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No EV or hybrid can match the 2015 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

In terms of practicality, size, and cost of ownership, the very-green Toyota Corolla LE Eco is unrivaled.

This week I am testing a Toyota Corolla LE Eco. From my point of view, this is the most affordable green family car in America right now, and it can do things that no EV can. Even better, it delivers mileage very close to that of hybrid cars, at a much more affordable price for a car its size. After 201 miles of mixed highway and suburban driving my current mileage according to my own calculations is 43.5 MPG on regular unleaded. The EPA says that this car gets 42 MPG highway, and 35 MPG combined. I’ve never tested any liquid-fueled car this high in MPG, including the wonderful Mazda3, which does come close.

Read More: Toyota's 3 most surprising green car achievements of 2013 and Prius isn't included
Practicality Beyond Electric
I’m about to make my second trip in two weeks to New York State for work. The one-way trip will cover about 240 miles. There is no EV on the market that can do that trip without stopping for over an hour. My route does not cross paths with either of the two Tesla Superchargers in the Northeast located north of the New York City suburbs. Were I to take a car like the Nissan Leaf, I would have to charge at least twice, and add at least 90 minutes (more like 4 hours) even if there were charging stations located along my route. Frankly, with the ride being over 3.5 hours, it would not be practical to add any more time. I’d have to stay overnight.

More Frugal Than Hybrids
My test car has an MSRP of $19,500. It is a very comfortable, very nice to drive 5-passenger car in which I can sit behind my six-foot self comfortably. Name a hybrid even close to this car’s price that meets these qualifications. I can’t think of one. The Prius can match or top the fuel economy, but costs a lot more. Cars like the Volt can beat the fuel economy using electricity and gasoline in combination and could also make the trip without a fuel stop but at almost twice the price. Even after government kick-backs the Volt costs about 35% more than this Corolla and it is smaller.

See More: Why is the Corolla only a Top Safety Pick?

Corolla Green Credentials
The Toyota Corolla LE Eco emits less than 260 grams of CO2 per mile. By my estimation, including EVs and all forms of hybrids, there are maybe a dozen vehicles this size for sale in the US that emit so little CO2. None even come close to matching the price point of the Corolla. The closest matches I can think of would be the Nissan Sentra and Mazda3 in their most frugal and fuel efficient versions. Neither can top the Corolla LE Eco.

No Compromises With Corolla
Surprisingly, the Corolla LE Eco is a great car to drive. Around town it has enough power and torque to make the car feel “normal.” The ride comfort is excellent and on the highway one needs to watch their speed or tickets will ensue. The LE Eco version of the Corolla is not only the most fuel efficient of the Corolla family, it also is the most powerful. This is not some imaginary trim level that you will never see on the road. Toyota sells thousands of these per month.

Looking at the equipment it has I noticed three things right away that my prior test car, a smaller, German sedan test car lacked. The Corolla has automatic climate control, a back-up camera and a spare tire (compact). My $36K German sedan didn’t have this equipment, didn’t handle as well as this car, was less comfortable over rough roads, and was much smaller in size.

Corolla Cost of Ownership and Cost Per Mile
By my math, the Corolla LE Eco has so far delivered a fuel cost of under 8 cents per mile with regular unleaded now at $3.381 according to AAA’s daily national average. In case you are wondering, diesel costs $0.40 more. Combine this amazing cost per mile for fuel with Corolla’s low purchase price, and the two years of free maintenance all Toyotas come with, and it pretty hard to find any EV or hybrid this size that can match it for cost of ownership. I can’t find any.

When it comes time to sell your green car there is no car better than the Toyota Corolla except the pricey Lexus CT 200h. The Corolla retains 56.8% of its value after three years. How do the Volt and Leaf do? NADA says the volt retains 41.6% and Leaf 38.2% of its value. If I am missing a green car that is the size of the Corolla inside, at near to its price point or cost of ownership please point it out to me in the comments below.


Weapon (not verified)    September 16, 2014 - 8:56PM

Sure, I'll take your challenge.

"I’m about to make my second trip in two weeks to New York State for work. The one-way trip will cover about 240 miles. There is no EV on the market that can do that trip without stopping for over an hour."

A Tesla Model S 85kwh can if you have a charger neat/at work. It is within range. A PHEV can too.

"My test car has an MSRP of $19,500. It is a very comfortable, very nice to drive 5-passenger car in which I can sit behind my six-foot self comfortably. Name a hybrid even close to this car’s price that meets these qualifications"

Honda Insight can probably match that.

