$8,005 - $9,308

2012 Toyota Corolla Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Toyota Corolla was new.


Performance: 6.8

While the 2012 Toyota Corolla should suit drivers who just need a car for puttering around town, reviewers still think shoppers can do a lot better than the 2012 Corolla because its engine and transmissions are outdated and its fuel economy ratings can’t match that of competing models that average up to 40 mpg on the highway.

  • "There's not much to dislike here, but there's little to get excited about either. Most of its rivals offer comparable fuel economy, greater refinement, and a more engaging driving experience all at prices that are comparable to or only slightly more expensive than this Toyota." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "With other compact cars gunning for the 40-mpg highway mark, the Corolla remains behind the pack." -- Motor Trend

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers complain that the 2012 Toyota Corolla has an outdated powertrain. The 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is significantly underpowered, and struggles with passing, merging and climbing hills. Paired with this engine is a standard five-speed manual transmission, though a four-speed automatic is optional. Reviewers really dislike the four-speed automatic because most competitors have automatics with five or six gears. The manual transmission doesn’t make the Corolla more fun to drive because the engine is so underpowered. A few test drivers aren’t so harsh, and find that the Toyota Corolla is a decent car for commuting.

According to the EPA, Corolla's with the five-speed manual transmission average 27/34 mpg city/highway, and average a slightly lower 26/34 mpg with the automatic transmission. With models like the Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra getting up to 40 mpg on the highway, reviewers say the Corolla needs to step it up.

  • "With the automatic transmission, Corolla has enough verve for stress-free driving. Merging and passing moves require planning and a deep stab of the throttle, however." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "You certainly won't be eager to get in and drive it, what with its loose and sloppy steering. And even by coldly rational measures, the aging Corolla is beginning to slip. That's particularly the case in fuel economy, where fresher competitors with more modern, 5- and 6-speed transmissions, direct-injected and/or turbocharged engines now leave the Corolla behind." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Steering issues aside, in normal driving the Corolla proved to be an able freeway cruiser, with a fairly quiet and comfortable ride. Unfortunately, the Toyota's lack of torque and slow-responding four-speed auto made climbing even slight grades an exercise in annoyance, requiring slotting the lever into lower gears and listening to the engine toil away at higher rpms while falling further behind the traffic ahead." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

The Corolla’s steering and braking receive few positive comments from reviewers. In fact, only one reviewer says the brakes have good pedal modulation, while the rest say they’re jerky. The steering also gets a lot of complaints for feeling unnatural and numb. Around corners, testers say the Corolla’s body lean isn’t overbearing, but they do notice that, at highway speeds, the Corolla wanders.

  • "This compact aims for smooth isolation and mostly achieves it. Bump absorption is quite good, and there's little bothersome float or wallow over highway dips and swells. … As such, Corolla suffers from copious noseplow in fast corners and reacts sluggishly to rapid turns of the wheel. All have a usefully tight turning radius and excellent brake-pedal modulation. The car's electric power steering feels unnatural to some testers." -- Consumer Guide
  • “The brakes were fine, but there were moments of jerky sensitivity or more pedal travel than I would have liked." -- AutoWeek
  • "We also found our Corolla's steering to be less than ideal. While the Corolla felt light on its tires and turned in quickly, we were concerned about its tendency to wander at freeway speeds, exacerbated by light steering in general." -- Motor Trend
  • "The Corolla's body motions are relatively well-controlled when cornering, but unlike the redesigned Focus and the Mazda3, the car has no appetite for fun. Its numb steering is one of the biggest culprits; there's no feel for what's happening down at the front tires." -- Cars.com

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