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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

Budget-friendly Toyota Corolla follows a familiar path

As its advertising has it, Toyota wants us to go places.

So we did. We went to Wisconsin.

We didn’t drive. But we did pick up a 2019 Corolla sedan in Chicago and headed north into Wisconsin.

Anyone who has driven in the Midwest knows it’s largely a land of plumb-straight county roads and flat as a day-old IPA.

Not a place where you’d go to wring out your Porsche Cayman GTS.

But ideal for a four-door sedan that’s focused on comfort, safety, reliability and a low cost of ownership.

On the brink of generational change

The ’19 sedan is the last hurrah for the 11th-generation Corolla ($18,700). For 2020, Toyota’s venerable compact moves to a new platform — the same platform that already underpins the sedan’s hatchback sibling.

The sedan follows a well-trod path. Its cabin easily handles four adults, build quality is rock-solid and a long list of safety and driver-assist features come standard. 

Cabin volume rivals that of some midsize cars.

The Corolla is frugal, too, especially in the LE Eco trim ($19,535), which earns an EPA rating of 34 mpg combined (30 city/40 highway). 

The LE Eco is also the quickest Corolla, though quick is relative; no Corolla aims to set your soul on fire — and none will. 

Instead, Corolla targets budget-conscious buyers with a broad assortment of trims. 

Toyota Safety Sense is standard

Standard equipment on the base L includes LED headlights, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, a 6.1-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player and a USB port. Wheels are 15-inch steelies.

All Corollas get the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) as standard equipment. It adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. 

One step up, the LE ($19,135) offers what may be for most buyers the optimal combination of price and features. It adds heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, keyless entry, metallic cabin accents, upgraded upholstery, a rear armrest and automatic climate control. It rides on 16-inch steel wheels.

SE is “sporty” trim

We tested the “sporty” SE ($20,645). It’s which gets its own front-end styling, a rear spoiler, steering-wheel paddle shifters (on models fitted with the CVT), sport front seats, SofTex upholstery with cloth inserts, a sport-style gauge cluster and 17-inch wheels. 

The optional six-speed manual bumps the SE’s sticker to $21,865 but brings with it a sunroof, keyless ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel and upgraded headlights and infotainment system.

Its suspension settings are firmer than its siblings and its ride a little less refined.

The SE shares its mechanicals — including 17-inch wheels — with its up-level XSE ($22,800) counterpart, which adds heated front seats, a power driver's seat, paddle shifters and SofTex imitation leather.

The 140-hp four that powers the LE Eco uses an advanced valve timing-and-duration system that boosts power and efficiency. The package includes special 15-inch wheels and tires and unique suspension tuning. Underbody panels smooth airflow and boost aerodynamics.

The rest of the family gets a 1.8-liter four that makes 132 hp. 

A stroll to 60 mph

Under acceleration, the engine raises a racket and the CVT falls into the rubber-band drone typical of the technology. 

The 1.8-liter four dispatches the 0-60 sprint in a leisurely 10 seconds.

Though comfortable and attractive, the Corolla cabin is awash in hard plastics. Switchgear has a solid, substantial feel and the infotainment system features user-friendly menus. 

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, but Toyota’s interface — it’s accessible via Bluetooth or USB port — allows for easy playback of phone-based content. Native navigation is available on upper trims; lower trims rely on smartphone apps.

Our SE tester was fitted with supportive and well-bolstered sport seats, which some drivers may find too narrow.

Steering feel is light and disengaged. A good on-center groove kept the Corolla on the straight-and-narrow while traveling the crowded interstate. A driver-selectable Sport drive mode sharpens steering feel and responsiveness.

Though prime for replacement, the 11-generation Corolla remains a solid value for budget-minded buyers. 
Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2019 Toyota Corolla SE
Vehicle base price: $18,700
Trim level base price: $20,645
As tested: $23,678 (includes destination and handling)
Options included Entune Audio Plus, Siri Eyes Free, satellite radio, HD radio, keyless entry and ignition, moonroof, carpet/trunk mat set, body-side molding, door-edge guards.
EPA rating: 31 combined/28 city/35 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.