Toyota Corolla — A good value with a stick shift

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(March 6, 2022) We are amazed that Toyota continues to offer a manual transmission in its 2022 Corolla. Based on the average age of a Corolla buyer we figure so few would opt for a shift-for-yourself transmission — and even know how to operate one — that it would be hard for Toyota to make an economic case for it. It's no secret that manual transmissions are a dying breed, and most automakers refuse to even build them anymore.

The manual transmission take rate in the Corolla sedan is probably around one percent (based on 2019 sales), but a six-speed manual can still be purchased with the 2022 model if you opt for the slightly sportier SE trim level. And that's exactly the package we drove for a week. We can report, especially for someone just learning the art of shifting, that it's easy to drive with a forgiving clutch and buttery shifts.

We commend Toyota for offering the manual as an alternative to the standard vanilla continuously variable transmission (CVT) even if only in one trim level — and even with its minuscule take rate.

There are other variations to tempt the buyer on a budget — a hatchback and a hybrid. And introduced for the 2022 model year is a small crossover called the Corolla Cross. The Cross is mechanically related to the Corolla and fits into Toyota's SUV lineup between the smaller C-HR and the larger RAV4.

The sedan comes in five trim levels — L, LE, XLE, SE and XSE — starting at $21,100. For 2022, Toyota also offers the SE Nightshade Edition for an additional $750 that brings blackout exterior trim and unique 18-inch wheels.  Also to temp buyers there is a new Apex Edition that can be purchased in SE and XLE trim for in the neighborhood of $2,500. The Apex gets more handling traits with upgraded suspension components, a lower ride height, optional summer performance tires, and black and bronze exterior trim.

Our SE test car had a base price of $23,550 including destination charge. The manual transmission is priced at $700 raising the bottom line to $24,250.

The Corolla, which continues mostly unchanged from the 2021 model, has an exterior design that imparts stylish curves and creases including a front end that effectively uses the Toyota/Lexus big mouth grille. The slim LED headlamps wrap into the front fenders in an artful design, and in back a bar ties the taillights together, wrapping into the fenders.

The standard engine found in most Corollas is a carryover from the last generation — a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with 139 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. We wish Toyota had upgraded that engine with more muscle, but for those people who desire a little more urgency and the ability to merge and pass without drama, an optional 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque is available in the top trim levels. A hybrid version brings a combined 121 horsepower. All powertrains with the exception of the small number of manuals are mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission that drives the front wheels.

All SE and XSE models are blessed with the bigger 2.0-liter engine. We recommend purchasing the bigger engine, which is a big improvement over the 1.8-liter. The 2.0-liter provides adequate performance with 0-to-60 in the mid-seven-second range.

One of the Corolla's strong suits is gas mileage. The larger engine is EPA rated at 31 mpg city, 40 highway and 34 combined. The 1.8-liter engine is a bit less fuel efficient at 30/38/33.

The 2022 hybrid Corolla is propelled by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gas engine and two electric motor-generators with a combined output of 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque, EPA-rated at 53 mpg city, 52 highway, and 52 combined. It should not disappoint even the most lead-footed driver. When we drove it last year we achieved 49 mpg, which we consider outstanding based on our aggressive driving habits.

The Corolla interior has an open feel with an instrument panel lowered to increase outward visibility. The streamlined dashboard contains a considerable amount of soft-touch materials. The gauges and displays are dominated by either a 7-inch or 8-inch information touchscreen in the center that rises above the dashboard. Proper audio and tuning knobs are part of the new setup.

Toyota has made a lot of safety available across the lineup including forward collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios), lane departure warning (alerts you if the vehicle begins to drift out of its lane) and adaptive cruise control (maintains a driver-set distance between the Corolla and the car in front).

Unfortunately, you will have to move up to the top XLE and XSE trims to get blindspot monitoring. We think that feature is very important and should be standard on all vehicles regardless of price.

Our impression is that theCorolla continues to provide a big measure of reliability and value for the driving dollar. For that reason it should remain a strong seller in the mainstream market in whatever format you choose.

2022 Toyota Corolla


Base price: $21,100; as driven: $24,250
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 169 @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 151 foot-pounds @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 182.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,110 pounds
Turning circle: 35.6 feet
Luggage capacity: 13.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 31 city, 40 highway, 34 combined
0-60: 7.5 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mazda3

The Good
• Quality interior materials
• Excellent gas mileage
• Standard adaptive cruise control

The Bad
• Blindspot monitoring should be standard across lineup

The Ugly
• Small base engine