Audio, connectivity, and so-called infotainment are things that come first today to many shoppers—even those who are limiting themselves to frugal, fiscally responsible transportation like the Corolla, so it’s worth looking there first. Bluetooth hands-free calling, an auxiliary audio jack, and USB/iPod connectivity (with charging and full USB 2.0 compatibility) are included in all Corolla models—even the base L—but LE, S, and LE Eco models all include more steering-wheel controls as well as voice recognition.
The base Corolla L model includes air conditioning, power windows (with one-touch driver’s side up/down), color-keyed power-adjustable side mirrors, tilt/telescopic steering-wheel adjustment, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, and LED low-beam headlamps and daytime running lamps. LE Grade models are expected to be again be the best-selling models in the lineup; they’re much better equipped through still at an affordable price. Altogether, with the LE you add larger 16-inch steel wheels, in addition to automatic climate control, power locks, keyless entry, piano-black center-stack trim, variable intermittent wipers, and an integrated backup camera that displays through the audio touch screen when reversing.
The Corolls S and LE Eco trims are the specialty models of the lineup. With the sporty S you get unique wheel covers, integrated fog lamps, a special blacked-out grille, a chrome-tipped exhaust, more aggressively bolstered sport seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, passle shifters, and a Multi-Information Display in the middle of the gauge cluster. S models with the CVT also get a separate Sport drive mode that firms up the steering and quickens throttle response.
The base audio head unit is not only delightfully simple—skipping the touch screen, apps, and such—but it has surprisingly good sound, plus a display that can show long track names and song tags.
Major options throughout most of the lineup (but not the base L) include a moonroof ($850), and a so-called Driver’s Convenience Package ($1,510), which includes a Smart Key system, Entune Premium Audio, and a navigation system with App Suite.
If you want the manual transmission on the Corolla S, you'll need to give the nod to a single special build: a $22,110 Corolla S Plus model that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, the Smart Key system, and the navigation/App Suite combo.
All but the base model get automatic climate control. Cruise control isn’t at all available on the base model. Neither is keyless entry, as evidenced by the old-fashioned single ignition key we were handed when going to take the base model for a spin.
That said, the $17,610 base model remains a sort of icon for compact-car simplicity and efficiency. You get a lot for your money there—or with the very well equipped $21,910 Eco Plus model that's otherwise at the top of the lineup.