When it comes to buying a solid car at an affordable price, you can’t beat a Toyota Corolla. A few good reasons involve its reliability, gas mileage, and improvements the automaker has made over the years because the Corolla has been in production for so long.
And according to Consumer Reports, the 2017 and 2018 models are two of the best used small cars you can buy today for less than $20,000. So, what makes the Toyota Corolla so special?
Why should you buy a 2017 or 2018 Toyota Corolla?
Both the 2017 and the 2018 Toyota Corolla earned similar scores from Consumer Reports. One of the few differences between the two model years is the sale price. The 2017 model retails for about $16,275 to $18,550. On the other hand, the 2018 version averages around $18,300 but can go as high as $21,000.
But the fuel economy is the same for both models. They get an EPA-estimated 32 mpg overall. Both model years also offer a smooth-shifting continuously variable transmission in all trims except the SE. That sporty model has a six-speed manual. And all have a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine.
As for the interior, the 2017-18 Toyota Corolla rides well and handles great. Cargo space isn’t anything to write home about, but the trunk offers enough storage for at least three large suitcases.
Both model years are also Top Safety Pick+ winners with a long list of advanced safety features. They include automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and forward-collision warning.
Consumer Reports recommends these other Toyota models besides the Corolla
Consumer Reports recommends a couple of different Prius models in addition to the 2017 and 2018 Toyota Corolla. One is the standard Toyota Prius from either the 2016 or 2017 model year. CR also lists the 2018 Prius C, 2017 Prius Prime, and 2016 to 2017 Prius V.
Expect to pay around $17,375 for a used Prius from those model years. They get about 52 mpg overall in fuel economy. And like many other Toyota models, the Prius also boasts high reliability ratings. It doesn’t perform as well in acceleration tests as the Corolla, but it can reach 0 to 60 mph in about 10.3 seconds.
Ride and handling are pretty good, but the Prius received some low marks for seat comfort in the front and back. Trunk capacity isn’t as good as the Corolla, mainly thanks to the Prius’ slanted rear window design cutting into some storage space. And cheaper-looking interior features, such as the shifter, mar the cabin’s quality.
So, overall, the Toyota Corolla remains a better deal for under $20,000
Other excellent small cars for less than $20,000
Even cheaper than the Toyota Corolla is the Honda Fit. You can find a 2017 model for about $15,650 to $18,650. It gets a good 35 mpg overall in fuel economy but an impressive 42 mpg on the highway. Consumer Reports also rates it highly for its strong-performing transmission and awards it a perfect 5 out of 5 for reliability.
Purchasing a 2017 Mazda3 will get you a pretty good vehicle, too. The price falls between $15,975 and $19,150. Its reliability scores are also a perfect 5 out of 5. Acceleration isn’t too bad for a small sedan, either. During 0-60 testing, CR clocked it at 8.3 seconds. But the Mazda3’s biggest perk is its gas mileage. Expect 23 mpg in the city and an impressive 45 mpg on the highway in this zippy compact.
Then there’s the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle. It’s the most expensive used small car on the list, but it still comes in under $20,000. Though some models can cost as much as $24,000, you can still find a few for about $17,175. Reliability is the Bug’s best asset, with a perfect score from CR. However, its fuel economy is a bit lower than others on the list. It can still get 36 mpg on the highway, but it rates for only 27 mpg overall.
But overall, if you want a good, reliable small vehicle at an excellent price, the Toyota Corolla is the way to go. Consumer Reports likes the 2021 Corolla, too, but if you’re looking for one under $20,000, the 2017 or 2018 model will fit the bill.