2014 Toyota Corolla First Drive

2014 Toyota Corolla Sedan

(1.8L 4-cyl. 6-speed Manual)
  • 2014 Toyota Corolla

    2014 Toyota Corolla

    Under the new skin beats the indomitable heart of another Toyota Corolla. | August 26, 2013

42 Photos

Better Than Before, but the Same as Always

In Jakarta, Indonesia, there are more than 24,000 cabs, and most of them are Toyotas. And most of those are Corollas. The city is always hot and, most of the year, subject to monsoons. The roads are usually somewhat passable when they're not flooded. And traffic? It's virtually unregulated. Forget America; the new 2014 Toyota Corolla is built tough enough to survive as a Jakarta "taksi" cab.

So the Corolla should do just fine in the U.S. with its paved roads, traffic lights and thick supply of buyers craving an affordable sedan that gets good mileage. That's been the Corolla's mission for going on 48 years, but occasionally Toyota still has to tweak it a bit. Of course the 11th-generation Corolla is better than the 10th. But is it enough better to take on everything from traditional competitors like the Nissan Sentra to the impressively reincarnated Ford Focus and driver-oriented Mazda 3?

2014 Toyota Corolla

The Basic Basics
While other parts of the world get various wagon, three-door, five-door and two-door versions of the Corolla, the U.S. continues with just one: a front-wheel-drive, four-door sedan. It wears all-new sheet metal on the outside and features many familiar chassis and mechanical bits on the inside.

Literally the biggest difference with this redesign is the Corolla's new lengthier size. It now rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, up 3.9 inches from 2013 and only 3 inches shorter than the wheelbase of both Toyota's own Camry sedan and Honda's Accord four-door. Overall length has grown 2.6 inches to 182.6 inches: 6.6 inches shorter than the Camry.

Despite the additional length, plus an additional half-inch of width (mostly, that seems, in the side mirrors), the proportions of the new Corolla are about the same as the old car. The cowl is relatively tall, the rump rides high and the nose is blunt. In other words, it's still very much a Corolla.

Reruns With Bonus Footage
Not much changes under the hood, as the Corolla continues to use the same 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder that's been part of the American Corolla package since 2009. At the upper end of the lineup, there's now an "LE Eco" trim level that uses an upgraded version of the same engine that develops 140 hp and delivers slightly better fuel mileage: up to an EPA rated 42 mpg on the highway. Peak torque, however, drops slightly with the Eco engine, so there's no perceptible difference in acceleration.

2014 Toyota Corolla

Transmission options vary according to trim level. Base model Corollas come standard with an archaic four-speed automatic, while anything better than that gets a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) for improved mileage. A six-speed manual is also offered on the base L and "sporty" S models.

The MacPherson strut front suspension is virtually unchanged from before, while the rear torsion-beam setup has been slightly tweaked with revised and splayed forward link mounts. The steering is, once again, an electrically assisted rack-and-pinion setup, while an antilock system squeezes down on the front disc brakes (the rear drum brakes are swapped for discs when 17-inch wheels are ordered).

Strategic Familiarity
Between the carryover engines and suspension setup, it should come as no surprise that the new Corolla drives much like the previous-generation Corolla. It's not exciting, but it's solid and comfortable, and the durability can be felt almost humming through the car's unibody structure.

The new CVT works well by the standards of CVTs. There's some drone during acceleration, but it's not particularly irritating. The fake gears in the shiftable version used in the S engage softly so you won't be fooled into believing you're driving a manual.

Ultimately, the latest Corolla drives much like every previous one, since the sedan moved over to front drive back for 1984. That means the steering is precise if numb, the suspension is comfortable though short of luxurious or coddling, and the engine tries hard but is limited in its ability to pull for very long. What's best is that it never feels as if it's straining to keep up with traffic or unable to deal with the unexpected. In place of inspiring performance, what it offers is a stalwart automotive companion: a reliability and unpretentiousness that expresses itself as character.

This isn't a racecar; it's an urban tool. The sort of car that will do 99 percent of what 90 percent of buyers need to do 90 percent of the time at a price 90 percent of them can afford.

2014 Toyota Corolla

Four Eggs, One Shell
Four different models inhabit that the Corolla's singular body style. The $17,610 base "L" model comes with standard power windows and door locks, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, Bluetooth connectivity and two USB outlets to plumb into the adequate sound system. On the skimpy side, the wheels are steel 15-inchers behind plastic covers.

The $19,110 mainstream LE grade includes things like cruise control, remote keyless entry and a back-up camera. It displays on a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen at the center of the dash that also includes Toyota's Entune connectivity system. There's an effective and simple automatic climate control system aboard and the standard steel wheels grow to 16 inches in diameter.

The sport-themed "S" model starts at $19,810 and has dressed up its front fascia with foglights, a spoiler on its tail, a nicely trimmed two-tone interior and a pair of paddle shifters that can click through simulated gears on the standard CVT. Spend extra and the 16-inch steel wheels can be swapped over for a set of Cuisinart-look 17-inch alloys.

