The 2017 Toyota Corolla will take its well-deserved, yearlong parade lap this year. After all, the name has been around for 50 years and adorned more than 40 million cars worldwide, according to Toyota. Over its span, the Corolla has epitomized basic, trouble-free, and relatively comfortable transportation over 11 generations, with a few memorable forms—AE86 anyone?
This year, Toyota adds available active-safety technology to better compete with a growing class of compacts. While the current version isn’t what you might call charming, it’s more interesting and engaging that its anodyne predecessors.
Since folding into the Toyota brand, the former Scion iM is now dubbed the Corolla iM—a hatch version of the Corolla, which it has been marketed as worldwide.
For 2017, there are essentially no changes to the regular Corolla, save for a few new trims and a 50th Anniversary Limited Edition. Only 8,000 of those special models will be sold, in only three colors. They feature unique 17-inch alloy wheels, a black interior with “Black Cherry” contrast stitching, dash and door accents, and special floor mats and badges. The sole options are the power moonroof and the Entune Premium Audio system with navigation and an app suite.
Styling and performance
In all cars, the design features a bit of a wedge-like look, with angled frontal shapes and a turned-up window line at the back of each rear door. LED headlamps and running lamps are found on all models. The sporty Corolla XSE model gets a blacked-out grille with fog lamps flanking a more aggressive airdam, plus an integrated rear spoiler that visually raises the tail.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla carries over mechanically unchanged from previous years. Under the hood are two different 1.8-liter inline-4s that prioritize frugality over fun. Still, the current model is a little more rewarding to drive than its predecessors.
One engine will likely power most of the Corolla models for 2017. The base engine, a 1.8-liter inline-4, is rated at 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. It’s likely that engine will appear in most models again for 2017.
A second engine, which is more potent (but not any more exciting), in the LE Eco model adds Toyota’s patented variable valve timing—dubbed Valvematic—to the the 1.8-liter inline-4 for better fuel economy. That engine is rated at 140 hp and 126 lb-ft of twist. Toyota may apply that engine to more Corollas this year, but it’s unclear if, or where, that engine may appear beyond the LE Eco model.
Most buyers will opt for the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is tuned to provide a reassuring, almost linear feel during light and moderate acceleration, while minimizing the “drone” that plagues CVTs used in other small cars. Last year, base and S models could be ordered with a 6-speed manual gearbox or an ancient and slow 4-speed automatic. The ancient 4-speed has been mercifully axed for this. The CVT in higher trims is tuned to mimic a 7-speed automatic, complete with paddles to click through them.
Comfort, safety, and features
From a safety standpoint, the biggest difference between this year’s model and last year’s are the available active safety features that Toyota brought over from the Prius.
Toyota is making available its Toyota Safety Sense-P safety package on all trims of the Corolla. The suite of active safety features includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane-departure warning with active lane control to help steer drivers back into their lanes. The automatic emergency braking includes pedestrian detection.
It’s likely that Toyota’s Safety Sense-P will become available or standard on many of the automaker’s cars in the future, so its application in the popular Corolla makes sense here. It also covers one of our safety gripes from the 2016 model: Toyota was simply missing technology that others had already adopted.
Structurally, the 2016 Corolla performed well in crash tests by both agencies, and we expect the same from the new car. Federal regulators gave the 2016 Corolla five stars overall, its highest score, and five stars in every specific test except rollover, where it got four out of five. In IIHS testing, however, last year’s Corolla earned top “Good” ratings in frontal, side, rear, and roof strength tests—but only a “Marginal” rating in the tough small overlap frontal test.
The 2017 Toyota Corolla adds two new trim levels: the XSE and 50th Anniversary Special Edition, the latter adds a few trinkets to an SE-equipped model. The Corolla lineup has been rejiggered to align more closely with the Camry lineup, we’ve heard, but Toyota is mum with details until the car goes on sale later this year.
Base Corollas will likely start with the L trim. A few creature comforts and bigger wheels will likely comprise LE models (including LE Eco models), with the new XLE trim topping the “commuter line.” We’re expecting a range of features including an upgraded center display and paddle shifters on the XLE.
Last year, the S trim served as the only car in the Corolla’s “sporty line,” but that will likely be expanded for 2017. We know there will be an SE trim level (the 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is based on it) and a range-topping XSE trim. It’s unclear if the S trim will be renamed SE, or if the two will be separate—the Camry doesn’t have an S, for example.
The most efficient Corolla, the LE Eco, manages up 42 mpg on the highway. The rest of the lineup isn’t far behind: between 27 mpg city, 36 highway, and 31 combined and 29/37/32 mpg, depending on configuration.