2013 Toyota Corolla SPosted on November 4th, 2013
Compact sedan excels in safety and reliability
By Nina Russin
Since it first arrived stateside in the late 1960s, the Toyota Corolla has been a go-to car in the compact segment. I think it’s because it personifies shibui, a Japanese adjective implying subtle, quiet elegance, more than any other vehicle on the market.
The Corolla is stylish, yet timeless, small, nimble and dependable. It’s the car people who want to keep their vehicle for many years buy for those very reasons.
A 1.8-liter engine on the 2013 model produces plenty of power for American highways. A four-speed automatic transmission is a bit outdated in these days of six, seven and eight-speed boxes. As a result, fuel economy lags behind competitors such as the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus, but 34 mpg on the highway is still quite good.
The S model is the sportiest and most upscale of three available grades. Base price, excluding the $795 delivery charge, is $19,060. A premium option package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, automatic climate control, navigation, Entune infotainment, Bluetooth interface, real-time weather and traffic updates and redundant steering wheel controls ($1900). Other options include a trim package ($209), floor and trunk mats ($225), bringing the final MSRP to $22,548.
Test drive in Phoenix
I spent the past week driving the Corolla on surface streets and highways in the Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona metro areas. This included some rush-hour traffic. The Corolla proved to be as pleasant and dependable as the reputation that preceded it.
The 132-horsepower engine had enough power for higher speed highways in the area where traffic typically averages about 80 miles-per-hour. It also did quite well in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use on entrance ramps. The engine develops peak torque, 128 foot-pounds, at about half throttle.
The four-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears with no obvious shift shock under normal driving conditions. The advantage of a six-speed unit would be large overdrive gears to further extend fuel economy on the highway. Drivers who like sportier performance might prefer the available five-speed manual gearbox.
An electric power steering system reduces overall vehicle weight and eliminates internal pumping losses that hydraulic units have. A 35.4-foot turning circle makes the Corolla easy to park on the street or to perform a U-turn.
The suspension consists of an independent MacPherson strut setup in front and torsion beam rear axle. While I prefer four-wheel independent suspensions, I thought the ride was quite good. There was no hop in back on the highway, and the suspension did a good job of isolating occupants from bumps in the road.
My only criticism of the powertrain is rear drum brakes. Drums tend to collect water whereas discs are self-drying. Granted, most of the braking on a small, front-wheel drive car occurs up front, but I still prefer four-wheel discs in rain and snow.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. A rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots in the back corners. Living in an area where most of the vehicles are SUVs and crossovers, I find the rearview camera invaluable for monitoring cross traffic in parking lots.
Engineers did an excellent job of isolating occupants from road, engine and wind noise, all of which can be the bane of small cars.
Despite its compact dimensions, the Corolla’s interior is capable of carrying some large cargo, thanks to its fold-flat second-row seats. Designers positioned release levers right at the lip of the trunk, sparing the driver from having to reach deep inside.
I found the driver’s seat easy to adjust, with plenty of lower lumbar support. I had no problems adjusting the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel to maintain a clear forward view as well as a safe distance from the front airbag. Side mirrors were also easy to adjust. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway.
The steering wheel is a nice small diameter, which women especially will appreciate. Redundant controls minimize driver distraction.
There are two center stack screens, both of which are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. Designers included a hood over the top screen to prevent it from washing out in the sun.
Standard cloth upholstery is attractive and easier for buyers with active lifestyles to keep clean than leather. It is also more comfortable than leather during hot Arizona summers.
With the second-row seats in place, the trunk has plenty of room for groceries, luggage, golf bags and small camping equipment. Folding the seats flat adds room for skis, snowboards and other long items. Cyclists who need to carry bicycles inside the vehicle will be better served with one of Toyota’s crossover vehicles.
The Toyota Corolla comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, active front headrests, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and tire pressure monitoring.
Entune automatically contact police and emergency medical personnel if the car is involved in a serious collision.
The 2013 Corolla is on display at Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Like: A dependable, safe compact sedan with a versatile interior thanks to fold-flat second-row seats.
Dislike: Rear drum brakes are standard on all grades.
Model: Corolla S
Base price: $19,060
As tested: $22,548
Horsepower: 132 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 128 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 26/34 mpg city/highway2013, Best Value 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota
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