After months of weighing up the pros and cons of several cars, we settled on the Corolla SX sedan. We've had it for almost 9 months now and are very content with it.
In the end, it just made sense in comparison to the competition. My partner and I both loved the Mazda 3, but couldn't get past the cramped rear seat and higher servicing costs. Also, a failed transmission in our old 2008 Mazda 3 Maxx was still fresh in our minds (to be fair, it has travelled 170,000 in 5 years.. but still.) We ended up with a grey sedan with tinted windows - it actually looks quite nice (Please, have mercy on me in the comments section!)
The Corolla, looked average inside and out in pictures, but polished up much better in person. The interior is colossal. Both my partner and I felt like we were sitting miles away from each other compared to the old Mazda. On the road, it was eerily silent and smooth. Admittedly, not as fun as the Mazda (I can't get used the electronic steering), but it makes up for it in ride quality and quietness.
The boot is huge. I managed to small adult sized bike in with the front wheel off, which is good for a 'small' sedan. The rear seat is very roomy - with friends mentioning they can't believe how big it is for a Corolla. Headroom isn't superb though, as the roofline chops into it a little bit, but it's still better than the new Mazda.
Interior quality is typical Toyota - nothing special, but robust enough to last a good million years. On that note though, the glove box has jammed on multiple occasions and wouldn't close once. Apart from that, the soft touch plastics and design are okay. The silver trimmings around the gear lever and along the air vents should be outright banned - they are shocking for reflecting light directly into your eyes during certain times of the day. You've been warned.
The instrumentation is clear and legible, and the trip computer is reasonably comprehensive. I can't, however, get the apps to work on the infotainment screen. I've installed the Toyota Link app on my iPhone, but it doesn't help the car do anything. Help me, anybody? Another small bugbear - no lumbar adjustment for driver or passenger - apart from that, the seats are broad and very comfortable.
Driving the Corolla isn't an amazing experience. It's competent and comfortable. The steering is quick to react to inputs, and the accelerator is smooth. I've actually come to like the CVT. It's surprisingly intuitive and smooth, especially with cruise control on. It's also excellent in peak hour traffic crawling along the Monash! The 1.8 litre engine won't set your heart racing, but it gets the job done reasonably well. The engine isn't as smooth in comparison to my partner's 2007 Subaru Outback, nor is it as charismatic. But I'm sure it'll last a lifetime, just like the Subaru.
I'm no lead foot; so far my average fuel consumption rating is sitting at 6.2l/100km. I'm very happy with this! I'm getting around 700km from a 55 litre tank, and that's only with the fuel light coming on. I'm sure it'll stretch to 800km if I ignored it.
A recent trip to Geelong and back saw highway consumption average at 5.4 with 2 adults and luggage on board.
Small quirks that I like: When you approach the car, the interior lights turn on (thanks keyless start!), power folding mirrors a nice touch, as is parking sensors front+rear plus a reversing camera. The boot also semi-opens itself when released, which is handy when your hands are full. Full-beam headlights are strong, and the stereo is actually pretty decent. Cheap servicing is also nice!
Future improvements? Perhaps a less blocky dashboard and lumbar adjustment in at the driver’s seat.
Overall: A lot of car for the money. Not the most exciting thing to drive, but it's competent and very easy to live with. CVT transmission is a true highlight of the drivetrain.