2022 Toyota Corolla XSE

Fun is the rigidity of the Corolla’s structure.
Fun is the rigidity of the Corolla’s structure.

by | December 27, 2021


“It’s transitory.” A refrain we hear all too often, trumpeted by the Bank of Canada and echoed in our heads whenever we have to pay $14 for a handful of chicken breasts. Yep, I’m talking about inflation. While we don’t yet know exactly how the consumer price index will be impacted over the next few years, we know for sure that prices aren’t coming down any time soon. Take new vehicle transaction prices, for example, like if you were to buy this 2022 Toyota Corolla XSE.

Thanks to advancements in vehicle technology, long-term loans and loan sharking – I mean subprime financing – over the past decade, they’ve ballooned like Violet Beauregarde to the point where a fully-loaded 2022 Corolla XSE is knocking on the door of thirty grand. So then, assuming you want an economical car with all the latest gadgets and gizmos, is it really worth it? Let’s find out.

For quite a while, Toyota’s compact Corolla has been a safe-bet pick bought on value and perceived reliability. What it hasn’t been is a car bought on style. A bit like tomato soup. However, that changed for the current generation car. With sleek, aerodynamic sheetmetal, sharp character lines and modern slim lighting, it looks bang up to date. Beyond the bones of the design, the model range is largely split into two sets of appearances.

The L, LE, XLE and Hybrid models adopt a more demure appearance while the SE and XSE models amp up the sportiness. Yes, the grilles are larger, the wheels are multi-toned and the rear bumper gains a massive faux diffuser, but the modest twin-tip exhaust is a single moment of sincerity that makes up for the extra visual bravado. If there’s one objective knock about the Corolla’s exterior, it’s that the LED headlamps aren’t particularly brilliant.

Stepping inside, it’s obvious that the Corolla prioritizes ease-of-use and practicality. Rear seat room is quite good with a very low centre hump while the front seats are quite adjustable. The driver sits low to the ground and has plenty of room, although those who prefer more upright driving positions may find the headrests to be intrusive. While the SofTex vinyl upholstery that is indeed quite soft, though the real highlight is the ribbed cloth seat inserts, a textile that would look phenomenal as a swath across the dashboard.

Instead, the face of the dashboard is dressed in fairly run-of-the-mill unpadded vinyl. Not a bad material but it lacks pizzazz at the XSE’s more expensive price point. Don’t worry, the minimalist centre stack aesthetic more than makes up for it with tightly-clustered controls for climate and infotainment that are incredibly easy to operate on the move.

As this is the top-tier XSE trim, Toyota has bequeathed it with a certain level of upscale accoutrements. Heated seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, wireless charging and a sunroof are all on tap. However, there seem to be a few things missing. While wireless charging is awesome, it’s a bit limited with no wireless CarPlay on offer. A bit of a shame considering the native infotainment displayed on an 8-inch touchscreen feels more than a bit last-generation.

Also missing? Dual-zone climate control. No, I don’t know why either. Come to think of it, shouldn’t leather upholstery also be featured on the top trim? The hide of a beast seems more environmentally-friendly than plastic and is a hallmark of high-trim vehicles.

Power for this XSE trim comes from a 169-horsepower twin-cam four-cylinder engine that Toyota claims is one of the most thermally-efficient engines on the market. Boasting a 13:1 compression ratio and both port and direct fuel injection, it’ll happily rev all the way up to 6,750 RPM. In the real world, it returned 7.5 L/100km in primarily city driving, a tick better than the government’s city rating of 7.7L/100km. Combined and highway ratings clock in at 7.0L/100km and 6.1L/100km respectively.

While other trims are available with a six-speed manual gearbox that’s likely my preferred choice, all XSE models come equipped with a continuously variable transmission. Thankfully, Toyota has given the Corolla’s CVT a physical first gear which means it doesn’t feel like winding up a rubber band when accelerating off the lights. In fact, the whole powertrain is as perky as a hamster, imbuing the XSE with a sense of fun.

Also fun is the rigidity of the Corolla’s structure. We’ve waxed on about how its TNGA architecture is on par with the best in the class, but it’s only in absolute context where it can really shine. See, the previous Corolla was based on the New MC platform, an architecture that dates back to 2005. It was for all intents and purposes, as floppy as a spaniel’s ears. TNGA? It’s about as stiff as a mountain. This means that the suspension can actually do its job, providing good roadholding and great ride quality.

However, great ride quality doesn’t necessary equate to great comfort. There is a considerable amount of wind noise present at highway speeds, most noticeably from the door apertures. Blend it with heaps of tire noise from the factory-fitted Dunlops and you have a car that grows a bit tiring on longer trips. Speaking of those Dunlops, they skitter about like a Jack Russell Terrier in the rain, scrambling for grip and permitting on-demand understeer at the twitch of the throttle.

It really is a shame that the tires are so lousy in the damp because the Corolla is so good in the dry. While the steering is so lacking in feel that it qualifies as emotionally unavailable, it’s properly well-weighted and quick. The overall chassis balance is more neutral than you’d expect for a mainstream compact car with a willingness to rotate under trail braking that eludes its competitors. It’s really easy to hold the Corolla at the edge of its grip envelope and hold it there until the earth ceases to rotate.

To conclude, the 2022 Toyota Corolla has great bones, is great in its entry-level trims and is still great in mid-range trims. Loaded up, though? It’s a tough sell. A Mazda 3 GT starts at the same $29,050 and offers a genuinely luxurious experience. If it’s sheer toys you want, a Volkswagen Jetta Highline is $28,995 and offers such gadgets as ventilated seats and 10-colour ambient lighting. Truthfully, the SE trim with the upgrade package doesn’t give up much over the XSE yet is $2,380 cheaper. Now that’s a good price for a really good car.

See Also:

2021 Toyota Corolla L 6MT

First Drive: 2022 Honda Civic Touring

2021 Mazda3 Sport GT

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Thomas Hundal

A passionate car enthusiast through and through, Thomas started an internship with DoubleClutch.ca Magazine while pursuing journalism at Niagara College. He can rattle off little-known facts about some of the most obscure vehicles on the road and enjoys putting his thoughts into words.