Finally there's the fourth Corolla, a new $19,510 "LE Eco" that, when matched with the CVT and skinny 195/65R15 tires on 15-inch steel wheels pays off with an EPA-rated 42 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in the city.

The Stretch Compact
The most significant advance with this latest Corolla is the improvement in interior room and quality. The additional wheelbase, combined with a redesigned rear seat and front seats that are noticeably thinner than before, results in 5.1 inches more rear legroom according to Toyota. It's enough space so that a 6-footer can adjust the driver seat to his comfort and then get in back and find he's pretty happy back there, too. In fact, according to Toyota's own specifications, there's now 2.5 inches more legroom in the back of a Corolla than there is in the larger, more expensive Camry.

Beyond that, the new Corolla's cabin is a nice place to be. Toyota interior quality has suffered recently, but this seems to mark a return to form, with higher-quality plastics and fabrics, well-considered and straightforward design, and simple controls.

2014 Toyota Corolla

Interestingly, the S model's instrumentation orbits around two circular main gauges: a tachometer and speedometer. Meanwhile, the L and LE models use three main gauges with the central speedometer flanked by a tach to the left and a humongous fuel gauge to the right. So if you're the type of person who lives in dread of running out of gas, the new Corolla's tangerine-size fuel gauge will either calm your nerves or amplify your anxiety. Consult your therapist.

Mississippi Mud
Most of the new Corollas sold in the United States will come from Toyota's still-newish plant in Blue Springs, Mississippi, with the rest migrating down from Toyota's plant in Cambridge, Ontario. So the Corollas here aren't likely to be identical to the cabs in Jakarta. But those hard-core cab virtues are there. And that matters.

It's not sporty like a Mazda 3. And it's not surprisingly good like the Focus. It's a Corolla that will likely deliver on its promises of toughness alongside a new, higher level of comfort.

Every new Corolla has the big advantage of the reputation every previous Corolla has earned for the name. This new Corolla doesn't represent a reinvention of the brand, but another careful step along in its quiet, relentless evolution. For a lot of Jakarta taxi drivers that's going to be more than enough to keep them relying on Corollas for their livelihood. And what's comfortable, affordable and rugged enough for a Jakarta taxi driver is more than enough for a lot of Americans.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Comments

  • 7driver 7driver Posts:

    What a hunk o' junk!

  • skw0123 skw0123 Posts:

    Waiting for the small-offset front crash test to see if Toyota completely mailed this in.

  • dfelix70 dfelix70 Posts:

    This car looks like it's in a class or two below its intended competition. The Focus, Elantra, and Dart, and even the Civic looks worlds better than this. Granted, its' a huge improvement over the previous, tired jellybean, but, it looks like something Dodge would have designed 10 years ago.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    I think we need a poll. Should this is car be called the Maytag because of its appliance like objectives and likely reliability, or should it be called the Temazepan because just reading about it induces a coma? Answers from those still awake to... ZZZZZ.

  • fortstring fortstring Posts:

    hmm, i think the design is a bit better than the last one. it's scion-esque. the 80's like interior is pretty nice, actually. if only toyota would shoehorn in a more potent engine though.

  • banhugh banhugh Posts:

    How's the 4-speed automatic transmission of the 2014 model Corolla working?

  • zoomzoomn zoomzoomn Posts:

    It's usually sad how much gets lost in translation in the transition from pre-production show car to production model and this car is no exception. Not nearly as stunning as the Furia concept. Actually looks too much like any recent Kia, or Hyundai...and that's not a compliment! :( http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/2014-toyota-corolla-set-for-unveiling-before-2013-los-angeles-auto-show.html

  • hlisle hlisle Posts:

    Yawn....

  • darda71 darda71 Posts:

    This is new? I thought the new corolla was suppose to be sporty and better looking? Doesnt look sporty, looks like typical Toyota basic transportation. Why by Toyota when there is so much better looking cars out there.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    It's like instead of reviewing the actual car, he's reviewing Toyota's reputation for reliability. We know all that - either talk more about this newest rev of the car, or write a shorter review.

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    Would've liked more information on the performance of the car itself (engine, NVH, transmission behavior, road noise, front seat comfort, driving position, etc.). I know it's popular to reflexively bash Toyotas like a bunch of zombies, but there is one feature on this car (and the current Civic) that would make me consider it over its more interesting competitors like the Cruze, Focus, or Mazda3: backseat room. For many buyers, compact sedans are tools for moving people around, not sports cars, so a tiny backseat kills a primary reason for buying one in the first place.

  • seppoboy seppoboy Posts:

    Oh no, they are keeping the "Corolla S", I was hoping they would drop that model! I hate getting alongside a Corolla S in traffic, there's no way I can keep up with a sports car like that.

  • fortstring fortstring Posts:

    @emajor: Yup, exactly, this review has too few important details, it seems mostly a large summary of what we already know. This dearth of information that matters to car enthusiasts and buyers makes the Corolla vulnerable to the usual detractions. Wish th

  • I don't like the front end on the S model. The regular front end looks better. Why does the front end on the S Model need to be differentiated? Is this really important on this type of car? I am also curious to know about driving position and driving dynamics. I am just over 6 feet tall and found the driver seat leg room in previous Corollas to be limited. When I drove these as rental cars, I practically sat with my legs "splayed" around the steering wheel (Is this how Shaq feels?). Also, the steering feel was somewhat numb. Hopefully the Corolla has improved in these areas.

