2014 Toyota Corolla (Photo courtesy of Toyota)
When a company sets out to reinvent the best-selling vehicle of all time – over 40 million sold worldwide to date – it has to work very carefully, especially when it comes to the design.
If the new product is too conservative there’s a risk that an innovative design from another manufacturer will capture the eye of the buyers. If they push the envelope too far and come with a controversial design, the manufactuer might alienate shoppers.
The Corolla, which is now entering its 11th generation, is sold in 154 of the 194 countries worldwide, and it is manufactured in 16 locations.
The 2014 Toyota Corolla is an impressive new car with significant changes, which designers call “iconic dynamism” as derived from the Toyota Furia Concept shown at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in January.
Toyota also did extensive consumer studies to help determine what new car shoppers were looking for.
While the 2014 Corolla design is fresh, I think they have should pushed the envelope a little farther, with a little revolution thrown in for good measure.
Corolla’s new look is more muscular, with more dimension. The new design is also longer, lower and wider, with shorter overhangs, which results in more space inside, especially in the rear seats where there is 3 more inches of legroom.
The part that the owner sees most, the interior, is very nicely done with a much more upscale look that is reflected in quality materials and well-organized layout. This isn’t an interior with lots of bling. Rather, it’s like a nicely tailored suit – well designed and organized with just the right amount of style and good fit and finish.
For an optional seat material, I’m a big fan of the optional SofTex material that was first introduced at Lexus, the premium Toyota brand. It is like super soft leather, but it wears better and reflects infrared rays, leaving the seats cooler in the summer. Overall, I think the interior is the best feature of the new Corolla.
Corolla comes in four trim levels L, LE, LE Eco and S with prices of $17,610, $19,110, $19,510 and $19,810, respectively, including the $810 destination charge.
All the models, except for the L are available in plus and premium upgrades, which add special wheels, SofTex upholstery and other model specific upgrades.
The only other options are a moonroof and driver convenience package that includes the smart key dystem, and entune premium audio with navigations.
The LE Eco is powered by an efficient 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with Valvematic technology, improved aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tires.
The other three models have a new 132-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with intelligent variable valve timing.
The S model has a different front end treatment than the other models. The grille area of most models is trapezoidal-shaped, while the one on the S model is a reverse, or upside down, trapezoid shape. The S grille also has a gloss honey comb mesh and chrome molding.
The four models utilize different transmission configurations.
The L has a six-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic.
The LE, S and LE Eco have the new CVTi-S continuously variable transmission, and the S is also available with the manual.
The CVT is the most efficient, producing the best fuel economy. I’m still not crazy about the unstructured feel of CVT transmissions, except with the S version that simulates a seven-speed transmission and allows the driver to shift manually using the shifter or wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The S also has a different instrument cluster that reflects the sporty nature of the car.
Fuel economy ratings vary from 27 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on the highway, with 31 mpg combined for the LE automatic, and top out at 30/42/35 mpg for the LE Eco.
All four models offer a high level of standard features, including a first for a compact car, LED lowbeam headlights and LED daytime running lights.
All models also have eight airbags, air conditioning, power windows, Bluetooth with audio streaming connectivity, tilt and telescoping steering wheel as part of the extensive standard feature list.
On a drive into the Cascade mountain foothills, I was impressed with the handling and the quiet cabin. Sound engineers did an excellent job keeping unwanted sounds out of the cabin.
The car has adequate power for average drivers, but I think more aggressive drivers will be disappointed.
The 2014 Corolla is a car that provides solid, dependable and economical transportation and an excellent value.
The Corolla is a welcome addition to the brand and should help Toyota maintain its top sales position.
Still, I wonder what would have happened had they pushed the design boundaries a little harder.