2014 Toyota Corolla brings new look to same old reliability

The 2014 Toyota Corolla is no luxury car;

The 2014 Toyota Corolla is no luxury car; it's just a simple economy compact, with some upscale touches. (Credit: Toyota / Scripps Howard News Service)

Now in its 11th generation since it motored into the United States in 1968, the Toyota Corolla qualifies as legendary.

More than 40 million versions of the Corolla have been sold worldwide over the years. Stories abound of its durability, with examples running reliably for hundreds of thousands of miles.

The 2014 model, built in the U.S., is a latecomer after the company delayed its introduction. But many customers are likely to say it was worth the wait.


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Obviously, the Corolla is no luxury car. Nor is it a sports sedan, or even a midmarket family car. It is a simple economy compact, though with some upscale touches, priced to provide basic transportation for many people who likely cannot afford anything more expensive.

But it also is a car that is good enough for anybody. It can carry a sultan or a steamfitter in reasonable comfort with middling performance and decent fuel economy. Pope Francis likely would love it, along with competitors like the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Jetta.

The Corolla runs second behind the Honda Civic in compact sales. But the new one should narrow the gap.

It is all-new, with six versions sold only as four-door sedans. All carry 1.8-liter engines with automatic transmissions or six-speed manual gearboxes. Base prices range from $17,610 for the L to $20,910 for the LE Eco.

The base L is decently equipped, although it lacks cruise control, a rear-view camera and remote keyless locking, which are standard on the other models. The $17,610 price, including destination, is for the six-speed manual. Add $600 for the four-speed automatic.

All Corollas are equipped with steel wheels with wheel covers. Alloy wheels are available as an option. Rear drum brakes are standard on the L and LE models. If you want four-wheel disc brakes, you must step up to the S Plus model.

Five versions use the same power plant: a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four cylinder. The sixth, called the LE Eco, has the same engine but with computerized valve control that boosts the horsepower to 140 and the fuel economy to 30/40/34 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. Other versions range from the manual's 28/37/31 to 29/38/32 with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

They all accelerate to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds except for the base L model with a conventional four-speed automatic transmission, which takes 10.8 seconds, according to the manufacturer's specifications.

With the six-speed manual fitted to the L and S models, the acceleration time is 9.3 seconds. Manual models have a smooth shift linkage and light clutch action for entertaining driving and maximum driver control. With 132 horsepower to move about 3,000 pounds with a driver, downshifting is required when the engine runs out of breath uphill.

Other versions come with the CVT, which uses belts and pulleys to vary the engine's rpms smoothly without shift points. The CVT-equipped Corollas take 9.9 seconds to reach 60 mph. The Eco does it in 9.8. The CVT delivers sprightly response so the Corolla feels quicker than it actually is.

On the sporty S model, the CVT has a Sport mode that mimics a seven-speed automatic transmission, with shifting controlled by paddles mounted on the steering column. The S also features distinctive styling, with an inverted shiny piano-black grille, which makes it the best-looking of the bunch. Other Corollas have grilles that are painted flat black.

The Eco's interior has comfortable cloth front seats with good side bolstering and a soft-touch vinyl covering on the top of the dash accented by piano-black accents. In the backseat, two people who are six-feet-plus tall can sit in comfort. Surprisingly, the center-rear position -- usually a punishing perch in cars of every size -- has almost reasonable comfort thanks to a nearly flat floor and soft-enough seat cushions.

The trunk, at 13 cubic feet, is about par for compact sedans. However, the trunk hinges are unprotected and could damage luggage or other items. Another negative: the sun visors inside do not slide on their support rods to block sunlight from the side. You can order a navigation system with Toyota's Entune connectivity and apps package.

On the road, the six-speed Sport model and the LE Eco cruise quietly with no apparent wind noise and little road or mechanical sounds. The steering is competent with good straight-line tracking, and the ride is pleasant except on very harsh surfaces.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco Premium four-door sedan.

Engine: 1.8-liter Valvematic four-cylinder, 140 horsepower.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.

EPA passenger/trunk volume: 97/13 cubic feet.

Weight: 2,855 pounds.

EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/40/34 mpg.

Base price, including destination charge: $20,910.

Price as tested: $23,495. 

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