Looking to impress

Toyota adding fresh touch to compact Corolla

Toyota Corollas, by nature, are more about function than form, cars that fit closer to a budget than they do to an extravagant wish list. This is a compact sedan that accomplishes the mission of getting from here to there reliably in the short term and over the long term.

There was something about the 2015 S Plus trim model that we recently drove, though, that sparked a bit more interest. Pushing near the higher end of the model’s lineup, The S Plus comes with special wheel covers, chrome grille frame, larger airdam, foglights and a rear spoiler. Hey, spoilers equal fun.

Corolla pricing starts at $16,900 for a base L model with a 6-speed manual transmission and runs through LE and S versions that stretch out to $22,905. Our tester fit near the middle and came with some additions that livened up the package. The S Plus has 17-inch alloy wheels in place of standard 15-inch wheels and offered 16-inchers. The power outside mirrors are color-keyed, heated and have integrated turn signal indicators.

The engine is a 132-horspower, 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that was paired in our vehicle with a continuously variable transmission. Putting the sport into the S are paddle shifters to run through seven gear ratios if that is your thing. There is also a sport driving mode to put a tiny bit of pizzazz in place for an easy handler.

Toyota dressed up the interior as part of its 2014 redesign. The materials and alignment of the dash took a step up in quality. There is a 6.1-inch touchscreen display in the center that shows the views from a rearview camera. Drivers can utilize a steering wheel with audio controls and hands-free phone voice-command controls.

For a compact car that is 15 and a quarter feet long, the interior space is adequate for passengers, even three in the back where there is decent legroom and a flat floor. The rear seats splits and folds to expand a 13-cubic feet trunk.

The Toyota Corolla may not jump off the lot at you, but there is plenty to like from its price to its quality.

David Mikesell is a free-lance automotive reviewer based in Indianapolis.

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