Maybe your family is looking for a low-maintenance commuter car or an SUV stand-in to save on fuel costs. The Toyota Corolla can fill those vehicular holes.
You'll fare well with the 2012 Toyota Corolla, but with today's competitive compact sedan segment, you might fare even better with one of the Corolla's competitors that offer more cabin space inside, a better driving experience and greater fuel economy.
The Corolla is on the small side, so a family might be quick to discount it as a family hauler based on its size. The compact sedan's size wasn't a problem for me and my daughter as we ran errands around town. The Corolla has decent fuel economy, but other compact cars offer better. My upgraded Corolla even had navigation, but despite the tech inside, something about driving the Corolla felt stuck in the '90s, just like the one I drove as a singleton. Maybe it was the velour-upholstered seats?
The drive experience is purely pragmatic; you'll get to where you're going in the Corolla with little to no worry. And for many of us, that's all we need. I usually have a preference for a little more, so I was underwhelmed by its performance. I wasn't doing doughnuts in the parking lot, but I would've appreciated tighter handling, especially for such a small car.
The 2012 Toyota Corolla starts at $16,925, including a $795 destination charge, but my top-of-the-line LE trim test car with the Premium Package, featuring a moonroof and navigation system, cost $20,925.
My daughter and I were driving home one evening in the Corolla when I noticed my husband was behind us on the freeway. I waved in the rearview mirror and later honked as he passed me in neighboring lane on a city street. Despite my efforts, he didn't notice us at all. That's the thing about the Corolla — with so many of them on the road, and no defining exterior features, it tends to blend right in.
There's nothing offensive about the Corolla's looks, but there's nothing noteworthy either. It looks like a car, and that's about that. When compared to the newer competitors in its segment like the classy Hyundai Elantra and sporty Ford Focus, the Corolla comes off a little behind the times.
It's an easy car to get in and out of though, so that's a definite perk for families with small children who like to exert their independence. It's easy to access the trunk but a little old-school in its operation. I actually had to use a key to open it from the outside.
The cargo area isn't large, so you'll have to decide if you'll need the stroller or the sports equipment — but definitely not both. My single stroller is on the smaller side; if you carry a larger stroller, it may require a fit test at the dealership first. Without the stroller, I could accommodate a grocery run with ease, and luggage for two probably wouldn't be a problem. The good news is that a 60/40-split folding backseat is standard; it increases cargo space should you need it.
The Corolla has a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that's paired with a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic transmission. The Corolla uses regular gas. With the manual transmission, the Corolla gets an EPA-estimated 27/34 mpg city/highway. My test car had an automatic transmission; it causes the fuel-economy numbers to drop slightly to 26/34 mpg. Those numbers aren't great when compared to the Hyundai Elantra's 29/40 mpg, but they fare better against the Ford Focus' 27/37 mpg.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
The Corolla is a compact sedan and when there is more than one person in front and one person in back, it starts to feel cramped inside. I wasn't expecting ample room inside the cabin, but our family has been more comfortable in cars that are smaller than the Corolla.
I was surprised by how small things seemed to get once my husband joined us for a ride. A rear-facing child-safety seat and a front seat passenger didn't mix well in the Corolla. Grandma actually preferred sitting in the backseat behind me rather that sitting up front on one outing, and my 5-foot-7-inch husband's legroom was so severely compromised when riding shotgun that he chose to stay home.
With limited cabin room, there isn't much space left over for storage compartments, either. There are four cupholders and an upper and lower glove box, but that's about it.
The velour-like upholstered seats were a problem to keep clean, especially with a toddler. If you're a neat-freak, do not give your child a snack cup with Goldfish crackers in it during your drive. I was concerned that those stubborn crumbs were a permanent addition to the backseat. And water spills? Not pretty.
The good news is that Toyota has tried to step up the technology options offered inside the car, if you go for the upgrade. The Entune system provides a 6-inch touch-screen that seems more modern than anything else inside the Corolla. With this system, you've got navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio and smartphone applications. I enjoyed that the most, especially being able to stream my favorite internet radio stations.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
The 2012 Toyota Corolla has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It earned the top score of Good in frontal, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It also performed well in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's crash tests. The Corolla earned an overall crash-test score of four stars of five. It received four stars of five in front and rollover crash tests and five stars in the side-impact crash test.
Child-safety seats are a tight fit in the Corolla. When my daughter's rear-facing convertible was installed behind the front passenger seat, the seat had to be moved so far forward that it was uncomfortable for most average-sized passengers to sit there. Despite the legroom issues, installations of safety seats in the Corolla are painless. The two sets of lower Latch anchors are deep set, but they weren't a problem to access. The cushions were soft enough to push out of the way, and I installed the safety seat with ease.
The 2012 Corolla has standard front-wheel drive, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints, six airbags, including side curtains for both rows, and front disc and rear drum antilock brakes with brake assist.
Get more safety information on the 2012 Toyota Corolla here.
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