The Corolla is among the longest running automotive nameplates in history, dating back to its introduction in 1966. It's currently in its twelfth generation which debuted in 2018. Over the course of all these years, the Corolla has seen many iterations including sedans, coupes, hatchbacks, wagons and even a new crossover for 2022 with Corolla Cross. The current lineup includes both a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback. The sedan comes in eight trim levels known as L, LE, SE, SE Nightshade, SE Apex, XLE, and XSE, and XSE Apex. The hatchback comes in three trims known as the SE, SE Nightshade, and XSE. Under the hood are three powertrain options. Standard on the L, LE, and XLE is a 1.8L 4-cylinder mated to a CVT that generates 139 horsepower. The rest of the lineup gets a 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to a dynamic shift CVT that delivers 169 horsepower. Also available is a hybrid model that delivers 121 horsepower.
New for 2022 is the launch of the Apex Edition which joins the sporty Nightshade Editions in the lineup. Apex models will offer aesthetic upgrades that include a unique body kit with bronze accents, a front spoiler, fog light covers, side moldings, and rear diffuser. A rear spoiler will be optional. It's fitted with 18" cast aluminum gloss black wheels paired with either all-season or summer tires to improve grip and steering precision. Apex is more than aesthetics with special performance tuning to the steering, exhaust, and a track-tuned suspension. An available 6-speed intelligent manual transmission with rev-matching will cater to the enthusiast crowd.
Competition includes other compact cars such as the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Mazda 3, and Volkswagen Jetta. Corolla prices start around $20,000 for a L sedan or SE hatchback and top off in the $28,000 range for an XSE Apex Edition. With an expansive lineup and affordable prices, it's no wonder that Toyota has sold over 50 million Corollas to date making it the best-selling car of all time. I spent a week in a 2022 Corolla SE Nightshade Edition and here's what stands out...
It looks more expensive than it is (+)
My test vehicle had an MSRP of $24,469 (with delivery) but everyone I asked to guess the price offered up higher price tags with multiple going over $30k. I start with this because first impressions are important and it was refreshing to be behind the wheel of a good-looking car that surprised people by costing less than expected.
Nightshade Edition (+)
Not every vehicle can pull off the blacked out look, but as noted above the Corolla did it well. My test Corolla looked especially sporty in Classic Silver contrasted by the bold black accents. Nightshade was introduced for 2021 and carries over with black 18" alloy wheels, black accented bumpers, grille, mirror caps, side rockers, door handles, rear spoiler, shark fin antenna and badging. It's only available in three of the Corolla colors including the aforementioned silver along with Black Sand Pearl and White. The package is exclusively aesthetic with no upgrades under the hood but it does come with the bigger 2.0L Dynamic Force 4-Cylinder.
LED Lighting (+)
Another aspect that gives the Corolla a more premium feel is the implementation of LED lighting. Up front LEDs are available on all trims and high-grade versions with additional accent lights are upgraded on all except for the base L and LE models. The headlights wrap around to the fenders with a slim black trim piece in between. A series of three thin J-shaped LED strips in each headlight casing pair with lower fascia accents to give it a very futuristic autobot feel. Around back LEDs are also standard across the lineup with SE, XSE, Nightshade and Apex models getting a smoked trim treatment.
The wheels on a car can really make or break an overall design. Thankfully Toyota offers a variety of wheel designs and sizes to go with various models. Everything above the L and LE get attractive alloy wheel designs while those base models come with 15 and 16-inch steel wheels paired with decent-looking wheel covers. I'm particularly fond of the variations of the 18-inch SE and XSE wheels that come in finishes such as a machined /dark gray combo or painted black. These details are what give the Corolla a more sophisticated look.
There are two primary powertrain options with the base version being a 1.8L 4-cylinder mated to a CVT that generates 139 horsepower and 126 lb-ft. of torque. The 1.8L is about as basic as they come which helps keep the price tag low, however, it doesn't offer much in terms of power or driving excitement. For not much more money, the better option is the bigger 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to a dynamic shift CVT that delivers 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable automatic is standard across the line up save for a 6-speed manual that is available on the hatchback versions.
