- Spacious interior
- Strong value for money
- Comfortable ride
- CVT models feel sluggish from a stop
- Headroom is tight in back
- Lacking active-safety options
The 2015 Toyota Corolla maintains its reputation for low running costs and frugality, but there's not a lot more beyond that, to make this a very appealing lineup.
Toyota's current 2015 Corolla is isn't all-out charming, but it's engaging and interesting in a way the previous-generation Corolla missed.
The Corolla, for decades, has epitomized basic, trouble-free, and relatively comfortable transportation. That 'no frills' reputation changed a bit a couple of years ago, when Toyota added some more technology and flair to the Corolla, arguably breaking free of biases that have long pegged it as the blandest of the compact-sedan bunch.
With that redesign, Toyota showed, at last, that the Corolla can be more than a penny-pinching, trouble-free economy sedan. Although the Corolla has been one of the best-selling small sedans in the U.S. market -- for decades -- the automaker really stepped up its game with the current 2015 Corolla, bringing in the sharper, sportier looks, the quieter cabin, and the in-car technology that today's small-car shoppers expect.
And what it's ended up with, in this 2015 Toyota Corolla, is a vehicle that's more than just thoroughly competent, but actually delightful at times -- a model you might choose for reasons other than the bottom line and watching your dollars. Yet one thing the Corolla doesn't stray away from is its low pricing and high value.
The 2015 Corolla doesn't blow past any boundaries for what a Corolla should be; but it does shed some of its conservative, bare-bones appearance in favor of something more vivid and aesthetically appealing. The Corolla's new look is described by the automaker as more athletic, and we won't argue with that. The core design concept, of ‘Iconic Dynamism,’ might be a little tougher to make sense of, as we see bits and pieces of various other current compact-car models in the overarching design as well as styling details -- too many to call it iconic.
The proportions of the 2015 Corolla are what make its design so successful. About three inches longer than the pre-2014 model, the current Corolla offers a longer wheelbase, with the wheels farther out near the corners of the car -- elements that together give more visual appeal, with a sportier stance, plus more interior space. Some great details, like LED headlamps and running lamps, finish off the design. The sporty Corolla S models stand distinct from the rest; they get a blacked-out grille in front with fog lamps flanking a more aggressive airdam; the look of the S is further sharpened by an integrated rear spoiler that visually lifts the tail. For 2015, LE and LE Eco models are easier to distinguish from base L models, as Toyota has tweaked that front-end appearance somewhat, with a new painted front grille, including dark gray 'Argent' painted surrounds for the grille and fog lamps.
The 2015 Toyota Corolla lineup continues to offer two different 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines; and rest assured that with either version, you'll get approximately the same level of performance and fuel efficiency. L, LE, and S trim Corolla models are powered by a base 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. The LE Eco trim, with its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, has Valvematic, which has a broader range of continuously variable valve timing, for better fuel economy as well as a boost in engine output, to 140-horsepower. In most Corolla models (LE, S, and LE Eco), there's a continuously variable transmission (CVT); with it, Toyota has managed to tune in a reassuring, almost linear feel during light and moderate acceleration, while minimizing the 'drone' that plagues CVTs used in other small cars. S models get a special version of the CVT that pretends it's an automatic, with seven simulated gear ratios and steering-wheel paddle-shifters to click through them. The Corolla S (perhaps at odds with its own mission) is the model you should move toward if you enjoy driving; it gets a suspension tune that's buttoned-down in the way you might normally expect of a sport sedan—with a special Sport button that firms up the steering, and a ride that feels firm yet absorbent and nicely damped. Other models in the lineup remain a bit springy and pillowy.
The Corolla might have been considered mid-size just a few model years ago. With its redesign last year, the Corolla gained nearly four inches in wheelbase, and that almost directly translates to some meaningful increases in back-seat space. Even those six feet tall can now ride behind other six-footers—an almost unhead-of feat among small cars. There were improvements in front-seat comfort, too, with more adjustability and longer cushions than before, or than what you'll find in some rival models. Trunk space is abundant, too, with a long, flat floor, plus flip-forward rear seatbacks in all models.
Overall, the look and feel of the Corolla's cabin is more conservative than the contemporary exterior might suggest. Although last year's redesign brought upscale materials and a two-tier dash design that really helps maximize the sense of space in front, the impression is that the Corolla is aiming less for a sporty compact-car feel and more for a cabin that almost rivals mid-size interiors. A soft-touch material now covers the dash; S models have leather-like Softex bolsters and coarse, contrast-toned seat upholstery, while pinstriped accents are strewn about the cabin on the dashboard and door panels.
The 2015 Toyota Corolla offers an impressive safety set, as well as some (mostly) good crash-test ratings; although it's missing some of the advanced active-safety technology that's fast becoming the norm for this class of vehicle. It includes eight standard airbags along with Toyota's Star Safety system, which includes vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist.
Across the lineup, Toyota now offers infotainment systems that aren't just competitive, but among the better systems in this class of affordable car when you consider their interfaces, ease of use, connectivity, and sound. Toyota's latest Entune system, featuring navigation and apps in some models, lift the automaker's inexpensive-car cabins out of the dark ages, and they're widely available in the lineup.
That lineup remains comprised of four 2015 Toyota Corolla trim levels: L, LE, S, and a new LE Eco model. The base L model features standard LED low-beam headlights with LED daytime running lights, in-glass AM/FM antenna, color-keyed outside door handles, color-keyed outside mirrors, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, power locks, doors, and mirrors, along with air conditioning, Bluetooth, and eight airbags. Equipment on all LE, S, and LE Eco Premium models now for 2015 includes the same so-called Driver Convenience Package, with a moonroof, Smart Key entry, Navigation, Entune Premium Audio, and the App Suite.