John Goreham    September 16, 2014 - 9:19PM

In reply to by Weapon (not verified)

Thanks Weapon. Setting aside the Model S 85 is roughly 5 times the cost of the Corolla, not so sure the Model S would make it. Most '85 owners report 220 to 240 miles to be the extreme limit of the car's range. That may have changed, I haven't followed the car's improvements closely. Check out this guy's stuff. Honda killed the Insight. No model year 2015. Don't feel bad, nobody else noticed either. I honestly didn't know until you mentioned it and I looked to see what the heck it had become. :)

mike w (not verified)    September 18, 2014 - 8:11PM

In reply to by John Goreham

For the article you referenced the author surveyed the owners and requested their "Non-range charge" range. this means the battery at least in the S85 is only charged to 85% which would give the S85 at 100% charge a range of something close to 270 miles.
Otherwise you are correct as far as economy goes the Toyota will be very hard to beat.

Michael (not verified)    September 20, 2014 - 4:47PM

In reply to by John Goreham

Ahh, actually, the Prius C blows your results out of the water...sorry to burst your bubble. We regularly get between 49 and 53 MPG and we bought it brand new for $19, 200. So, WHY would I buy the Corolla for the same price when the Prius C has significantly better mileage and hatchback usefulness? My 2 cents!

John Goreham    September 23, 2014 - 6:39AM

In reply to by Michael (not verified)

Good one! I like hatchbacks too. The Corolla is about $500 less expensive than the Prius C when equally equipped, but the passenger area is larger inside by a substantial margin. That said, the Prius C is indeed a very economical car. It is Japan's number one selling vehicle (under a different name). The mileage is amazing.

Lee (not verified)    September 23, 2014 - 8:53AM

In reply to by John Goreham

Yeah, my price was a no hassle internet price at my local dealer. One must have for me was a Backup Camera, which looking at the Toyota website, the Prius C doesn't have in any trim. Deal breaker! How does anyone by a car this day in age without the convienance of a backup camera is beyond me, especially if you have small kids running around. Also I have yet to sit in one, but I highly doubt the Prius C has the amount of interior space the Corolla has. Heck the regular Prius Liftback is probably about the same size, if not less room for passengers. Not to mention the $3,500 battery replacement cost at every 100,000+ miles to keep your fuel mpg or deduction when trying to resell the Prius.

So basically you are saying a smaller car, with less features, which costs about the same but most likely $2000+ more than the corolla le eco, and has a higher maintainance cost is superior? No thanks, i'll keep my Corolla.

Howie (not verified)    September 23, 2014 - 10:15AM

In reply to by Michael (not verified)

I agree on MPG. Hybrids are unbeatable in city, and generally great on highway. If MPG is the priority : go Prius C or insight. But if the equation also have to include comfort, equipment and space for 5, at an equivalent price I still thik Corolla Eco would appeal more to "Jo Public" (and the same goes with the other gas only car that may beat the Corolla : 3 cyl. Mirage or Fiesta) while being as fuel efficient on highway and, of course, less in city.

Howie (not verified)    September 16, 2014 - 10:00PM

Toyota should push this car more. It is composed, smooth without being soft, quiet (road noise being only OK though) and well equipped in Eco Base version (back up camera, steering wheel and voice control, bluetooth, USB, auto-climate, heated seats (Canada). Upgraded versions offer alloys, moonroof and navigation if you care for them but price wise they aren't as interesting. This one offer a lot more than any competition at around 20,000 $. And that fuel economy... 50+ mpg on highway at stable speed. 40 average (50/50). More than EPA ratings. Not many cars achieve that ! If they would add hybrid for city mpg, it would be right at the top !

Lee (not verified)    September 18, 2014 - 1:35PM

In reply to by Howie (not verified)

"noise being only OK". Depends on what kind of car you are coming from...If Lexus or other luxury cars then it is "just ok", but coming from civics and Imprezas, the corolla is superior in NVH.

Howie (not verified)    September 20, 2014 - 9:14AM

In reply to by Lee (not verified)

Thats road noise. Mechanical and wind noises are top notches, therefore maybe it drives more of my attention to road noise ? It is globally very good nonetheless. In fact, comfort level reminds me a lot of previous gens Camry (which is a good thing).

Howie (not verified)    September 17, 2014 - 9:29AM

Weapon - Honda Insight would be a great alternative to compare (and an underestimated one - they don't even sell it anymore in Canada). Don't know about driving dynamics and real world MPG. My Eco Base delivers smooth ride and better than EPA rating. If the Insight does so, you'd save a bit on highway and a lot in city (thaht's why an Eco hybrid would be nice !).
But at an equivalent price, Joe Public would probably consider less equipment in Insight (cruise control, center console, usb-bluetooth, B-U cam, LED headlights etc) and far less rear space for those 3 passengers.

