New Corolla S a family sedan, with sporty look
My family owned a Toyota Corolla back in the early 1980s. That’s family as in me, my wife and two small kids. So, take note young families, you CAN survive without a minivan, crossover or sport-utility truck.
That’s even easier now as the current Corolla, the 10th generation, is nearly as large as a Camry was a decade ago. Call it dimensional creep.
The 2013 Corolla rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase and is 179.3 inches long. But it still weighs a seemingly svelte 2,767 lbs. and is rated at 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. I got 28.3 mpg in a fairly even mix of city and highway driving. That’s good for a young family’s budget.
My tested magnetic gray metallic (dark metallic gray) test car was the top-level S model that offers sportier looks, but not much in the way of sporty performance. This one came with an automatic transmission and even with that it remains a solid choice for youngsters needing just a step up from basic wheels. But don’t confuse this with a sports sedan.
Performance? Well, the Corolla features a 1.8-liter I4 with 132 horses, that’s similar to what the Camry had 10 years ago. Camry’s power has increased to the 170-horse neighborhood now. So you’d think that in a car this light those 132 horses would seem pretty perky, but they are merely sufficient. A base Dodge Dart, for instance, offers 160 horses.
The real disappointment here stems from this 4-cylinder motor being linked up with a 4-speed automatic. Yep, just four speeds. That seems antiquated now, as many cars, even competitors like the economy minded Dart, feature smooth-shifting 6-speed automatics, or 6-speed manuals. At the least I would expect a five-speed gearbox in the Corolla, as those have been around a while, even in Toyota’s own lineup.
This four-speed shifts ok, but is not as refined feeling as the transmissions in many of the new models on the market. The 1.8-liter motor seems eager enough. It isn’t weak. But to get the most out of it you’ll need a manual tranny. That IS available, in fact a 5-speed manual is available in the S model, starting at $18,230. The test car began at $19,060.
Corolla offers two other trim levels, L and LE, the base L with this 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual starting at $16,230. An LE automatic starts at $18,180.
Naturally the test car added a $1,030 electronics package that gave it iPod and MP3 connectivity along with steering wheel audio controls and a small touch-screen radio and navigation system along with other goodies like Real-Time traffic info. The tested S also added fancy 18-inch 5-spoke TRD (Toyota Racing Development) wheels for $1,999. Most Corollas come with 16-inch tires and wheels.
After options and a $795 delivery fee the Corolla hit $23,187, a price that, if it fits your pocketbook, broadens your selections considerably if you’re after a compact sedan.
But for that price you mainly get cosmetics to make the S look racier than the L or LE models. There’s a spoiler in back and some side cladding to make the car take on a more muscular appearance. The S also adds Sport front seats that are more contoured than those in the lower level models. But the seats were still black cloth with some youthful blue vertical streaks in them. No leather here.
Oh, and the test car had Toyo PROXES4 low-profile tires on it. On a race track these may provide better cornering and traction. On city streets they give the Corolla an extremely firm ride and deliver a disturbing amount of road roar. The wheel wells definitely could use more sound deadening material inside. It was good that this had the upgraded stereo with six speakers so I was able to crank it up a bit to drown out the tire thrum.
The Corolla S does handle well, sporty, but not sports car precise, and those tires play a role in that. There are MacPherson struts on the independent front suspension, but a torsion beam rear suspension. Stabilizer bars are used front and rear and traction and stability control are standard.Inside, the test car featured a black plastic textured dash and wheel along with matte pewter trim on the center stack and doors. Instrument layout is simple and easy to see and use while driving. I also like the flat bottomed steering wheel, which not only looks a tad racy, but gives larger drivers more leg and torso room.
The good news for families is that it’s easy to get in and out of the rear seat, or to put a car seat back there and lean it to adjust the child seat’s straps. No kids? Four moderate sized adults will fit easily too. You will not feel cramped in the front seat.
Additionally, for trips there’s a decent sized trunk with 12.3 cubic feet of cargo space. The split rear seat backs also fold down to extend the trunk’s hauling capacity.
I’m not a fan of most touch-screens and this one is no exception. The screen buttons are small, but my main difficulty was that even after pushing a button, the radio often refused to change channels. Sometimes I held the button so long hoping for a change that it reset the button’s memory to the channel I was trying to leave. Radio volume and tuning knobs on either side of the screen also are small. Ugh!
There are power mirrors though, controlled by a dash button just left of the manual tilt/telescope steering wheel. The well contoured seats also are comfortable and the driver’s seat contains a lever for adjusting seat height. Plus Toyota’s three large round climate controls knobs are easy to use. One demerit though because the sun visors do not slide or have extenders.Bottom line here is that the Corolla is a reliable small family sedan. The S version delivers mostly sporty looks. An LE without low-profile tires will ride better, and cost you less. Also be aware that Toyota plans a new Corolla for the 2014 model year.
Stats: 2013 Toyota Corolla S
Hits: Good gas mileage, sporty exterior with spoiler and lower body cladding, fancy TRD wheels. A good handler with easy controls and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Misses: Low on torque, needs manual not automatic tranny, a disturbing amount of tire noise and road noise and extremely firm ride. Tiny touch-screen and the stations don’t always change when you press the buttons, plus the visors don’t slide.
Made in: Blue Springs, Miss.
Engine: 1.8-liter I4, 132 hp
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Weight: 2,767 lbs.
Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Cargo: 12.3 cu.ft.
Base Price: $19,060
Dealer’s Price: $16,896
EE package (display audio w/nav, 6.1-inch touch-screen, w/radio/6 speakers/MP3/satellite radio, iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability, voice recognition, music streaming via Bluetooth, steering wheel w/audio controls, Entune, Bing, Pandora, Real-Time traffic, etc., $1,030
TRD 18-inch silver 5-spoke wheel upgrade, $1,999
Cargo net, $49
First aid kit, $29
Carpeted floor mats/trunk mat, $225
Test vehicle: $23,187
Sources: Toyota, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Toyota