The United States was introduced to the Toyota Corolla all the way back in 1968 when Woodstock was still just a quaint farm and long before most Americans took any Japanese automakers seriously as purveyors of quality automotive engineering. This is probably the same fate that will face the first Chinese-made cars that hit the U.S., if and when that ever happens.
Just realize however, that the little Corolla that everyone laughed at way back then went on to sell over 34 million units worldwide with that number growing each and every month. Although the Chevy Cruze enjoyed a five month reign as the best-selling compact car in 2011, that crown was recently snatched back from the bow-tie division by Toyota’s own Corolla. Both the Corolla and the 2012 Honda Civic enjoyed resurgent sales after Toyota experienced months of issues getting parts from earthquake/tsunami-torn Japan to its North American assembly plants.
Yes, from the outside it may not look like the most exciting vehicle that ever graced your driveway but the 2012 Toyota Corolla S we tested was easily one of the biggest surprises we had all year. No, it wasn’t the snazzy new tail light design that got us seeing why this efficient compact family sedan is so appealing to so many buyers. Simply put, the 2012 Toyota Corolla S looks sportier than your average LE model your aunt would buy. It also offered us the most precious gift to any auto journalist—a slick and light 5-speed manual transmission that made accessing what little power there is a very pleasant experience.