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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.