Long-Term Test: 2015 Toyota Corolla S - Update 6

Review by Jonathan Yarkony and Noah Shapiro, photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Odometer at pick-up: 1,744 km
Odometer Current: 8,811 km (7,067 by Autos.ca)
Fuel Consumption: 7.23 L/100 km
Costs: $633.40 ($567.35 Fuel; $66.05 oil change)

For this penultimate long-term update, we have a couple of last things to report on. Although we don’t have the opportunity to take a vehicle in for service with every long-term test, it is a milestone we relish as it lends an opportunity to experience another aspect of ownership that we rarely get treated to ourselves. Dealership service.

We called up the nearest dealership shortly after eclipsing the 8,000-km mark and after getting reminded (several times) by the onboard maintenance calendar’s notification system. We quickly and easily scheduled an appointment at a convenient time the following week, though we could have requested an ideal time using an online form as well.

On the day of the appointment, I rolled in and was confused after parking my car – you see, it’s actually a drive-in service bay, an unexpected efficiency. After pulling my car into the queue, I walked right by the service counter and into the dealership, before realizing, that it was so conveniently placed that I walked right by it. I mean, who arranges their dealerships this efficiently? It’s bizarre.

So after two minutes checking in the vehicle, I was offered a courtesy ride back to my office, but declined as I had Jacob standing by with his long-term vehicle en route to his own Mazda CX-3 service appointment. Had I opted to wait, I could have chilled in the lounge and enjoyed the free coffee and wifi.

So after spending a bit of time in the shoes of an owner, I also called in one of our resident forum members that daily drives a 2010 Corolla to get the point of view from the Corolla faithful to see what he thought of the new Corolla.

Catch up with the Arrival, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of our Corolla Long-Term Test.

Take it away, Noah:

The long-term 2015 Toyota Corolla S tester enjoyed a lovely afternoon in the hands of yours truly. “Oh golly, another Corolla article,” some may say. To that, I add a certain sparkle, pizazz, perhaps a new angle even.

The “Beige” Anti-Car (as coined by senior editor Jonathan Yarkony) worked its magic on my family more than 5 years ago, beating out top competitors (at the time) of the Mazda3, Volkswagen Jetta, and Honda Civic for the valued Shapiro dollars. I may not be a long-time automotive journalist, but I am someone who has put 77,000+ kilometres on a 2010 Toyota Corolla CE with enhanced convenience package (necessary only 5 years ago to have the Anti-Lock Braking System installed).

My daily driver is the enthusiast’s nightmare, but performs admirably for my purposes and has given my family no regrets about its purchase. For $19,500 (MSRP), we got a vehicle that has commuted from home to various jobs, taken us camping in the summer, skiing in the winter, and likely is the sole reason for the success of my near seven-year, long-distance relationship with my girlfriend. Whereas trains, buses, or flights would be inconvenient or expensive, this little runabout has been the sole best purchase my family has ever made.

And five years later, the 2010 Corolla purchased as an economical, second family vehicle has given us no real reason to upgrade: it still drives, delivers economical fuel consumption, has been near-indestructibly reliable, and offers far more feature content than the 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier that it replaced.

Thanks to Autos.ca, I have a pretty good idea as to how Toyota’s update to this long-standing best-seller will serve potential new buyers in a very crowded market.

Parked side-by-side, the 2015 Corolla remains inoffensive, yet its bolder fascia in particular imparts a feeling of upscale pretensions compared to my familiar, vanilla-mobile. No longer dorky in proportions, this new generation of Corolla’s styling has found favour with yours truly. Subjective to say the least, it nonetheless can no longer be described as “boring.”

Getting inside is truly a revelation. This interior is NOT what one would expect of a Corolla. Yes, I’m coming from a CE, a lesser trim, and into the S, loaded with moonroof, touchscreen HMI interface, navigation, heated seats, steering wheel–mounted audio controls, and many other niceties, but even the most basic aspects have been improved. Actually, it is the most basic aspect – the materials quality – that is the biggest surprise here. Whereas the 2010 Corolla has nary a soft touch plastic surface, the opposite it true of the newest iteration of Corolla; except, the upper door trim remains unfriendly to the elbows.

