You know the old saying 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'? Well the '14 Toyota Corolla isn't a radical departure from the outgoing model, nor does it bring any new, groundbreaking innovations to the table. Instead, it builds on an already well-established foundation that buyers seem to really want and enjoy.
Toyota sold almost 300,000 Corollas in 2012, so there's no arguing the success of this model. At the press launch of the '14 Corolla, many journalists ranted that the new car drove and behaved too much like the previous generation, but you can't blame Toyota for not wanting to mess with a winning recipe. Instead, the company has improved and refined the newest-gen Corolla without forgetting why it's become so popular. We as enthusiasts may not be overjoyed with the overall package, but we are far and few when it comes to car shoppers. The mass market prioritizes a safe, reliable, and affordable car far above exciting to drive.
That's not to say the new Corolla is mundane. The most radical improvement over the last generation is the styling. Traditional and safe design is gone. Instead, bold and dominant exterior styling cues give the Corolla some much needed edge and wow factor, especially in S trim, which features a large, gloss-black grille and foglights that give off a sporty look and athletic appeal. Even the buff-looking LED headlights (a standard feature by the way) make you question if this is a Corolla and not a more upscale vehicle. This is where Toyota success lies with the new Corolla—it's taken a large step forward in design. No one will call a Corolla conservative and bland anymore.
Slip behind the wheel and, despite a rather spartan and open-concept interior cabin, it looks good and above all is functional. The radio, HVAC, and other amenities are well placed and easy to operate. The S model has a thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped steering wheel and sporty gauges, while the seats are comfortable and look the part of being sporty but are far from it in real-world conditions.
In the infotainment department, the Corolla can be equipped with the Entune suite of apps and Bluetooth connectivity. Its 6.1-inch touch-screen display is easy to use and intuitive, making this an option that shouldn't be passed up.
On the road, the Corolla, well, drives like a Corolla. There's nothing really special to report about it. Even in the S trim, acceleration is modest whether equipped with the all-new CVT or 6-speed manual transmission. Kudos should be given to Toyota for the new CVT. It simulates shifts like a conventional transmission much better than most CVTs on the market, and while I'd usually stay far away from this type of transmission, it's ideal for the city commuter.
There are two engine options in the '14 Corolla line. The L, LE, and S trims get a 1.8L engine that produces 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. This is where it gets a bit confusing, as the Eco model gets a newly designed 1.8L that outputs 140 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. You would think the S trim should have the more powerful engine, but according to Toyota, the new Valvematic system found on the Eco model's engine utilizes valve lift and timing technology to maximize fuel economy. And as a bonus, it also increases horsepower by a small amount.
It really doesn't matter, though, because most Corolla owners aren't going to fret over 8 hp, nor will they care how the car handles or performs at the limit—so there's really no need to talk about that. What should be mentioned is that the Eco comes in around 30/42 mpg (city/highway), while the other models hover around the 29/37-mpg marker.
The '14 Corolla is also safe, with eight airbags standard. It offers great reliability and is easy to drive. Oh, did I mention it also seats four comfortably? That formula has proven to be a success story for Toyota. And with its newest generation Corolla, it's still on the right track and without a doubt will continue to be Toyota's bread-and-butter seller.
Specs & Details
'14 Toyota Corolla
Engine: 18L naturally aspirated inline 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 132 hp (140 hp Eco model)
Torque: 128 (126 Eco model)
Transmission: 6-speed manual, CVT automatic
Price: $18,600 base, $19,810 S trim