical within the class, with front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, and active front head restraints all standard. In addition to four-star federal results overall (plus top-notch five-star ratings in side impact), the Corolla has earned top scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in all test categories—resulting in a renewed Top Safety Pick accolade for 2013.
Some important new tech features have been added to the 2013 Corolla; a new 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system with Bluetooth hands-free calling, Bluetooth audio streaming, and USB connectivity are included in all but the base Corolla L. Across the lineup, there are three trim levels: base L, mid-range LE, and the somewhat sportier-looking S. Corolla LE and S models get improved audio systems, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, variable intermittent wipers, and heated mirrors. And S doesn't offer performance that's much sportier, it gets stitched seat accents on sport seats, fog lamps, alloy wheels, a spoiler, additional body cladding, and a sport gauge cluster.
- Comfortable ride
- Roomy interior
- Good safety ratings
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- Basic-transportation feel
- Light, rubbery steering
- Dull interior
- Sluggish passing response (auto)