The Toyota Corolla keeps us humble. Not only when we’re driving one—that would keep anyone’s ego in check—but when we think about the lowly Corolla being not just the best-selling compact car in America, but the best-selling automotive nameplate of all time. Toyota sold almost 1000 of the things every day in 2015 in the United States alone—weekends and holidays included. This, despite the fact that the Corolla has never once appeared on a single Car and Driver 10Best Cars list. In our eyes, the Corolla has always been a safe choice but never a terribly interesting one. Millions of Americans chose it anyway. Like we said, humbling.
To Toyota’s credit, the company tried to make some interesting changes when the 11th-generation Corolla landed as a 2014 model. The result, however, was stylistically erratic, and the 132-hp four-cylinder engine was still woefully underpowered compared to the competition. Our hopes that a mid-cycle update would see Toyota harmonize its design and bring a power boost were dashed earlier this year, when the 2017 model was introduced at the New York auto show. While the trim choices increased from four (L, LE, LE Eco, and S) to six (L, LE, LE Eco, XLE, plus the sportier SE and XSE) to better align the suffixes with other Toyota models, the product warm-over was a cool one. An anniversary edition to commemorate the Corolla’s 50th year in production was about as exciting as it got.