Must-drive commuter sedan
THE GOOD
  • High-tech safety assist features
  • Roomy cabin
  • Fuel economy
THE BAD
  • Trunk size
  • Doesn’t feel quick
  • Front-end styling

Toyota hit a milestone in July 2021 when it sold its 50 millionth Corolla – a long way since the first one in 1969.

Much has changed since then, including the addition of hybrid and hatchback variants, but my tester was the classic sedan. It’s mostly unchanged for 2022, with the exception of taillights that now come on automatically with the daytime running lights. Pricing starts at $19,350 before taxes and a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,690, while my top-line 2022 Toyota Corolla XSE starts at $29,050. I also had an optional black roof for $540, bringing my car to $31,280 before tax.

Styling: 7.5/10

Styling is always subjective, of course, but I find the Corolla’s grille too big and its face too angry. It certainly isn’t bland, which was always the complaint levelled at the car in the past, but I don’t think it’s going to age well. It’s better at the back and in profile, where the roofline preserves rear-seat headroom, and there’s a low liftover to put items in the trunk.

Inside, the dash is plain but functional, with a tablet-style infotainment screen – they’re not elegant-looking stuck up there, but they keep your eyes up, and allow automakers to lower the dash for improved visibility – and a broad hood over the instrument cluster to reduce glare.

Safety: 9.5/10

The Corolla earns the top five-star rating from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and is a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), along with “Good+” for its child seat tether anchors ease-of-use.

Every Corolla includes emergency front braking with pedestrian and bicycle detection, high-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and the aforementioned automatic rear lighting. That’s an important feature and one that more automakers will be adding to compensate for drivers who don’t turn on their headlights at dusk or in bad weather. (Transport Canada calls them “phantom vehicles.”) The LE, one step up from the base L trim, adds blind-spot monitoring and low-speed adaptive cruise, both of which carry forward on all other trims.

Features: 9/10

At the base level, you get such items as automatic LED headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, keyless entry, and heated mirrors. The next-up LE adds an eight-inch screen, automatic climate control, and heated seats.

The features list lengthens through the trims, adding items including navigation, satellite radio, wireless charging, a digital instrument cluster, faux-leather upholstery, premium stereo, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, power seats, 18-inch wheels, and a sunroof. About the only item I really missed at my car’s price point is dual-zone climate control. While the system is automatic, it’s only one temperature for both sides of the cabin.

User Friendliness: 9/10

The Corolla’s cabin may look plain, but that translates into systems that are very easy to operate. Even at my tester’s top trim level, the controls are easy to use. There are dials for the stereo volume and tuning, and for the temperature and fan speed. You access menus on the touchscreen with hard buttons, and the icons are simple once you’re there.

The steering wheel controls were originally set up to mimic an iPod’s control ring and central button, and while that isn’t really the gold standard for operator familiarity anymore, they remain easy to use for the cruise control, and for changing the configurable digital instrument cluster screens.

Practicality: 7.5/10

The Corolla’s cabin is relatively roomy for the car’s size, and passengers should be happy. There’s a bit less space for small-item storage up front than with some competitors, though, and the 371-L trunk is at the lower end of the segment’s scale for size. The rear seats fold down but they’re not level with the trunk’s floor. It’s still useful, but not as good as a completely flat floor right through.

Comfort: 8/10

Front and rear occupants get a decent amount of leg- and headroom, and the Corolla is comfortable for four, with space to squeeze in a fifth passenger if necessary. [Those standing about 6-foot-3 and taller will notice some headroom shortcomings. – Ed.]

The XLE and my XSE tester include a power driver’s seat, and I was able to dial in a good seating position for visibility. While it’s not as prominent as it used to be, some automakers still shorten the front seat cushions, to make the cabin look roomier. But the Corolla’s chair came to the back of my knee, which vastly improves support and comfort on longer drives. The car can bump a little over rough roads, but overall, it’s smooth, and provides a nice, well-planted ride on the highway.

Power: 7.5/10

The Corolla L, LE, and XLE use a 1.8L four-cylinder that makes 139 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. The SE and my XSE use a 2.0L four-cylinder that ups it to 169 hp and 151 lb-ft. The L and SE can be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission, but all others, including my tester, use an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The larger engine is the better choice, but even then, the CVT can sometimes make it feel a bit anemic. The engine and transmission get noisy under hard acceleration, such as when passing on the highway. But it gets the job done, even if it doesn’t always sound like it will.

Driving Feel: 8/10

The Corolla does well in its role as an everyday commuter car. The steering is light but not flimsy, and the car handles smoothly around corners. The turning radius is tight, making it a breeze to manoeuvre and park in tight spaces. The brakes are equally effective, with confident pedal feel. This isn’t an exciting car to drive, but it’s very pleasant, both on city streets and on the highway.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The Corolla with 2.0L is officially rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 7.7 L/100 km in the city, 6.1 on the highway, and 7.0 in combined driving. In my week with it, I got 7.4 L/100 km. As you’d expect, it takes regular-grade, 87-octane fuel.

It runs about mid-pack with its compact sedan competitors, but they’re all within fractions of each other. The Hyundai Elantra is rated at 6.7 L/100 km combined, while the Nissan Sentra is 7.1; the Subaru Impreza is 7.5; and the Kia Forte and Mazda3 are both 7.6. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Value: 8/10

At a starting price of $19,450 for the base L trim with stick shift, or $21,250 with CVT, the Corolla provides an impressive number of higher-tech safety assist items, connectivity, and LED lights. It’s a considerable step up to my XSE tester, but the price still feels in line with the number of features.

The Corolla sits about midway in the compact segment. The Elantra runs from $17,999 to $25,699, while the Kia Forte starts lower at $17,895 but rises to $28,995. The Nissan Sentra begins at $19,198. Others start higher: you’ll pay $21,050 to get into a base Mazda3; $21,995 for an all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza; while the Honda Civic, the Corolla’s traditional rival, runs from $24,465 to $30,265. None of those prices include their respective freight fees.

The Verdict

Again, it’s hard to go wrong in this segment, where most of the competitors are fairly evenly matched for performance, features, and price. The 2022 Toyota Corolla needs to be on your test-drive list, and if your budget allows, look at the higher trim levels for their features. Overall, this Toyota is a decent little driver with a lot to offer.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.0L   Model Tested 2022 Toyota Corolla XSE
Engine Cylinders I4   Base Price $29,050
Peak Horsepower 169 hp @ 6,600 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 151 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm   Destination Fee $1,690
Fuel Economy 7.7 / 6.1 / 7.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $31,380
Cargo Space 371 L  
Optional Equipment
$540 – Black roof, $540