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Review: 2018 Toyota Corolla XSE

Back when I was a young lad in the radio business, easily impressed by the more experienced folks around me, I had a conversation I still vividly recall.

Warren was in his late 60s, a grizzled advertising man who’d made a lot of money over the years. Rumor has it he was worth a couple of mill, maybe more. But day after day he rolled into the parking lot in a ho-hum sedan that was at least fifteen years old.

One day I had the nerve to ask him about the car. Why didn’t he ditch that antique and get something with a little more oomph and pizzazz?

His bemused expression said it all, but he did blurt out: “Why do I need a gall-dern fancy car? All it does is carry my butt from one place to another.”

(I wrote “gall-dern” phonetically. I think we all know the colorful phrase it replaces for most of us.)

I bore you with this story of Warren and his lack of concern regarding transportation because I just finished a week behind the wheel of a car that was made for gall-dern Warren. I present the 2018 Toyota Corolla.

The Basics

This isn’t a slight, by the way. The Corolla has been one of the biggest selling cars of the last half-century for a reason. Basically, it does a great job if you only want to move your butt from Point A to Point B. And really, what’s wrong with that?

Toyota apparently has the same attitude. The engine in the Corolla hasn’t seen a change in nearly a decade. And that 4-cylinder is never going to blow you back into your seat.

For such a simplified car, though, it makes me chuckle that there are six trim levels to choose from. SIX! (Maybe Toyota thinks this adds some mystery to the model. Hmm.) I drove the XSE edition, which resides in the upper tier, for what it’s worth.

All six of these iterations will offer a decent supply of standard equipment. Hey, it comes with a backup camera! When will ALL of the manufacturers cave in and offer this?

The Drive

The Corolla does a fine job scooting around. Again, you’ll never lurch off the starting line when the light goes green, but it’s fine. I thought the steering was about average, the braking felt sufficiently competent, and the handling was satisfying.

Like most smaller cars you do tend to feel the road. It’s not a jarring ride by any means, but it’s also not its fancy cousin, the Lexus.

The Inside

This is where I felt like the car gained a few points. Far from luxurious, the Corolla still does a good job of making a comfortable cockpit experience for both the driver and the passengers.

The seats are comfy, the space/legroom is above-average (including a backseat that won’t squash your adult friends), and visibility was very good. I liked the small storage sections, including a handy-dandy tray at the bottom of the dashboard to go along with the usual between-seat compartment.

While the seats are good, some of the remaining interior pieces might come across as a bit, ahem, “less fancy.” They’re not exactly cheap, but . . . okay, so they’re a bit cheap. But they function just fine.

The Tech

The Corolla’s touchscreen is the obvious centerpiece here. I found it to be intuitive and easy. My only issue – and this is kinda lame – is whenever I tried to manually raise or lower the volume on the radio my finger would inadvertently hit the preset buttons and change the station. Yes, yes, all you have to do is use the volume control on the steering wheel. I told you it was kinda lame.

Bluetooth and USB connectivity work well. Some complain that Toyota’s Entune system for phone integration is a poor replacement for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The Bottom Line

A week after driving the Corolla I spent time with Toyota’s other cash cow, the Camry. While the Corolla doesn’t measure up, it also doesn’t drain your bank account. I don’t know if the Camry is $11,000 better, but that’s the difference you’d pay.

The Corolla’s 31-mpg combined gas mileage is impressive for a non-hybrid, and that should also factor in your decision making.

If you’re just like Warren, the gall-dern Corolla could be a great choice to haul butt. Your butt.

The Details

2018 Toyota Corolla XSE
1.8-L 4-cylinder, CVT (continuously variable transmission)
MSRP: $22,730
As tested: $25,337

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer


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