When we first saw photos of the 11th-generation Toyota Corolla, it got us thinking about the AE86. To drifters and import hot-rodders, the twin-cam, rear-drive AE86 Corollas of the 1980s are venerated icons. Given the aggressive (for Toyota) styling of the new Corolla we felt a twinge of hope because when the Corolla went front-drive in the late 1980s, it also went to sleep. There's nothing wrong with a good afternoon nap, of course, and the 39-plus-million Corollas sold thus far have provided countless reliable miles to their owners. But few have been fun.
Three trim levels (L, LE, and S) carry over from last year’s model, and Toyota adds a new high-mileage variant, dubbed LE Eco. There's no denying the new Corolla is a visual step up from the current version that blends into the background so quickly as to be darn near invisible. With design cues shared with the recent Furia concept, the face has more character, aided by sculpted LED headlamps that are now standard on all Corollas. There are token fender flares and the rear design seems rather upmarket for the compact segment, if a bit generic. Wind-tunnel work yielded a flatter underbody, the S and LE Eco getting closeout panels underneath for better aero-efficiency.
The Old Smooth and StretchIn the process of crafting the new Corolla’s sheetmetal, Toyota stretched it as well. Although width and height remain within an inch of the last-gen model’s, both the wheelbase and overall length are up by 3.9 inches, and that’s a big plus for rear-seat space. Toyota shifted the rear seat hip point back nearly three inches. Slimming the front seatbacks added more legroom for those in the second row, while Toyota claims denser pads and foam inserts in the rear seats add comfort. The rear seatbacks fold and are split 60/40.