True, SUVs are all the rage right now, but that doesn't mean the Toyota Corolla is taking a backseat. It's not only the top-selling vehicle in the world, it's also celebrating its 50th anniversary so there are plenty of reasons to party. I shared in the fun recently by taking the new 2017 Corolla XSE out for a track drive. It definitely proves a surprise if you just think of the Corolla as the smaller and boring sibling of the two popular Toyota sedans (Camry being el numero uno of course).
The premium XSE is Corolla's new sport trim which features 17-inch machine alloy wheels with black accents, spoiler, and chrome exhaust. The biggest visual difference though comes from the aggressive front fascia with its gloss black mesh grille. The grille and the 50th-anniversary refresh take the model a long way away from the dowdy compact sedan of old. Basically, the Corolla is doing the Benjamin Button in terms of style.
The XSE comes with SofTex artificial leather, remote keyless entry, and automatic climate zones. The more aggressively bolstered sport seats aren't huge but are comfortable for the average person. However, if you tend towards the big and tall, this is not the car for you. The rest of the cabin offers sedan comfort with a classic dual cockpit with an info screen in the middle. There's an optional 7-inch touchscreen with a few regular buttons on either side of the screen. Below that, you'll find the traditional knob and push button climate controls. It's all user-friendly and feels really comfortable. I'm also a fan of the Toyota throwback stand alone digital clock between the two air vents on the top of the stack. One note, the insulation isn't great, so if you're looking for a nice, quiet cabin this isn't it. The side doors felt lightweight when opened and closed and don't seem to block road noise well. Not a huge deal, but a bit surprising for Toyota. The engine sound is also noticeably loud.
The XSE, like all Corolla's in the lineup, comes with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder which makes 132 horsepower (the LE ECO makes 140-horses.) All trims also use the same CVTi-S, Continuously Variable Transmission with intelligent Shift, automatic transmission. It handles nothing like I thought it would, which was wonderful. It's responsive and not numb feeling at all in terms of handling. It's actually a lot of fun to drive and was a hoot to put through its paces on the Circuit of the Americas. Fuel economy rates 28 city/35 highway miles.
A strength for the Corolla is that it comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense-P. It includes all the fancy features like Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Yes, all of that even on the base model. It makes the cut as a Top Safety Pick+, the top safety rating at the IIHS.
The Corolla definitely fits the bill for being affordable, no matter what the trim. The top-trim level XSE starts at a surprisingly low $23,635. The most popular trim is the $19,890 LE trim which is one step up from the base model. All in all, if you're a compact sedan fan looking to bump up the thrill factor a notch without cleaning out your bank account, check out the Corolla XSE.
Feature Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick Photo