  • rmhpmi rmhpmi Posts:

    Toyota will sell a gazillion of these. Like they have for the last 50 years. I would confidently recommend one to my mom, or my aunt. Give ME a Mazda3 however.

  • lions208487 lions208487 Posts:

    As boring as the new lunch box is, Toyota will sell a ton of these. I think the only car that is as pointless as this in the segment is the new Sentra. Civic, Focus, Mazda 3, Elantra, and Dart all all better options.

  • rh67_ rh67_ Posts:

    Always amazes me how car makers think a tachometer is more important than an engine coolant temperature gauge in a basic commuter car like this Corolla. My 2002 Corolla doesn't have a tach, but it still gives me all the info I need. Also, the HVAC controls have been degraded from the simple 3-knob system in the previous Corolla. Now the driver has to look away from the road to adjust fan speed & direction, and that's dangerous.

  • jeffinoh jeffinoh Posts:

    Its nice. Its modern. Its suited to its mission, and its built in USA. That's how Toyota manages to sell so many cars all over the world. If ya want sporty, they have that in plenty of other cars. Edmunds just drives so many free Corvettes etc they forgot what regular cars are like. Driven Car Reviews does a much better real world review of cars. Corolla Not Sporty. Big news.

  • unionbuster unionbuster Posts:

    Tired, uninspiring, ancient, lackluster. Also high-quality, backed by a respected nameplate, assembled by real (non-union!) American workers, and not a goddamned Daewoo. Toyota will continue laughing all the way to the bank.

  • bmwzimmer bmwzimmer Posts:

    Interior looks pretty decent plus it has 2.5" more legroom than a Camry. Exterior is already dated....

  • wdrauch wdrauch Posts:

    There's plenty of sheep out there that will buy whatever Corolla Toyota produces. I know they're reliable and have excellent resale value, but so does the Civic, which, at least, looks decent and drives well.

  • frank908 frank908 Posts:

    @dfelix70 You're giving too much credit to Dodge. The Dart looks like it could have been designed 20 years ago too and the interior looks like it was cloned from a 1993 Eagle Vision. Let's not get started on the 1970s stigma-inducing name of Dart.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    So it might not pull in any converts but it looks like today's Corolla driver will trade for another one. Same formula that Camry has thrived on. The rear legroom improvement gained with the longer wheelbase is the only thing that caught my eye. I guess I've been a fan of the Civic over the Corolla (owned only one before graduating to larger cars and larger family).

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I'm really baffled by this car. Toyota had a car that was nice enough when new, but had grown antiquated and had no outstanding traits at a time when the compact class was exploding in competitiveness and quality. All Toyota had to do was bring the basic philosophy into the present with modern components, and since they didn't have to fix anything major, invest a bit in some kind of fun. Instead, they kept all the antiquated hardware, slapped some Civic-esque styling on it (possibly as a clever nod to the philosophy they used on this redesign) and called it a day. It will still sell like mad here in the US because American buyers have rubbish taste in cars, when they can be bothered to buy a car instead of a truck that is.

  • dfelix70 dfelix70 Posts:

    @frank908, LOL, fair enough. Yes, the Dart exterior and interior has that "I-really-wanna-grow-up-to-be-a-rental-car" look about it. Either way, it's still more interesting than this new Corolla and it actually looks like it belongs in this cl

  • Why mess with success? I agree the car is not the best it could be, but at the same time it's not a bad car and Toyota has the luxury of not having to re-invent itself to win back market share. To a lot of people fuel economy, reliability, safety, and low cost of ownership are the most important factors when choosing a car. I wouldn't call them "sheep" or say they have a "rubbish" taste in cars and look down on them because they chose that over aggressive styling or performance. You could argue that people who gravitate towards sports are luxury cars are "sheep" because they are interested in the more superficial aspects of cars instead of practical. You guys should be praising the Corolla for making yourself feel good about your "superior" taste in cars.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @camrydriver69: But the new Corolla's fuel economy is only middle-of-the-pack at best, Toyota reliability doesn't have the unblemished track record it once had while the reliability of the competition has caught up, and it is too soon to say what cost of

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    Sorry I meant compete with the Corolla, not Focus. Focus would be an example of a competing car.

  • This is the sexiest car Toyota has made in a long time.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Been reading some other comments around the Web. Jalopnik reamed Toyota for calling a stretched model with the same interior "new". I also have issues with the growth of the Corolla. The point of a small car is that it is SMALL. This thing likely crosses the threshold for EPA mid-size. Being able to put a 6ft passenger behind a 6ft driver is handy, but it tells me that the car is no longer small. Small cars are supposed to be small to have less weight, less drag and better fuel economy. If one of these new Corollas gets anywhere near its EPA estimates I'll be very surprised.

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2014 Toyota Corolla in VA is:

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