Saturday Road Test – Toyota Corolla S Plus

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2016 Toyota Corolla S Plus

What? No Automatic?

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – The Corolla turned 50 this year, a car that has been a hit in the marketplace with more than 43 million sold in all.

Toyota claims it “has been a part of more people’s lives than any car ever manufactured.” Corolla first went on sale in Japan in 1966 and came to the U.S. two years later. Now Toyota sells about 1.5 million of them a year globally and in May it was the nation’s sixth best-selling vehicle and third top selling car.

And how times have changed! The first version featured new technology such as the MacPherson strut suspension, two-speed wipers and back up lights!

Now there is lane departure warning, radar cruise control, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. All unheard of back when!

It rode the path to success by appealing to the millions who are not the least attracted to the auto magazine covers touting a comparison test of a Dodge Viper and a Z06 Corvette. Instead they want a compact, long lasting, high quality set of wheels that will give them a worry free 100,000 miles plus.

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Yet there were some sprinkles of sportiness in this weekend’s model S Plus test car like a six speed manual transmission in place of the CVT included in virtually all other Corolla models.

Yet up front was the same 1.8 liter four with 132 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm.

The suspension set up was the same as other models, with electric power steering that sent virtually no information back to the driver. Our test car did get larger wheels at 7.0 x 17 inches, a half inch and an inch bigger than other offerings.

The S stands out with a front chrome grille surround with piano black insert, a rear spoiler, with the S Plus adding a very quiet sunroof, and roof mounted antenna. Both come with a fabric trimmed 6-way adjustable driver’s seat with added bolstering and a 4-way adjustable passenger seat also with the added bolstering. While there was no lumbar adjustment, the operator’s seat was quite comfortable and did a good job of holding one’s bod in place.

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It will surprise those who ride in the back seat with an unexpected amount of leg and head room. All will enjoy the quiet ride on the highway.

Fit and finish were excellent and controls on the tested “S” model came readily to hand and were easy to figure out.

Corolla performed well in crash tests, and will deliver 37 mpg on the highway, and 28 in the city with the stick shift for an overall economy rating of 31 mpg.

Trunk space is comparable with competitors at 13 cubic feet and there is a temporary spare.

It should be a great commuter car but only with the automatic if you are one of the millions stuck in rush hour traffic twice a day.

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Where the six-speed stick comes into its own is on less crowded suburban highways, where you can dial up just the right gear and easily stay up in traffic. But for passing maneuvers, a bit of planning and a two or three gear downshift is called for. There is not much get and up and go in the fifth and sixth gears, so long mountain grades will also require some down shifting.

The suspension filtered out highway irregularities rather well but handling was less than sporty. Again, that is not what the typical Corolla customer is looking for.

With just two options, the test Corolla was priced at an easy to budget $22,992. That included $209 for Body Side Molding and $353 for trunk and floor mats and a Rear Bumper Protector. With a total of four trim levels offered, buyers should easily be able to find one that fits their monthly payment goals.

I came away with the feeling that this would be a good buy for the money. One that will not make any excessive demands on the driver after a long, and trying, day at the office.

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