As there are very few vehicle models that will stay around for 55 years and even fewer that become best sellers, 2021 marks the 55th anniversary for what has certainly become a giant in the automotive world.

That is indeed the status that the Toyota Corolla has reached over the years as it has become the bestselling model in the world, even outpacing the now extinct Volkswagen Beetle back in 1997.

After such a lengthy history, it seems that everyone has some kind of Corolla story in their background. For Craig, it was back in 1982 when he went on a cross-country trek to Detroit to start the summer after his first year at Brigham Young University.

If memory serves, it was a 1976 third-generation Corolla with a four-speed manual transmission; what an experience that turned out to be over the three-day trip.

With the introduction of the 12th generation Corolla a year ago, we have one thing to say, and that is this is not the Corolla of yesteryear. The looks of this newest model have created the most grown-up and technologically advanced model yet.

In fact, we found that most folks, when more closely examining the new Corolla, had no idea what the make and model were, which is a testament to the designers’ ability to give the small sedan a new place in the market.

We would even go so far as to say it has a Lexus-like look with a larger grill, curvier lines and a wider stance, setting it up to make a huge impact on the compact sedan market.

Our test ride XSE model came with the available 2.0-liter Dynamic Force Engine that produces a very nice 169 horsepower, which provided plenty of power to get the sedan moving, even on the open road of the interstate.

The new Corolla even gets a new CVT transmission that mimics a 10-speed regular transmission. This is really nothing to note, and that is not all there is to the story.

This year, the engineers have actually included a real first gear in the CVT that gets the Corolla moving, giving it a head start over a normal CVT transmission.

We loved the way this gearbox functioned during our test drive week, and with the smaller, lighter yet more efficient engine, we got a combined 35.1 mpg for the week, after around 600 miles of all kinds of driving.

Over the weekend, we took the opportunity to drive the new model Corolla to Logan with the intention of making it up the canyon to Bear Lake.

It was a beautiful Saturday in June with temperatures in the low 90s here in Utah Valley. However, arriving in Logan it was a good 10 degrees cooler, and after a mere 5.3 miles up Logan Canyon the AllTrails app pointed us to a great hike that led us to what are known as the Wind Caves.

After parking the Toyota, we headed up the trail to what turned out to be a great way to spend the afternoon that ended at some very unique caves in the slide of a cliff. It did take longer than we expected to make the short hike as it also included a 900-foot elevation change.

It was so nice to get back to the Corolla, inside the air-conditioned comfort of the sedan with seats that were clad in a nice black softex material, which are also heated for when the weather would eventually change.

The interior of the XSE also comes with a huge 8-inch touch screen that is front high and center of the dashboard, encased in a beautiful piano-black plastic, and controls the infotainment system. There is also a 7-inch LED screen in the center of the driving cluster that displays everything from speed to radio station.

This year, for the first time, the Corolla can be equipped with a JBL sound system that has 800 watts of total power and a 10-inch subwoofer. Clari-Fi software that analyzes and restores all audio sources to their original state compensating for lost clarity from digital compression is even included.

Of course, there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are standard inclusions, along with new ambient lighting that made night time driving very enjoyable and something we would not have expected at this price point.

Our test ride even came with the optional Qi wireless charger that kept our phones at peak battery life.

The looks and new digital options would definitely seem to be enough. However, the fact that Toyota has also included their new Safety Sense 2.0 adds an even greater incentive to get a Corolla.

Safety Sense 2.0 includes a pre-collision system that automatically brakes to help avoid or mitigate a front-end collision and will also detect a pedestrian, even in low-light conditions, as well as a bicycle during daylight conditions.

Dynamic radar cruise control is also a standard feature that will follow down to speeds of 24 mph and stop when the vehicle in front stops maintaining that travel distance.

Lane departure alert with steer assist that will try to keep the Corolla in the lane if it detects the car leaving the travel lane is also included.

When both cruise and lane trace are enabled, a lane centering function will help to keep the car in the center of the lane. We found it works best on relatively straight roads and would have some problems on very tight corners.

Automatic high beam headlamps and road sign assist rounded out the package, both great options in themselves. We love it when the car will put the speed limit signs on the dashboard, as we all sometimes tend to forget or don’t notice the change of a speed limit.

The new Corolla will be turning heads across the country and is quite a bargain with many extras we would not have anticipated in an entry level sedan. It turned out to be a great ride as we enjoyed every minute we spent with the great little sedan.

Base price: $25,725

Price as driven: $29,283

Craig and Deanne Conover have been test-driving vehicles for over eight years and have had the opportunity to drive many makes and models. They receive a new car each week for a weeklong test drive and adventure. They both love having the unique opportunity of trying out new cars. They reside in Springville, Utah.

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