Providing segment-busting rear legroom, up to 42 mpg and excellent standard features, the 2016 Toyota Corolla offers great value in the crowded and competitive compact car segment.
To refer to the Corolla as a “best-seller” is an understatement. Launched in 1966, the Toyota Corolla quickly became the best-selling car in the world. By 1997, the Corolla would become the best-selling car of all time. In 2013, Toyota announced that the 40-millionth Corolla had left driven off the lot and that the compact car was selling at an almost unbelievable rate of 3,180 units per day.
The 2016 Toyota Corolla continues with the best-selling formula, as Toyota opted to keep things relatively simple by offering an economical compact car with excellent gas mileage and incredible interior space. There is a good reason that so many people purchase the Corolla, including the brand’s excellent reputation for reliability. The abundant utility of Toyota’s compact car and a relatively affordable price also make the world’s top-seller an attractive choice.
With a number of available trim levels, there is a Corolla for almost every budget. The base L, offered with either a six-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic, serves as the Corolla’s value option. The most popular version, the Corolla LE, employs a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the LE Eco is the most efficient and powerful Corolla in the 2016 lineup. The sporty Corolla S is available with a six-speed manual or a CVT. Plus and Premium subtrims add to the list of standard equipment and are available on all but the base model.
For 2016, Toyota has added a Special Edition model based on the Corolla S. The CVT-only Special Edition adds 17-inch alloy wheels, an attractive black interior with red stitching, push-button start with keyless access, exclusive exterior paint colors and more.
All 2016 Corolla models are front-wheel drive four-door sedans that seat five. The sole engine choice is a 1.8-liter four cylinder.
With a subtly aggressive front fascia that provides the fuel-sipping compact with a hint of youth and athleticism, the 2016 Corolla blends nicely into the roadways without looking old or dated. With a design that grows out from the center Toyota emblem and reaches back by way of oversized headlamps, the Corolla’s styling is modern and aerodynamic with the only constraint being the economic nature of the compact car.
While Toyota has made efforts to give the Corolla a sporty appearance, they have avoided the traps of design that impede function.
The high beltline, for instance, yields excellent ingress and egress for front and rear passengers. The tall roof provides the architecture needed for a roomy cabin.
My LE Eco Premium review vehicle was equipped some nice extras including a generously sized power tilt and slide moonroof, LED headlights and daytime running lights, integrated fog lights, heated sideview mirrors and a rear spoiler.
The Corolla’s cabin is spacious, especially for the compact segment. The large greenhouse and well positioned pillars provide excellent visibility while simultaneously giving the sedan a pleasant, open and airy feeling. There are an abundance of hard-touch plastics, especially on the lower trim levels, but Toyota’s choice of materials is attractive and there is no doubt that the Corolla’s interior will hold up well even with moderate wear.
The seats are comfortable and provide adequate support.
The base fabrics are long-wearing and the top-trim leatherette may lack the richness of leather, but it is easy to make a case for its family-friendly focus and versatility. The front seats are certainly more than adequate for the value-focused segment, but the rear seating area is where the Corolla really shines.
Boasting an incredible 41.4 inches of rear-seat legroom, the 2016 Toyota Corolla offers the kind of back seat that is usually reserved for full-size sedans. As a matter of fact, the Corolla offers almost 6 inches more rear-seat legroom than the majority of its compact competitors.
Cargo space is decent for the segment at 13 cubic feet. I was able to take a family road trip in the Corolla LE Eco Premium and found the trunk up to the task of hauling around enough luggage for a family of four. While certainly more typical for the compact segment than the Corolla’s humongous rear seat, the Corolla bests the 2016 Mazda3 sedan by more than a half cubic foot, but loses almost 2 cubic feet of cargo space to the Kia Forte and the all-new Honda Civic sedan.
The 2016 Toyota Corolla is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The L, LE and S trims create 132-horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. The LE Eco’s 1.8-liter uses a slightly higher compression ratio and different valve timing, which allows the engine to run more efficiently and produce more power (140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque).
