The Entry Level 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE

While it’s a pleasure to drive cars in the $50K-$75K range, the reality is that most people can’t afford a vehicle at that price, whether they’re paying outright or financing the vehicle. Heck, with a $5,000 down payment and three year loan, a $75,000 car will hit you for about $2000/mo in payments. And that’s without insurance. Fortunately there are a lot of options in the $15K-$25K range from just about every major manufacturer. Continuing my trend of driving Toyotas, I just spent a week driving the 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE, which is right in that range with a base MSRP of $22,680.

It’s certainly a car that demonstrates the expertise Toyota has building vehicles at this point after pushing out millions of cars. Built around a 1.8 liter 4-cylinder DOHC engine with the great continuously variable transmission, it has great curb appeal and is comfortable for four or, maybe, five passengers:

2017 toyota corolla xse barcelona red

The finish is excellent, the car has a tight, solid feel, handles well, and the door and trunk have a satisfying thunk when you close them. The car as driven also had thousands of dollars worth of upgrades too. But… but in the end I didn’t like it very much. The problem was twofold: The 1.8L engine is underpowered for the vehicle and the cabin acoustics are poor. They added up to a car where when you were accelerating to get on the highway, it was so loud that you couldn’t comfortably have a conversation.

I’ll get back to these issues in a bit, however. Let’s have a tour of the vehicle and its amenities, starting with the front dashboard layout:


2017 toyota corolla xse front dashboard

Certainly nothing exceptional with typical Toyota components on the wheel, dash and shift. Everything is where you’d expect if you’ve driven other Toyota vehicles, from the on-dash gauge controls on the steering wheel (under your right thumb) to the climate adjustments just below the entertainment system. Certainly for a car with such a modest price tag, the finish and design is impressive and sure to appeal to buyers.

Looking a bit more closely, the front gauges show speed, temperature, fuel efficiency, engine temperature, gas level and engine revolutions, among other info:

2017 toyota corolla xse front dash gauges

Notice the fuel efficiency here: 29.3 mpg. Decent, but for such a small sedan, I expected something in the low 30’s, actually. The EPA estimates are 28-35 but even with highway driving, I clearly didn’t see that boost.

Interestingly, the nav system on the Corolla showed traffic, in a way I hadn’t seen before:

2017 toyota corolla xse entertainment gps nav system traffic shown

All those tiny little dots represent different vehicles, of course, but it does beg the privacy question: how does the car know? What might be even more surprising is that it can get this sort of traffic data even when you have no phone hooked up: the car itself can talk to the Internet to get data updates like traffic information. Very cool!

Speaking of tech, I appreciated that the car seat warmer controls were front and center, behind the shifter. You can see, they’re easy to find and control:

corolla seat heater controls and usb plug

There’s a single 12V “cigarette lighter” plug and, on the right, you can see an AUX in and standard USB connector too. Simple, easy.

The car also has a roomy trunk, as you can see:

2017 toyota corolla xse rear view barcelona red

Lots to like about the Corolla XSE, for sure, and it would be a great car for a young family with a carseat in the back or even a college student or new grad. If it wasn’t for the power problems with the 1.8L engine. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a bigger engine option, which would be a definite help with the driving experience, but a bigger engine would also likely be louder, which could make it a bit problematic for the driver and passenger experience.

At the end of the day, the 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE might be a good match for you and your family, but I encourage you to take it on a test rive first to see how it performs for you. Certainly, everything else about the vehicle is great.

AS DRIVEN: 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE in Barcelona Red, model 1866A, final assembly point Ontario, Canada. 1.8L 4-cyl DOHC engine with continuously variable transmission, sport drive mode, 17-inch alloy wheels, Entune Premium Audio / Navigation, tablet holder, performance exhaust, performance air filter, illuminated door sills, mudguards, paint protection film, rear bumper protector, wheel locks and carpet/trunk mat set. MSRP: $26,101.

Disclaimer: Toyota loaned me the Corolla XSE for a week in return for this review.

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