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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Toyota Corolla

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Expert's Rating


MPG 27 City / 34 Highway
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Intuitive controls
  • Surprisingly roomy interior
  • Styling somewhat bland
  • Limited trunk space
  • Base models come meagerly equipped
Forty-six years and 39 million Corollas later, Toyota's compact segment entry remains a perennial bestseller. Despite lacking the variations of prime-competitor - the Honda Civic - it delivers what compact car buyers want: reliable, economical transportation. For 2012, Toyota offers three trim levels of Corolla: L, SE and S. The performance-oriented XRS model is absent this year in keeping with it only being offered occasionally. Now in its 11th generation, the Corolla's styling was refreshed for 2011. Upgrades for 2012 include more power features on the base L model, upgraded standard AM/FM/CD audio system with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, iPod connectivity for LE and S, and standard 16-inch wheels on LE. A 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine developing 132 horsepower while delivering 34 mpg on the highway with either the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission feeding power to the front wheels.


Base L models include the kind of basics compact car shoppers have come to expect: color-keyed power side mirrors, along with power windows with driver’s window auto-down function, power door locks and remote keyless entry, four- speaker audio, 14-inch steel wheels and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. LE adds the new six-speaker audio system with the modern connectivity functions the previous system lacked--in particular Bluetooth audio streaming--16- inch steel wheels and more comfort and convenience features. Stepping up to the S brings a more sporting flair to the Corolla by including 16-inch alloy wheels, sport seats, body kit, fog lamps and, new for 2012, double-stitch accent on the seats. LE and S models include steering-wheel mounted audio controls.

As with all Toyota models, the Corolla comes with the Star Safety System’s full range of equipment, including six airbags – front, side-impact and side curtain – seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters, active front headrests to prevent neck injury, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency braking assist.

While Toyota was ahead of some competitors in making these features standard, any compact care worth considering today should have all of them on every model. In addition, Toyota’s Smart Stop Technology brake-override system cuts the throttle when the brake is applied regardless of accelerator pedal position. Vehicle Stability Control controls engine output and brake force at individual wheels to correct any discrepancy between steering input and vehicle direction. A unit-body featuring high-strength steel, MacPherson strut front suspension, torsion beam rear suspension, and electrically assisted power steering round out the mechanicals.

Corolla faces stiff competition from the Honda Civic and Ford Focus, with the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze in the mix as well. Corolla matches its competitors very closely on fuel economy, except the Cruze Eco’s and Elantra’s highway ratings of 39 and 40 mpg, topping the Toyota’s 34 mpg. Corolla also gives up 26 horsepower – 134 vs. 160 – to the Focus. The Corolla also continues to feature a four-speed automatic against competitors that feature five- and six-speed transmissions. From a starting price standpoint, all of these cars are within less than $1,000 of each other.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Toyota Corolla
Starting price

2012 Toyota Corolla L

Recommended for: Those seeking basic, solid transportation on a budget

Corolla L features include power side mirrors, door locks, windows with driver’s auto- down function, remote keyless entry, four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA capability, auxiliary input and auto sound leveling, 15-inch steel wheels, five-speed manual gearbox, air conditioning, intermittent windshield wipers, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and trip computer. Several features that are standard on LE and S are available as options on the L, including fog lights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, and automatic transmission. Other options included heated seats, leather upholstery and backup camera. Not available: upgraded audio, navigation.

2012 Toyota Corolla
Starting price

2012 Toyota Corolla LE

Recommended for: Buyers who want a compact car that doesn't skimp on details

In addition to the 16-inch wheels and the new six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system, the LE includes variable intermittent windshield wipers, heated side mirrors, cruise control, multi-function remote keyless entry system with lock, unlock, trunk release, panic and remote illuminated entry, and a sport steering wheel with metallic accents and audio controls. The four-speed automatic transmission is standard. Options include the Premium Package with 16-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, and integrated fog lamps. Also available is Toyota’s Display Audio with Navigation and Entune multi-media system featuring a 6.1-in. touch screen, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback, six speakers, SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability including a 90-day trial subscription, HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, auxiliary input, USB port with iPod connectivity and control, vehicle information, hands-free phone capability, phonebook access, advanced voice recognition, and Bluetooth audio streaming. Entune allows use of mobile phone apps such as Bing, iHeartRadio,, OpenTable, and Pandora. Entune includes three years of complimentary access.

2012 Toyota Corolla
Starting price

2012 Toyota Corolla S

Recommended for: The driver who wants a compact car with a sporty stance

The Corolla S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, integrated fog lamps, standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. The power moonroof is available, as is the Display Audio with Navigation and Entune. The standard body kit on S the model adds a sporty look. The kit includes a front spoiler, rocker moldings, and upper and lower rear spoilers, chrome-tipped exhaust, and S badge. The interior features front sport seats, metallic style interior trim, and analog sport instrumentation.

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