Good, given they’re front-wheel drive, though no better than the run of compact-car rivals. Like almost every car in the class, the 2017 Toyota Corolla sedan and Corolla iM hatchback have front-wheel drive. That puts the engine’s mass over the tires that also provide propulsion. The weight helps the tires resist slipping on wet or snowy surfaces.
Wheel and tire size and tread type also play a role in how a vehicle handles in the snow. Generally speaking, smaller wheels use narrower tires that can negotiate standing snow more capably than larger sets. Some Corolla sedan models are available with wheels as small as 15-inches in diameter. Most buyers, though, will likely select a model with the available 16- or 17-inch wheels, and these will handle just fine in the snow, better than some compact cars that offer 18s. One possible exception is the fuel-mizer LE Eco. It’s available with 15- or 16-inch wheels, but they wear ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires. These tire types have a harder rubber compound meant to reduce rolling friction and typically have less snow traction that the all-season tires on every other Corolla model.
The Corolla iM hatchback comes factory equipped with 17-inch wheels and all-season tires, which should be fine in the snow. Larger wheels are available as dealer-installed accessories, and they would come on lower-profile tires wide enough to ride over snow rather than cut through it. Traction would suffer. If you must have them, consider alternating with a set of dedicated winter tires when the white stuff begins to fly.
Winter tires, in fact, are a terrific advantage in the snow. Not only is their tread designed for maximum snow grip, it’s engineered to remain flexible and grippy, even in freezing temperatures.
All the above applies to every front-wheel-drive compact car, which means every car in the class, save a few interesting exceptions. Primary among these is the Subaru Impreza, the only car line in the segment with all-wheel drive standard on every model. All wheel drive (AWD) applies power to all four tires, doubling the sources of propulsion and distributing it for maximum traction on both dry and wet surfaces. Imprezas are truly impressive in the snow.
Two other cars in this class have AWD, though in these applications, it’s principal duty is to maximize dry-road handling. We’re talking about the high-performance 350-horsepower Ford Focus RS and the 292-horse Volkswagen Golf R. Both are available with “summer” tires intended for ultimate dry-road handling grip, but you could turn them into adept winter rides by order all-season tires or, even better, a set of winter treads.