As for the car I drove on this adventure up north…
Let’s be real – it is a Corolla. It is also the most popular trim level for both retail and commercial customers. It is basic without being too basic. It had what I needed. Plus, I had projections on performance and efficiency that would fit this trip and my requirements.
Obvious, this is not my first time driving the latest generation of Corolla. Before this was another LE sedan – this time, a Hybrid. Before that was an SE hatchback, which gave me a proper introduction to this newest generation.
Now, I have this LE sedan.
Aside from its mission to take me back to Duluth and explore lands beyond it, the Corolla would serve as a reference point for all of other compact sedans I have worked with in the past year or so. It is a shrinking segment, leaving only the Asian brands and Volkswagen for consumers to look at.
The Corolla’s advantage is in global sales leadership. In some places, it is the default sedan. Yet, in the face of the proliferation of the SUV, the Toyota Corolla still has its market and demographic. That will never change.
Which is why I welcome taking the Corolla on this adventure “up north.”
Unlike the last two Corollas of this current generation, this LE sedan was powered by a 139-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Connected to a continuously variable transmission, this powertrain did the job very well. It managed highway speeds with ease. However, hard acceleration will expose it to much higher revs before finally “shifting” down. I was more concerned about its cruising attributes than anything, which the Corolla did a nice job of.
On the highway, I was happy to see how the Corolla LE did on smooth surfaces. It rode very nicely and handled maneuvers with ease. On bumpier surfaces, the suspension system did its best to absorb the ruts and cracks without transmitting them into the cabin. Driving-wise, I felt very confident in the Corolla LE sedan.
As far as fuel economy is concerned, I managed an average of 33.1 MPG.
Commanding the Corolla, I felt comfortable in my supportive seat behind the wheel, Dressed in a cloth upholstery, these seats also managed temperature. I’m glad they added heated seats as standard to the LE sedan. There is honest room for four inside the Corolla sedan. Not that I had three others on this trip, but it is doable.
Toyota states that the Corolla LE sedan can carry up to 13.1 cubic feet of luggage, before folding down the rear seatbacks. I think they underestimated the size of the trunk. That space swallowed up Boomer (my LP Classic conga drum) in his bag from bottom to top. Maneuvering it through the step-down from the bumper to the back of the trunk took some precision to do, but the drum felt perfect in the trunk.
In fact, I could also fit a 26-inch Pullman next to it. Like I said, I think Toyota underestimated the trunk space.
The driver has access to two big analog dials with a nice color information screen to the right of them. I can view them just fine with my line of sight. The steering wheel offers plenty of grip for the 9-3 position and has good controls for audio, climate and other hands-free functions. The automatic climate control is also easily accessible to control its settings. The shifter is good to the touch, as are the rest of the controls on the center console.
My Corolla LE rental came with a large tablet-like 8-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. You have two choices for navigation – your smartphone or the Scout app. I prefer my smartphone. The standard six speakers entertained me as I gobbled up the miles.
I will say that after three Corollas of this generation that it is really a handsome car. The mix of cool and practical makes this the most attractive Corolla in decades. It is far from being upscale or luxurious. The exterior design was developed with a purpose that goes beyond just basic transportation.
In all, it is simply just handsome. Not exactly distinctive, since you may wind up in a parking lot full of Corollas. Still, it looks just fine.
Any nitpicks? On my rental, I simply got all of the standard equipment. I would love to have blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning on top of a pretty well-equipped car. To do so, you would have to upgrade to a package, that also includes push-button start. Not that I don’t mind inserting a key into the ignition.
If you were to buy a 2021 Toyota Corolla LE sedan new, it would come with a sticker price of $21,470 as equipped on this rental. As stated above, you can upgrade to a package or two that will include additional equipment. Or, you can explore the eight other Corolla sedans – including the Hybrid LE – to see which one will fit your personality, purpose, and budget.
The most important part about this review is to see how the Corolla fared on this weekend excursion “up north.” It did very well managing various road surfaces and the mileage this road trip gobbled up.
Perhaps, the Toyota Corolla proved once again that its global leadership translates into satisfaction over every mile. It just might be the best compact sedan for road trips.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda for this story.
All photos by Randy Stern