Driven: Toyota Corolla Sedan With a Stick

Toyota Corolla Sedan


Very few driving enthusiasts opt for manual transmissions these days, therefore manufacturers are pulling them from most of their remaining models. However, Toyota recently sent us a Corolla sedan with a pleasant, but welcome surprise: a 6-speed manual gearbox. It is a rarity in a segment dominated by CVTs and other automated transmissions, an almost curious twist we were happy to receive.

For the record, a manual transmission option is not new to Corolla. Indeed, when the current-generation model rolled out in 2020 (2019 for the new hatchback), a 6-speed manual gearbox accompanied select trims. For 2022, those trims are the SE and Apex, thus every other model comes with a continuously variable transmission.

Why the limited availability for manual transmissions? Because the take rate is quite small, likely 1 or 2 percent of all sales. In performance-oriented models, such as the BMW M2 Competition, nearly half of all models are equipped with one. Oddly, the Toyota Supra still does not have one, but the next-generation Toyota 86 will.

Our impressions of the Corolla shifter are decidedly middle of the road. For one, the transmission comes with downshift rev-matching control, a feature that adjusts engine revs when changing gears. We like this because it leads to smooth shifting, which imbues driver confidence. On the other hand, we found the clutch uptake average – not as smooth as we would like, contributing to the occasional shudder or unexpected stall out. But this is no high-performance model, therefore it is not unexpected. Conversely, we have driven econoboxes with manuals that were simply dreary with enough gear grinding present to encourage opting for an automatic transmission.


2022 Toyota Corolla Sedan at NC State Fair Grounds


2022 Toyota Corolla Overview


Toyota offers the 2022 Corolla in SE, XSE, Nightshade, Apex, L, LE, and XLE trims. The Corolla sedan is a compact front-wheel-drive model with room for up to five. After adding Android Auto compatibility in 2021, there are no significant changes for 2022. Prices run from $20,175 to $28,460. Add $1,010 for the destination charge.

We would be remiss if we failed to mention that the Toyota Corolla launched in 1966 and has sold more than 50 million copies since. It is one of the most recognizable model names in the world with no sign of letting up, especially in markets that prize small cars. Although the U.S. market is showing steadily declining interest in cars, Toyota added the Corolla Cross crossover to the mix, what’s certain to reinvigorate the model name.


2022 Toyota Corolla Sedan profile; at NC State Fair Grounds


Exterior and Interior

In some ways, the Corolla seems like a scaled-down Camry, the brand’s midsize sedan. Attention to detail, including a gaping maw, attractive signature lines, and body sculpting build visual interest. Today’s Corolla is a far and welcome departure from the plain sedans of the 1990s and 2000s.

Standard 15-or 16-inch steel wheels give way to 16- or 18-inch alloy wheels elsewhere. LED headlights with LED accent lights come standard as do LED tail and stoplights. Power outside mirrors and intermittent windshield wipers are standard.

Depending on the trim or options package, the Corolla adds several features, including an adaptive lighting system. Heated side mirrors, spoilers, and dual-chrome tips are available.


2022 Toyota Corolla Sedan front seats
2022 Toyota Corolla Sedan rear seats


Inside, the Corolla is spacious, at least relatively so when compared to other models in its segment. It is a stretch to call it a five-seater, although that is possible in a pinch. Soft-touch materials cover most upper surfaces, while hard plastics dominate lower areas.

Front bucket seats and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat bring up the rear. The trunk measures 13.1 cubic feet and that is slightly below average for the segment.

Standard fabric-covered seats come standard; imitation leather is available. Full power accessories, air conditioning, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering column come standard. The list of upgrades includes a power-controlled driver seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, and a power tilt-and-slide moonroof.

Safety and Technology

Toyota equips the 2022 Corolla with its Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package. This bundle includes automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist is available.

On the tech front, the Corolla comes with a standard 7-inch touchscreen display; a 6-speaker audio package; and Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Bluetooth, one USB port, and connected services come standard. Moving up through the trim range brings out an 8-inch screen and an additional USB port. Wireless smartphone charging and a 9-speaker audio system are available.


2022 Toyota Corolla Sedan dashboard
2022 Toyota Corolla Sedan engine


Corolla Engines and the Drive

Toyota supplies the 2022 Corolla with a pair of engine choices. First, all L, LE, XLE trims have a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 139 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. It works exclusively with a CVT to send power to the front wheels.

Second, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This engine works with either a 6-speed manual or continuously variable transmission. Again, power routes to the front wheels. Toyota reserves this engine for the SE, XSE, Nightshade, and Apex trims.

Our SE model with the manual gearbox supplied the shifting fun we prefer. As mentioned, the shifting does not match the smoothness of high-end models. On the other hand, you are not likely to grind gears ad nauseum.

The Corolla supplies adequate step-off acceleration. We would lean toward models equipped with the larger engine simply for the extra kick it supplies. Happily, on some trims, the fuel economy difference is not apparent. Certainly, there is a slight drop with the manual, which averages 31/32 mpg combined to the 33/34 combined for the CVT. Manuals used to supply a fuel economy edge, but modern automatic transmissions, especially CVTs, beat them.

All models come with independent MacPherson strut front suspension with a stabilizer bar. At the rear is a multi-link arrangement with a stabilizer bar. In the Apex model, Toyota supplies increased stabilizer bar spring rates and coil spring rates.

Steering is light to the touch with firm brakes and a decent ride. Power-assisted ventilated disc brakes are upfront; solid discs to the rear.


2022 Toyota Corolla Sedan at NC State Fair Grounds


Our Recommendation


The Toyota Corolla hits all the right notes for a budget compact model. Fortunately, there are options list upgrades that bring in features to make this a more desirable model. In any case, a very well-equipped model can be had for under $25,000, and that represents a reasonable price point for today’s compact sedans.


See AlsoChronicling 25 Years of the Toyota RAV4

Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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