What was once “Cheap” is now borderline chic.

Cars like the Corolla used to be called “penalty boxes”. They were inexpensive, small, unrefined and generally undesirable.

No more….except for the inexpensive part.

Today, cars like the Corolla are on the verge of becoming a “statement”….a green, efficient, small-footprint kind of statement.

The Corolla was re-designed a year ago, and now sports a fresh, wedgy shape that seems to have more style and identity than Corollas of years past.
Personally, I think it’ll wear well over the years.

Inside our test “S Plus” came with an attractive two-tone softex imitation leather and fabric interior that looks like it will wear well and offers the ventilation that we all welcome on those humid Summer days.

Power comes from a conventional non-turbo 1.8 liter four running through one of the better continuously variable transmissions that I’ve driven lately. Where some CVTs just seem to drone maddeningly while accelerating, the Corolla’s CVT is rather invisible….in a good kind of way….and can mimic a conventional automatic when “downshifting”.

Our test “S Plus” Corolla is the top-of-the-line Corolla. It listed at $20,510 including destination fees. You pretty much get the full-package for that 20K….a little more aggressive front end, a spoiler lip on the trunk, 17” alloys, LED running lights, auto climate control w. pollen filter, backup cam, 60/40 fold-down rear seat, leather-wrapped wheel with paddle-shifters and hands-free voice controls, and keyless entry.

We added an $850 moonroof and a $1,510 convenience package which brought us push-button start, Toyota’s Entune Premium audio, and tons of connectivity.

On the road or around town, the Corolla is an easy car to drive. It’s big enough so that you don’t feel vulnerable, and small enough to dart through traffic and park with a flick of the wrist.

The Corolla S Plus goes for around $2,000 more than the base Corolla. I think in this case, the extra two grand is well worth it.

For less than $23,000 you’ll have a vehicle that can carry four in comfort…five in a pinch…and deliver you 29 city / 37 highway mileage. We consistently got 33 – 34 in mixed driving on regular.

And while the valets probably won’t park you in the front row, you’ll have a reasonably attractive ride that you won’t have to make any excuses for….and with proper care will probably be able to go a couple hundred thousand miles and look reasonably good doing so.


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