All 2016 Corollas are front-wheel drive. A six-speed manual is standard in the base L model and is available in the Corolla S.
A four-speed automatic transmission is also available as an option in the base L. All other Corolla trim levels use a CVT.
Fuel economy is excellent across the entire Corolla lineup. The least efficient model is the Corolla L with the traditional four-speed automatic, which still achieves 27/36 mpg city/highway. The Corolla LE Eco offers the best fuel economy in the model line, with up to 30/42 mpg city/highway.
My test Corolla LE Eco Premium proved to be comfortable around town transportation, offering decent handling characteristics that were consistently up to the task of day-to-day travel. The engine and CVT will offer little for the enthusiast, but if you’re on a budget and want a nice riding vehicle with excellent fuel economy, very little matches the overall performance of the Corolla. Unfortunately, while the ride quality is comfortable, road noise is often excessive, especially at highway speeds.
Unlike many base sedans, the Corolla L offers an excellent amount of standard technology at a surprisingly affordable price point. The nice-sounding standard Entune audio system boasts a fairly comprehensive multimedia bundle, including six speakers and a generously sized 6.1-inch display screen. The system also includes standard USB and iPod connectivity as well as Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls and audio streaming. Moving up to the Corolla’s most popular trim, the LE, adds cruise control, an upgraded version of Entune and an integrated backup camera with projected path guidelines.
My LE Eco Premium included integrated navigation, HD Radio with predictive traffic and weather, satellite radio and smartphone app integration. The Eco Premium also includes push-button start.
The Toyota Corolla is a leader in providing excellent standard technology features on the base model. For the price, the L is actually quite difficult to beat. Unfortunately, the compact sedan’s higher trim levels fall a little short of the technology offered by the segment’s latest competitors from brands like Honda, Hyundai and Nissan. Moreover, the lack of active safety technologies dates the Corolla back to the 2013 refresh, which is perhaps something that the next generation will remedy.
The 2016 Toyota Corolla was awarded the highest five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The 2016 Toyota Corolla includes eight air bags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes. A tire pressure monitoring system is standard, as are the locking three-point seatbelts in all seating positions. Lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) are included on the outboard rear seats. An integrated backup camera with projected path guidelines is standard on all by the base L model.
Unfortunately, there are no active safety features such as forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring or lane departure warning currently available on the Corolla.
The 2016 Toyota Corolla L with a six-speed manual transmission starts at $17,300, the four-speed automatic begins at $17,900. The Corolla L provides excellent basic transportation for five with many standard features rarely found at this price point. While the majority of buyers will opt for the midgrade Corolla LE, which starts at $18,735 and includes the CVT, the L represents reliable family transportation for those who are on a tight budget, but desire the predictable monthly payment versus the potentially higher and often unforeseeable repair costs of an older vehicle. The Corolla L also represents one of the best values in the compact segment.
My LE Eco Premium retails for $24,062, including a cargo tote ($49), a carpet and rear bumper protection package ($353) and a delivery fee ($835). While still a good value, higher trim level shoppers will also want to investigate Honda’s new 2016 Civic sedan, as well as the Ford Focus and the nicely equipped Kia Forte before making a final decision.
There are many good reasons that the Toyota Corolla is the world’s best-selling vehicle. Toyota builds reliable cars that tend to live relatively trouble-free automotive lives long after the manufacturer’s warranty and monthly payments end.
Further, the value-packed and fuel-efficient 2016 Corolla provides much of the utility and function of a midsize sedan without the added cost or fuel consumption that typically comes with the segment upgrade.
While the styling and interior are beginning to show a little age when compared with newer offerings from a few primary competitors, some comfort should be taken from the fact that Toyota tends to redesign its vehicles a little less frequently than many manufacturers. This is likely because Toyota knows the model works and they can stand behind it with pride. To really make my point, take a look around the parking lot the next time you are at a restaurant or shopping center. You’ll probably be surprised by just how many Corollas you will spot.