John Goreham    September 19, 2014 - 10:47AM

Update: My trip was 2 parts. Part one was 262 miles in a straight shot to Monticello Motor Club. My mileage was 43.1 MPG due to favorable traffic. There was a 2- position charger there, but it was in use by the BMW and other test vehicles at the event. Still , I likely could have charged if I asked for a favor, but there were many attendees from the NYC metro area who might also have needed to charge (I did not see any EVs in the parking lot). The return trip took me first to a hotel (no charging that I could see), where I got the last parking place in a giant lot. Then to a friends house. She lives on the third floor of a condo. No charging available. Then home. 382 miles, 41.5 MPG due to at least 2 hours of basically stopped traffic (road construction). My total drive time was over 7 hours, with no time to spare. I am very impressed with this car given its under-$20K price point. At the end of my ride home I refueled where I normally do near home and paid $3.33. So 8 cents per mile on the dot.

Bill (not verified)    September 23, 2014 - 2:15AM

I babied my 2012 crv awe over 20km including a short stint of about 2km city drive and achieved a 5.0l/100km indicated. Don't think it would have done that on the return trip as the traffic wasn't favorable. Point is the car is rated at 6.7. So anyone can beat the posted numbers given the right conditions and intent. When is the last time you drove the civic w cvt?

Bill (not verified)    September 27, 2014 - 2:12AM

In reply to by John Goreham

I submitted a follow up post of the Toyota website fuel economy and the honda civic cvt. it hasn't shown. My point was the comparison you posted from 2013 should be compared to the 2013 corolla to be fair. Otherwise bring in a new civic cvt and go head to head.

Howie (not verified)    September 29, 2014 - 5:30PM

In reply to by Bill (not verified)

EPA has Corolla LE Eco Base at 35 (30/42), Civic HF also at 35 (31/41) and regular Civic at 33 (30/39). Don't know about real life mpg for Civic or Civic HF (nor Insight) but my Corolla LE Eco beat the EPA rating (at 39 average over 11,000 miles). Of course, results will vary. In terms of space, the Corolla is classified as midsize (!) and Civic as a compact. Civic HF cost close to $1,000 more than Corolla LE Eco and lack LED headlights, automatic climate control, voice control, 6 speakers, heated mirrors and rear seat split back.

Hackwriter (not verified)    February 6, 2015 - 7:47PM

I've had my 2015 Corolla LE Plus Eco for two weeks. Where is this ballyhooed gas mileage? I got 28mpg in my first tank of gas, and 29.4 in my second. I drive mixed highway/city, but my highway miles often involve braking for crazy NJ drivers who refuse to yield, who weave, tailgate, and speed. The slightest pressure on the gas pedal and the mpg indicator goes down to between 9 and 11. Do I have a lemon?

John Goreham    February 6, 2015 - 9:08PM

In reply to by Hackwriter (not verified)

Cars do improve after a bit of a break in, but I think you have two things reducing your mileage right now. The first is you are using winter-blended gas (we all are). That is not the best for fuel economy. My testing result above was done in September. The driving on the highway you describe is definitely part of the issue. Braking hurts mileage of course (because you then have to accelerate back up to speed). The EPA highway cycle is not talking about rush hour traffic on the highway, but rather mostly steady-state travel. You are getting the Corolla's "city" mileage rating. One thing I would check, but this would not cause the lower mileage by itself, is the AC button. You shouldn't need it, be sure it is off. One last tip is to use the cruise control as much as practical. I do, and it is part of how I get the mileage I do. I bet come spring you will be up into the mid-30s minimum and touching 40 on long highway trips rather than commutes.. Let us know. Good luck.

Lee (not verified)    February 7, 2015 - 10:19AM

In reply to by Hackwriter (not verified)

The winter blend doesnt help for sure, but im curious what kind of mpg you got on your previous vehicle, whether u were able to hit that cars mpg rating? More likely it may be a case of the heavy footed driver. My car, if driven all city, would be get about 28-30. Currently on my 90% hwy commute im hitting 40mpg avg on this tank.

Howie (not verified)    February 6, 2015 - 9:28PM

You provided your own answer : you description of your highway driving is the perfect recipe to kill MPG...
Coast instead of breaking, drive at reasonnable speed, maintaining it as stable as possible. When accelerating, it is normal for the MPG to drop.

Kris (not verified)    May 22, 2015 - 12:26PM

I test drove a 2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco at a dealership and the car had 4000 miles on it. Test drive was okay. At the end, noticed the car had average MPG as 29.1. I asked the sales guy why the average MPG is much lesser than advertised. He said it is a fairly new car, MPG will improve after a bit break in. I was not sure how long the break in period will be since the car had 4000 miles already. I decided not to purchase the vehicle