I had one as a rental last year for a weekend trip. For the most part I agree with you, it's an appliance car, nothing special about it but nothing horrible either, I generally liked it. It was pretty quiet and behaved well around town, on the highway and returned 37MPG over the time I had it. I found it to be more quiet and I liked the interior better than a Mazda 3 I had as a rental prior to the Corolla. I'd say the interior of the Mazda 3 was overall nicer, but I found it boring to look at compared to the Corolla. I did like the power delivery of the Mazda 3 better, although it was raspier and louder or not as smooth in a way.
Would I be excited to own the Corolla, probably not . Will it serve you as reliable transportation for many years to come, I'm sure it will!
I do have to say that I have driven Nissan and Subaru CVT equipped vehicles, the Corolla was my favorite by far. I believe it has a traditional first gear then switches to the CVT, a hybrid trans of sorts.
My only real complaint about the Corolla during the 800 miles I had it was the seats. The seats are short, hard and flat. They absolutely murdered my lower back and probably the only real reason I 'd hesitate to own one long term. My girlfriends RAV4 seats are pretty bad too, I think it's just a newer Toyota thing. I had a 06 Sienna and the seats in that were great.
IMO they are nice little cars and I don't think you can go wrong with a Toyota, congrats to her.