2015 Toyota Corolla SE-JY-05

The only complaint I have of the new interior is of the new dashboard’s height and protrusion into the passenger space. While surely a fashion over function compromise, it made the car feel larger than it actually is. No, it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a full-size, or even the larger Camry; however, the 2010’s interior dimensions and cargo capacity suggested a far larger exterior footprint. This has long since been my favoured feature of the 2010: the perfect size. Outward visibility remains easy to live with, but reversing is slightly more difficult than before due to the higher rear deck and thinner windows. Then again, the backup camera, previously completely unavailable in any Corolla iteration, makes precision parking much easier than ever.

Push the “magic” start button, and the differences become far more apparent. Toyota has made a bold move, foregoing the cheap-to-install halogen multi-reflector headlights in favour of pricier, but more crisp, bright Light Emitting Diode (LED) headlights now standard on all trims of Corolla. To prospective buyers, both new to the brand and loyal, these headlights are more than just a novelty; and while my test drive was during the daytime only, I did get to see the LEDs up front illuminate a drab parking garage with aplomb. Yes, the 2010’s headlights are sufficient, but I did take it upon myself to replace the standard halogen bulbs with the Sylvania Silverstar Ultra bulbs reviewed by James a few months ago. Those upgraded halogens are no match for the new Corolla’s LEDs – I’d be tempted to trade the 2010 in for the new model for the headlights alone!

While the new Corolla’s engine remains the same between these two as-tested vehicles, the new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) changes the Corolla’s character. The 2010’s four-speed automatic leaves the engine chugging along at 3,000 rpm at highway speeds. In the 2015? Under 2,000 rpm. Surely, this will lead to better fuel economy, but to the average driver, it also means you don’t hear the constant hum up front. It is unobtrusive, smooth, and makes passing far easier than it was with the four-speed I’ve grown accustomed to. The 2015 had absolutely no trouble merging with traffic on the heavy, but fast-moving Highway 427.

That actually brings me to the biggest change of this new Corolla – its NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness). I find little change in the car’s comfort-oriented ride, but the new Corolla is quiet and calm, even with larger 17-inch wheels and lower-profile tires. Yes, the new one has built-in Bluetooth, compared to the 2010’s… well, I have a speakerphone hanging on the vanity mirror. Suffice it to say that I currently yell at everyone I speak to and have difficulty hearing my calls. No such issue exists in the 2015. The sound system is likewise improved, though that’s not saying much given how dreary and basic the 2010’s four-speaker setup is.

2015 Toyota Corolla SE-JY-03

And while I would not say that a daily commuter requires sharp or precise handling, the 2015 also fixes one of my biggest concerns of the last generation Corolla: lane-drifting on the highway, with or without winds. I endured five-hour weekend commutes each way between Toronto to Ithaca, NY in that 2010 Corolla, with constant corrective steering inputs required to stay within my lane. The 2015, on the other hand, tracks straight and true. It is a true pleasure to drive the new Corolla.

I could go on for several thousand words about each and every minute improvement that Toyota’s engineers painstakingly implemented to keep the Corolla relevant in the constantly changing compact sedan market, but the above points strike me as the most important to a commuter.

Toyota has built on its success here, alienating very few loyal consumers in favour of new fashion. The only omissions are the lack of trunk-mounted rear-seatback folding release mechanisms [picky much? –Ed.], and a 12V power port in the centre console box. Hardly major losses as there is now a USB input up front that will share the duty, and the rear seats continue to fold 60/40 by interior levers.

This new Corolla leaves the one it replaces so far behind that surely there should have been a generation or two between them. I could, and would recommend this vehicle to anyone seeking an inexpensive, economical commuter vehicle.

Thanks Noah, and we’ll be back with one more special entry in our Corolla files before we wrap up this long-term test.

The long-term 2015 Toyota Corolla S tester enjoyed a lovely afternoon in the hands of yours truly. 10/15/2015 10:30:44 AM