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2018 Toyota Corolla budget ride with a not-so-budget price

This is the last year of the current generation, now the 11th iteration of the venerable small car. Toyota sells about 300,000 of them a year, give or take. What used to be a small car with a small price tag, has grown a bit in both size and cost. With some clumsily added features and finishes, the current Corolla has strayed a bit from the original’s intentions. With a new one on the way soon, let’s take a look at the outgoing model to see what decades of changes have brought us.

When you think of a Corolla, you’re not thinking luxury, design or performance. It’s all about the economy. That’s why it feels like an odd choice that Toyota tried to add so many different materials to the interior. Just on the dashboard alone, there are over a dozen different non-matching finishes, some of which downright clash with each other. It seems like it would be more expensive to have such diversity in materials, but on top of that, some of the materials look quite flimsy and inexpensive. If the goal was the make, the Corolla feels a bit upmarket, so it didn’t quite work out.

The 1.8-Liter, 132hp four-cylinder has no bells or whistles, it’s just an engine. In the current climate of turbocharging, hybrid powertrains and other creative solutions to make power and save gas, this seems lacking. Power is transmitted by a CVT, which tries to keep the engine’s RPMs in the narrow power band. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a turbo, the powerband is at a higher RPM, meaning the sound is buzzy when you try to accelerate.

2018 Toyota Corolla review| Chicago news

All this would be much easier to stomach if the starting price of our XSE test car wasn’t $23k. That’s a lot of money for a Corolla, and while it’s still on the cheaper side of cars in the marketplace, it just doesn’t feel worth it. Even the starting price of a base model, with no options, is around $19k. The lack of refinement and content is glaring at these price tags, especially considering some newer offerings from competitors, like the excellent Honda Civic. At least the XSE gives you some modern safety features, like lane assist and collision alert – but the systems seem like after-thoughts and do not perform as well as others.

2018 Toyota Corolla review| Chicago news

Being at the end of its life cycle, this 11th generation of Corolla is definitely starting to feel dated. There are holdovers from prior models that just look out of place, like the cheap digital clock a few inches above the small LCD screen of the infotainment system. And that system doesn’t have much information or entertainment. Some cars age gracefully, but the Corolla has not. With some real improvements seen in other recently released Toyota models, we’re hopeful the new Corolla will start off on the right foot.

2018 Toyota Corolla review | Chicago News

Design wise, there’s not much to say about the Corolla. There are some odd looking tack-on elements to the front fascia that are attempts and refreshing the design over the years. The current generation has only been out for about five years, but was closely related to the previous generation, which debuted in 2006. All indications are that the new car is an all-new design, and a hatchback is being offered. I’ve always considered hatchbacks to be the preferred body type for a budget car, as it’s just much more usable daily. Small sedans have both small trunks and small back seats, neither or which are really worth much. Overall, this outgoing Corolla model is pretty forgettable. In an age when cars are getting more and more refined, even at the entry level, this one lacks too much. Between the questionable design and materials, to the tacked on tech like a lane assist that waits way too long, to a backup camera with a tiny screen, this Corolla might be one to skip even if there are big end-of-the-model-run discounts. Although with a hefty discount, this Corolla will end up being priced where it should have to begin with.

Special thanks to Toyota Motor Corporation for providing the 2018 Toyota Corolla for review.