The 2012 Corolla not only looks, but feels, like a car that people choose to drive out of necessity and practicality. In general, the Corolla is softly sprung and lacking a handling and ride sophistication that many rivals now have. The electric power steering is dull and overly light, and that combined with the suspension makes the Corolla feel out of sorts on a curvy road. Compared to most other models in this class (like the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, or Honda Civic), the Corolla feels slightly down on power, especially at highway speeds, even if its 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine looks up to snuff on spec sheets. Part of the problem is the four-speed automatic, which has gears that feel too widely spaced; the five-speed manual is pleasant to use, though. And while powertrain refinement used to be a Corolla strength, say a decade ago, the current model sounds coarse when pushed, considering today’s standards of small-car refinement.
The biggest update for 2012 happens under the hood, where BMW has done away with the naturally-aspirated in-line six-cylinder engine of the previous Z4 sDrive30i and replaced it with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the new Z4 sDrive28i. The Z4 sDrive35i retains its 300-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six, and the Z4 sDrive35is packs 335 horsepower from a twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder. Despite the downsizing, the new turbocharged four-cylinder provides nearly as much horsepower (240 hp) and a bit more torque than its predecessor. Paired with the six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed automatic is available) it’s a fun, smooth-driving car with a nice little turbo kick in the mid-range. The sDrive35i comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission as well, with an option upgrade to a seven-speed dual-clutch unit, which marries the connected driving experience of the manual with the comfort and ease of an automatic. The dual-clutch is standard on the sDrive35is.