There's not a lot to say about the 2012 Toyota Corolla that you won't know already--it's a perfectly respectable compact four-door sedan, rivaling cars like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, and Volkswagen Jetta, but without any of their style or interest-grabbing features.
Despite its lack of style, flair, an excitement, it was the highest-selling compact in the U.S. for 2011, so perhaps excitement is overrated. It offers a wide array of features among multiple models, but its gas mileage is no better than average. Still, apparently, hundreds of thousands of buyers a year are quite happy to settle for that.
On the plus side, you won't have the agony of choosing between engines. There's just the one available, a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four with the option of a five-speed manual or an archaic four-speed automatic transmission. While power is adequate, response is sluggish at highway speeds compared to more modern rivals like the Focus, Cruze, or Hyundai Elantra.
The five-speed manual is the more economical of the two, with ratings of 27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. The automatic manages 26 mpg in the city, the same 34 highway and 29 mpg combined.
You won't find much excitement behind the wheel either. Ride and handling is somewhere between inoffensive and soggy, with soft springs that provide a smooth ride. The Corolla remains calm and quiet inside, though its suspension can prove inadequate for quick maneuvers on variable road surfaces. There's not a lot of feedback through the wheel in corners either. Overall, the Corolla resists rapid changes of direction—not all that reassuring if you need to react quickly to sudden traffic conditions.
The Corolla is a nice enough environment in which to travel. The front seats are spacious and comfortable. Rear seat cushions are a little short, though, and rivals have upped their games as far as material quality and interior design is concerned--the Corolla's cabin is as unexciting as its exterior. There's plenty of interior storage, including cubbies, a console compartment, large door pockets, and a double glovebox. It's a safe car too--the Corolla gets a "Good" rating from the IIHS, with four-star ratings in NHTSA front and rollover crash tests.
Trim levels include L, LE, and S. The base car is well equipped, but free of frills. Options include satellite radio, a navigation system, various audio upgrades that provide Bluetooth, and a Premium package for the LE that wraps together a moonroof, larger alloy wheels, and the upgraded sound system.
For more details, see the full review of the 2012 Toyota Corolla on our sister site, TheCarConnection.