DETROIT, MI -- It seems like eons ago in 1966 when Toyota's Corolla hit American streets. It was small, fuel efficient and not exactly what American consumers wanted. But it turned out to be exactly, in the face of the 1972 gas crisis, what they needed.
Toyota has sold more than 30 million Corollas. Although the Japanese automaker has grown into a full line producer of all sorts of cars, trucks, utility vehicles and into the parent of Lexus, the good times in this market basically started with the Corolla.
The vehicle is bigger than it used to be but aren't we all as the years have passed? However, the Corolla is far more sophisticated than the little putt-putt of a car that first landed on these shores.
For the 2010 model year, Toyota has made traction control and stability control standard. I found my Corolla very comfortable. I had the LE model and it was equipped with a 1.8-liter four cylinder engine that was mated to a four-speed silky smooth transmission.
The car made 132 horsepower and 128 pounds-feet of torque. It was an interesting powerplant. My Corolla just seemed to have more oomph than its numbers suggested.
Acceleration was healthy; I had no problems getting on or off the expressways here. The ride was solid. One thing I noted was that on a particularly ragged piece of road was the lack of bounce and jumble I experienced inside the car.
In other words, my test car had a very slick ride for a car of its size. The front suspension was a compact, rigid L-arm-type MacPherson strut with a stabilizer bar. The torsion beam rear suspension employed a coil-over-shock arrangement that allowed for efficient packaging along with secure handling and outstanding ride comfort. So says Toyota.
And though it has grown over the years, the Corolla is still a gas sipper. The EPA rating of my test vehicle was 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the hwy. I had the car for the traditional week, did ample driving from the Eastside to the Westside and I didn't have to visit a gas station. That wasn't bad but the gas needle was flirting with E.
Better still was the interior. I found the back seats really spacious, especially for a compact car. There was plenty of head and hip room and though it was a bit of a squeeze, I got in the back sit without adjusting the front seat which had been let back to accommodate the driver - me.
The interior was top notch; just as you'd expect of a Toyota. Layout of the instruments was not minimalist as in many small cars but it wasn't cluttered either. Toyota avoided the use of shinny silver satin in the Corolla which added to the sophisticated look of the interior.
Three different interior hues were used which simulated different more expensive surfaces. All of the head rests, fore and aft, were adjustable. And at 12.3 cu.-ft, the trunk seemed huge. My only quibble was that I wished the gas tank was a little bigger.
That's a beef I have with all small cars. They get great mileage, as with the Corolla, but the gas tanks are so small that it seems like you still spend too much time in the gas station. The Toyota had a 13.2 gallon fuel tank. Still, that did not subtract from what made the car appealing.
And there was a good bit of creature comforts like satellite radio, an in-dash CD change with WMA and MP3 capability. Best of all was that the Toyota Corolla was still comparatively cost efficient. My test vehicle priced out at $18,804.