Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The Toyota Corolla is a sales leader that truly reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the Toyota brand. It’s a car that delivers complaint-free daily commutes with excellent reliability and impeccable resale value, while simultaneously displaying a near absence of style and fun.
You'll Like The 2012 Toyota Corolla If...
If you’ve been burned in the past by promises of "great reliability" and "bullet-proof resale value," the 2012 Toyota Corolla should help rebuild your faith that some promises do come true.
You May Not Like The 2012 Toyota Corolla If...
If you’re looking for cutting-edge style or the latest engineering features, the aging Corolla platform with its 132-horsepower engine and 4-speed automatic transmission probably won’t impress you. A Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 or Ford Focus is likely a better match.
The 2012 Toyota Corolla L gains color-keyed power side mirrors, power windows with driver’s auto-down feature, power door locks, and keyless entry. The LE trim gains steering wheel audio controls and 16-inch alloy wheels. The LE and S trims also get a new audio unit with MP3/WMA CD playback capability, a USB iPod interface, and Bluetooth connectivity for cell phone and music streaming.
While the 2012 Toyota Corolla sedan’s interior is highly functional and very roomy, it falls far short of the styling and color offerings of its competitors. Dull gray or beige plastics, and gauge faces with fonts that look two decades old don’t inspire much enthusiasm. Again, if you want to see a great looking interior at a sub-$20K price, look inside a Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus or Mazda3. The Corolla’s rear seat offers good hip and shoulder room, but the all-important headroom and legroom figures come up a bit short. We do like the S and LE trim’s 3-spoke steering wheel with touch controls, and the new audio unit is a definite step in the right direction. Standard gauges include a tachometer, fuel and coolant temperature, as well as a multi-information display that offers a clock, outside temperature, fuel economy, range, average speed and elapsed time. The 2012 Toyota Corolla sedan includes multiple storage bins, a split upper/lower 2-compartment glove box and four cup holders (two in front and two at the rear). Cargo volume in the trunk is a generous 12.3 cubic feet, but can be expanded thanks to the 60/40 split folding rear seats.
It’s not hard to see where Toyota went for inspiration when restyling the Corolla. The 2012 Toyota Corolla sedan bears an uncanny resemblance to its big brother, the Camry. Beyond its racy front grille and swept back headlights, the 2012 Toyota Corolla sedan is still rather pedestrian when viewed from the side, although less so in S trim guise. Features such as color keyed power side mirrors that appear on the base L trim are a nice touch. But, unlike its competitors, upper level Corolla trims don’t afford owners such high-tech options as high-intensity-discharge (HID) adaptive headlamps, 17- or 18-inch wheels, or rain-sensing wipers. While the base and LE cars might not do much to raise your pulse, the S trim offers enough visual pizzazz to at least get your attention.
While the S trim is the most enjoyable to drive, all of the 2012 Toyota Corolla sedans deliver a solid, comfortable ride and no rude surprises. The S trim’s larger wheel-and-tire package and available manual transmission allow it to at least attempt some fun on twisting back roads, but don’t look for a lot of zip coming out of the turns, because the Corolla’s 1.8-liter engine can’t provide it. Again, as a standard mode of transportation, the Corolla does just fine, but any attempt to run with likes of a Mazda3 or even the new Honda Civic fall short. The bottom line is that the Corolla is a good, solid, front-wheel-drive commuter car geared toward those whose automotive choices are made with a more pragmatic viewpoint. Those who demand more from their ride than just solid transportation, however, will likely find more to like from the Corolla’s many rivals.
The 2012 Toyota Corolla starts at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $16,000, and the Fair Purchase Price, which represent what people in your area are paying for their Corolla, should hold very close to MSRP. An automatic transmission adds about $800 to the Corolla’s base price. At nearly $17,000, the Chevrolet Cruze is a bit pricier, but the Kia Forte is nearly $800 less than the base Corolla. The S trim starts a bit over $18,500. On the resale side, the Corolla should hold an above-average value after five years, similar to the Honda Civic but substantially better than the Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan Sentra.
Get ready for the lists: The 2012 Toyota Corolla L sedan comes with standard air conditioning a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seat, color-keyed power mirrors, AM/FM/CD (SiriusXM satellite-ready) radio, outside temperature gauge, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, a driver’s-seat height adjuster, and driver and passenger front, seat-mounted side airbags, traction and stability control and side-curtain airbags. The LE adds an MP3-compatible CD player, USB and auxiliary input jacks, Bluetooth, cruise control, and color-keyed heated side mirrors. The S has fog lights, front and rear spoilers, sport seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
The 2012 Toyota Corolla sedan offers only a few options. A power moonroof can be added to the S trim, while both the LE and S versions can be equipped with a navigation radio and Toyota’s Entune multi-media system. The LE can be equipped with the Premium Package, which simply combines the power moonroof with 16-inch, 5-spoke wheels, and fog lights.
Tilt/telescopic steering wheelThis much-appreciated standard feature helps drivers of all sizes find a comfortable position.USB iPod inputStandard with the new audio head unit on LE and S, this feature allows for control of your iPod via the car’s steering-wheel controls.
Under the Hood
With the loss the XRS trim last year, there is only one engine offered on the 2012 Corolla: a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder good for 132 horsepower. This engine is great for reliability and economy, but, as would be expected, only so-so for performance. Driving through a choice of either a 5-speed manual or old-fashioned 4-speed automatic transmission, it delivers a respectable 26 city and 34 highway EPA-rated miles per gallon (automatic model). 1.8-liter in-line 4132 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm128 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/34 (manual), 26/34 (automatic)
The 2012 Toyota Corolla sedan continues to be one of the best known, best selling compact sedans in America. The 2012 Toyota Corolla’s reputation for longevity is legendary, as is its high resale value and fuel economy figures. Yet over the years, Toyota has become complacent with the Corolla, allowing the front-wheel-drive sedan’s design to stagnate, its features to become antiquated, and its core audience to grow much older. A major refresh in 2011 brought a more aggressive face and better wheels, but placed next to a 2012 Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra or Chevy Cruze, the 2012 Toyota Corolla still looks a bit frumpy. With cars like Elantra and Forte offering more features for the same or less money, and new performance models such as the VW Jetta TDI and Mazda3 Skyactiv delivering both excitement and 40-mpg fuel economy, the 2012 Toyota Corolla sedan will have to rely heavily on its merits, as well as the faithful legion who return to Toyota showrooms time and time again.