The 2.0L has a peppy feel to it that is fun to toss around. Acceleration is on point or better than much of the competition with a 0-60 time of around 7.7 seconds. Turbo versions of the Hyundai Elantra and Mazda 3 are quicker. The new Dynamic-Shift CVT combines the smooth, fuel-efficient performance of a CVT with the more direct driving feel of a traditional geared automatic. It utilizes a physical first gear for start-off acceleration, before handing off to the CVT's pulley system to help give more oomph. The CVT has a simulated 10-speed sequential shiftmatic along with a sport mode. Sport mode gives the Corolla a bit more pep and higher revs but it sounds labored as you hit the gas and get into higher speeds.
As an affordable, entry-level car I was impressed with the Corolla's ride. Around town it felt lively zipping around corners and through traffic. The car feels solid and grounded to the pavement rather than light and all over the road. Steering is precise and easily controlled which makes this a very comfortable car to drive. The suspension is appropriate and provides a sooth ride with minimal body lean.
Fuel Economy (+)
When the Corolla arrived with a full 13.2-gallon fuel tank it offered a range of around 415 miles. EPA estimates are 31/38/34 MPG city/highway/combined and after a week of routine suburban driving, I averaged 33 MPG. Ratings are good for the class and the available Corolla hybrid offers even better economy.
Simple Interior (+)
The layout is simple, modern, and well-built. The materials are better than average and it's an easy car to get acclimated to. Drivers face a traditional twin-dial cluster with a digital information screen to the right. At the center of the dash is a standard 7" touch screen that integrates with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The infotainment system is basic, but also both responsive and intuitive. The touchscreen is flanked by ancillary buttons and knobs to navigate the screen and make adjustments to both audio and climate controls. Upgraded features include an available 8" touchscreen, wireless device charging, an additional USB port, and automatic climate control.
Seating (+ / -)
The Corolla seats five with sufficient head and legroom for the class. Two adults would be most comfortable in the back seats, three would feel tight. Rear seat headroom is even more limited in the hatchback. Standard seats come with a durable cloth upholstery and require manual adjustments. Synthetic leather, heated seats, and power-adjustable seats are all available options. The seats offer class-appropriate comfort and driver positioning is comfortable with good visibility all around.
The front seats of the SE and XSE grades debut a new design featuring a unique shape with a headrest that nestles into the shoulder area as well as broader shoulder supports, while the LE and XLE grades offer a seatback with a new U-shaped pattern. This change from a conventional square seatback design gives it a sportier appeal and hints of a bucket seat versus basic economy car.
Cargo / Storage (-)
There's limited storage inside with only a smallish center console compartment and two cup holders up front. The sedan's trunk offers just 13.1 cu.ft. of storage and the hinges on the trunk further limit what will fit in the back. As I'm often hauling kids around, I found this trunk to fill up quickly with backpacks and gear. The rear seats do fold down, but not flat, which is really only beneficial for slimmer items. Opt for the hatchback if you're looking for better cargo flexibility as it has both a wider hatch opening and accommodates 17.8 cu.ft behind the seats.
Standard Safety Features (+)
All models are equipped with Toyota's Star Safety system, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology.
Also standard is the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system which includes:
* Pre-Collision System with Low-Light Pedestrian Detection
* Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
* Daytime Bicyclist Detection
* Lane Departure Alert
* Automatic High Beams
* Road Sign Assist
Blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is also available on some models. This system will detect vehicles approaching from either side and provide a warning if one is detected. Also available is brake hold which is a convenient technology that helps reduce driver workload while waiting at a traffic light or while driving in traffic. When the driver depresses the accelerator pedal, Brake Hold releases.
Everyone seems to know someone who has owned or at least has a connection to a Corolla. It's a well-known nameplate for a reason and its no-nonsense approach works well. This car wraps all of your basic needs in a sporty looking package (specifically the SE/XSE models). Prices are kept low by limiting technology and offering models with key-turning ignitions or manually-adjusted seats. The car itself is built to last with quality materials and good craftsmanship. It may not be the most powerful member of the class, but it has enough spirit to be enjoyable.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle: 2022 Toyota Corolla SE Nightshade Edition
Exterior Color: Classic Silver Metallic
Interior Color: Black Cloth
MSRP as tested: $24,469 (With Delivery/Destination)