The 2013 Toyota Corolla appeals to car buyers for the same reason that chain restaurants have proliferated across the U.S. landscape: While they break no culinary new ground, they offer patrons a safe and utterly predictable dining experience. Some of us may adopt a “think global, eat local” philosophy in our travels, but the vast majority of Americans prefer their meals to be familiar.
And the latest version of the aging Corolla four-door sedan is absolutely predictable. Year upon year, model after model, the Corolla has always served up equal parts of reliability and value, a recipe that American consumers on a limited budget never tire of. That’s the case for 2013 model as well; while new compact offerings like the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra offer a tasty alternative, the Corolla soldiers on, delivering respectable sales numbers for Toyota month after month.
Under the hood is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that delivers an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway) with the standard five-speed manual transmission, or 29 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway) with the optional four-speed automatic. Those aren't great numbers, and the engine’s 132 horsepower can make highway acceleration leisurely, especially when equipped with the automatic gearbox. Look for Toyota to modernize the drivetrain when a new Corolla debuts next year.
Inside, however, the Corolla serves up plenty of room for average-sized adults, and delivers its controls in a simple and straightforward manner. Cabin design looks a bit dated, and some of the material choices give away the car’s value pricing, but the Corolla does a good job of keeping road and wind noise to a minimum. What it lacks in contemporary flair or power output, it makes up for with its legendary reliability. Why do consumers continue to buy the Corolla in astonishing volumes? Because of the past experiences relayed by friends and relatives.
Outside, the 2013 Corolla gets a new grill, but it doesn’t do much to liven up the current version’s looks. It’s hardly ugly, to be sure, just invisible. Still, few buyers will choose the Corolla over other compact competitors on the basis of exterior styling alone. An S model attempts to inject a sporty appearance into the mix, but its stick-on body cladding looks oddly out of place on a car that’s more about affordability than driving enjoyment.
On the road, the 2013 Corolla serves up a comfortable (if soft) ride and predictable handling, but those with a passion for spending time behind the wheel will likely be disappointed by the car’s light and vague electric power steering. Commuters seeking low operational costs will find little to complain about (except, perhaps, the overly soft seats), but buyers looking for a compact to deliver smiles on twisty roads will want to look elsewhere.
Those faults aside, the 2013 Toyota Corolla is a safe choice, too. It’s earned a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the NHTSA awards it four stars overall and five for side-impact protection.
Standard equipment is reasonable above the base (L) level, and LE models get a 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free calling, USB connectivity, cruise control, heated outside mirrors, intermittent wipers and steering wheel audio controls. Opt for the Corolla S model, and you’ll get the aforementioned body cladding, stitched seat accents, fog lamps, alloy wheels and a sport-themed instrument cluster.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Toyota Corolla on our sister site, TheCarConnection.