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.
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