2016 Toyota Corolla SE – Winter Drive Review

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Call me old fashioned, but when wintry weather arrives, I like a big heavy truck or car, wide rubber tires and a large engine. I know, ice is ice, but still I just feel better driving in those conditions. Yet, this time, I had the light, 18.L four-cylinder 2016 Toyota Corolla SE with special tires in my driveway. All my talk about needing the heavier vehicle was mostly proven wrong. The Corolla SE did pretty well and even carried my family of 5 around town.

2016 Toyota Corolla SE - Winter Drive Review

Right after they dropped off the Toyota Corolla SE a snowstorm hit and wintry weather lingered.

When thinking about writing this review, I initially considered writing a standard one about the car, changes, powertrain, fuel economy, etc… Yet, I really didn’t think about these things much during my week of driving it. Instead, right after they dropped it off, the temperature plummeted, snow fell and the winds kicked up. For the past 6 days, the weather has been anything fall like actually. Temps have never gotten above 30 degrees and roads have consistently had icy spots. These conditions really made me question the Corolla SE with its skinny tires, front-wheel drive, small engine and continuously variable transmission. This configuration is more a “looks” package to me with the blacked out wheels and special accent interior trim lines. And it certainly gave me pause before I drove it.

2016 Toyota Corolla SE - Winter Drive Review

This is what the special edition Corolla looks like all cleaned up.

While I strongly considered driving something else, I also was really curious how the car would really perform in the wintry conditions. I mean, if I were to buy this vehicle or if I were a parent buying this vehicle for my child, winter driving ability would be high up on my priority list. Frankly, I also wanted to know how my bias thoughts against skinny, “looks” P215/45R17 tires would do in the challenging conditions.

2016 Toyota Corolla SE - Winter Drive Review

The tires look pretty good and I was really curious on how they would perform.

During the week of driving it, I really drove it. I mean from trips to family gatherings to a long highway trip, I put more miles on this press loan than I typically do. Not really aiming to do so, just the result of a holiday week of travel. How did it do? It did pretty well. While, I am a big V8 kind of guy, the smaller engine held its own into the wind and facing piles of snow. Now, it didn’t excel in those conditions – to be fair, the list of vehicle that would is fairly short – yet I didn’t have to manually shift or really work the powertrain to get where I needed to go.

On ice and snow-packed roads, the Corolla only engaged the anti-lock brakes a handful of times and slipped very rarely. While I wasn’t pushing like I would in other vehicles, I drove cautiously and it handled the elements.

2016 Toyota Corolla SE - Winter Drive Review

After a week of carrying around my family, my interior looks a lot dirtier. Here is how it looks from the factory.

Another area it surprised me was in the seating. Officially, Toyota says the Corolla will hold 5 people. However, it is a compact vehicle and I have concerns with such vehicles and my family of 5. In our family, we have one car seat, one teenager and one kindergartner. On numerous occasions, I drove with either another person, several people and even once with the entire family. Much to my surprise, the Corolla held everyone and we were all cozy. Not at a lot of space left over to be sure, but enough.

The only real issues I had with the Corolla was how it handled the road. I found the road bumps to be quite harsh, steering to be a little sluggish and throttle response to be slow. Yet, I was carrying quite a bit of passenger weight and mostly driving in challenging conditions.

While I had some issues, other items really surprised me like the fuel economy. On my long highway drive, up and over Cheyenne, I averaged 34 MPG. This is pretty good considering the Corolla is rated at 29/37/32 city/highway/combined MPG and my driving was combined with some around town miles thrown in. Plus, and probably the best part, I filled it up from empty to full for $20. Yep, only $20. This was really nice.

2016 Toyota Corolla SE - Winter Drive Review

I really do think the wheels change the look of this vehicle.

In the end, this special edition Corolla has the bells and whistles to attract a younger buyer. While the look created with the gloss-black wheels, red accents, paddle shifters and other SE trim pieces aren’t appealing to me so much, I can see where Toyota is going with this. This car would definitely be appealing for someone looking for an economical car with more flare especially considering it retails for only $23,520 and returns 37 MPG highway. A lot of bang for the buck really.

Model: 2016 Toyota Corolla SE

Engine: 1.8L Four-Cylinder

Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

Fuel Economy: 29/37/32 city/highway/combined


  • Entune Premium Audio – $1,200
  • Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof with Sliding Sunshade – $850

Price: $23,520 with $835 delivery processing and handling fee



Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com


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  1. GoBig says:

    I just rented a Corolla on a recent trip. There was only two of us, so we didn’t have much of a load. Oddly enough the rental companies call the Corolla a mid sized car.

    I found it comfortable on the highway once I got used to sitting so low to the ground. (I have a truck at home)

    The payoff is at the pump. The car got around 34mpg, and that’s something I’m not used to.

  2. Breathing borla says:

    Funny how a corolla has push button start, back light gauges, projector headlights, and the 50K tundra doesn’t.

    I read about these features constantly on Tundratalk, people really want these in the platinum and 1794 top trim levels. It fine if they are missing from the work truck trims

    • GoBig says:

      Good Point. The Tacoma also comes with features that are a little more upscale than the Tundra. I guess Toyota thinks they have the demographics figured out.

    • SpringDrive says:

      I get the desire for the other features, but why push-button start? It’s just a money-making racket dressed up as novel technology. The negatives far outweigh the benefit of not having to insert and turn a key…

      • GoBig says:

        I’ve never owned a vehicle with a push button start, but the last three rental vehicles I drove had one.

        I found it weird at first, but once I got used to the concept, it was kind of handy. You never have to fumble with the keys, or even remove the fob from your pocket. There was no poking around for the key hole either. Just hit the illuminated button.

        Of course these rentals were also my first experience with back up cameras and I didn’t care for those at all.

        I’m curious what you see as the benefit of inserting and turning a key? I can see a down side to push button would be losing that expensive fob.

      • Tim Esterdahl says:


        No, no its not. 🙂 You want to see the problems with a key, just search for the GM ignition switch fiasco.


  3. Randy says:

    Corollas’ are just like Roaches.

    Once the world is obliterated by nuclear war; only the Corolla’s and Roaches will be left to freely roam the world.

    AFAIK, it is the best “value” in 4 wheel transportation ever made.

  4. Gerry says:

    Not sure about last statement but 2006 corolla I own goes thru Buffalo snow with ease

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