With newer competitors hitting the market on what feels like a daily basis, the 2018 Toyota Corolla is increasingly easy to ignore. But in its fifth year, it continues to offer a smooth, pleasant ride, roomy interior, and a host of advanced active safety features that are standard on every trim level. But forgettable styling, disappointing interior bits, and a performance-robbing CVT rank it below many competitors.

Best Value

Available in six trim levels, 2018 Toyota Corolla prices start at $19,445 for a base L sedan equipped with a six-speed manual and rise to $24,250 for a CVT-equipped XSE equipped with the upgraded audio, navigation and App Suite bundle.

All models come with a single engine choice, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 132 horsepower (paradoxically, the Eco model produces an additional eight horsepower) and the usual power features along with LED headlights, a 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, and Toyota's Safety Sense suite of active safety features. The 6-speed manual adds a bit of fun, but in reality most buyers will choose the CVT automatic. We'd opt for the XLE trim, which adds multi-LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels (the 17-inchers on the XSE only add harshness to the ride), and a power moonroof to brighten up the interior.

With that in mind, here's how we'd build it:

  • Model: Corolla XLE
  • Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder
  • Output: 132 horsepower / 128 lb-ft
  • Transmission: CVT automatic
  • MPG: EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon in the city, 36 on the highway
  • Exterior color: Barcelona Red
  • Interior color: Black Softex
  • Options: Entune Premium Audio ($525, 7-inch touchscreen, navigation, HD radio with predictive traffic and Doppler Weather overlay, SiriusXM satellite radio, Entune app suite with Pandora integration, Bluetooth phone capability)
  • Base Price: $22,880
  • As Tested: $23,405

Performance Pros

Toyota Corolla
  • The Corolla's suspension manages small imperfections well.
  • Ample sound deadening keeps most engine noise out of the cabin.
  • The steering is nicely weighted.
  • The continuously variable transmission is quick to engage and equally eager to quiet down when off throttle, qualities that remain rare among this fuel-efficient transmission type.
  • The Corolla LE Eco features an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city, 40 on the highway, and 34 combined.

Performance Cons

  • The 1.8-liter four-cylinder is loud, buzzy, lacking in torque, and is generally an unpleasant companion in day-to-day driving.
  • Potholes and heavily damaged roads turn the Corolla into a jittery mess as the over-soft suspension struggles to manage the road surface.
  • This might be the worst handling car in its segment, exhibiting wallowy, dimwitted behavior in turns. Roll is heavy and constant, and because of the soft suspension, is prone to aggressive dive under hard braking.
  • The Corolla offers next to no feedback through the chassis or steering, isolating the driver to an unpleasant degree.

Interior Pros

  • Despite modest bolsters, the front seats are nicely supportive.
  • There's plenty of rear seat room for two tall adults and even three for short around-town trips.
  • All models feature a height-adjustable driver's seat that's power-adjustable on XLE and XSE models.

Interior Cons

Toyota Corolla
  • Shiny, grainy plastic looks low rent, especially on XLE and XSE models.
  • Even with height adjustments, the front seats feel like they're on stilts, contributing to the disconnected sensation in the chassis. Toyota could easily offer and extra inch or two of vertical adjustment, better accommodating taller drivers.
  • Imitation leather doesn't look or feel as luxurious as the real thing. The stuff on the dash is particularly egregious.
  • Infotainment system looks like an aftermarket unit and lacks the integrated look of a factory system. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration, forcing users into using Toyota's recalcitrant infotainment system.

Our Favorite Thing

The Corolla's standard set of advanced safety features puts it at the top of its class. Excellent headlights are also a bonus. That said, the safety suite's abilities aren't as expansive as the Honda Civic's Sensing suite, which offers a more advanced steering assistance system.

Our Least Favorite Thing

With a soft ride, noticeable body lean, and steering that lacks feedback, the latest Corolla's fun-to-drive factor places it near the bottom of its class.

Right For

Toyota Corolla

All Corolla models come standard with a number of active safety features including a rear view camera, pre-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams.

Wrong For

A soft suspension, poor steering feedback, and an uninspiring 1.8-liter four coupled to a performance-robbing CVT add up to a noticeable lack of driving enjoyment.

The Bottom Line

Despite a smooth ride, above average interior space, and wide array of advanced safety features, the Corolla's bland performance and low-rent interior relegate it to mid- pack status in the compact sedan class.