2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco Full Test

2014 Toyota Corolla Sedan

(1.8L 4-cyl. CVT Automatic)
  • 2014 Toyota Corolla

    2014 Toyota Corolla

    The Toyota Corolla is all-new for 2014, but it's more of a small step forward than a huge leap. | October 11, 2013

23 Photos

Back to Basics

Few people proudly proclaim vanilla as their favorite ice cream flavor, yet it's the most popular by a sizable margin. We also don't know anyone who sings the virtues of the Toyota Corolla, yet it's the best-selling car of all time. Coincidence? We think not.

Like vanilla, the Corolla embodies the word "basic." Both are free of polarizing personality, artful flourishes and excitement. They're the safe choice, the one you might blurt out under the pressure to make a quick decision.

In an era where carmakers throw around buzzwords like "sporty," "cutting-edge," "transformative" and "evocative," the 2014 Toyota Corolla sticks to the core principles that make it a sales juggernaut. With descriptors like practical, affordable and dependable, the Corolla expertly taps the vein of car shoppers who simply want basic transportation.

Tried and True Still Works
During the last 40-plus years, the Toyota Corolla has evolved and adapted to changing tastes. It hasn't made a splash, forcing rivals to play catch-up, nor has it pretended to be anything but an affordable car that will faithfully execute its duties for more than 100,000 miles. This latest 11th-generation Corolla is no different.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

For 2014 the Toyota Corolla brings an all-new look, replacing the outgoing model's generic styling with a slightly less mundane makeover. From the outside, this Corolla is still far from inspiring. Our Corolla LE Eco tester, with plastic plates covering its steel wheels and vast expanses of unadorned sheet metal, is unlikely to turn even its owner's head. And from the outside, it's not a love-it or hate-it proposition. It's simply acceptable and inoffensive.

The 2014 Corolla's interior is equally average. There are no organic shapes, no waterfall center stack or split-level digital readouts. There's a traditional horizontal dashboard from door to door with vents and a cluster of familiar gauges. The dash is dressed up with a glossy black surface surrounding the 6.1-inch touchscreen (standard on LE trims and above). Even the digital clock from generations past remains, making it look dated relative to most of its competitors.

Practicality Defined
Whether the Corolla's aesthetics agree with you, living with one may present mixed results. The front seats provide good comfort and space for average-size adults. There is a lack of lumbar support, though, and taller drivers may bemoan the lack of telescoping steering wheel travel. At the same time, the dashboard's upright face may seem rather tall to shorter folk. Controls are simple and easy to operate with large buttons, and the infotainment touchscreen is quick to respond to inputs.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

With a wheelbase measuring 3.9 inches longer than before, the rear seats provide a wealth of legroom, measuring at least 5 inches more than most other sedans in this class. This allows for easy mounting of rear-facing child seats without intruding on front-seat comfort. Rear-seat passengers taller than 5 feet 8 inches might still find headroom a challenge, and filling all three seats (as in most compacts) will yield a tight fit.

Throughout the cabin, there is an abundance of hard plastics, but they don't look cheap. Usual elbow touch points offer just enough padding to head off complaints, and there's an acceptable amount of interior storage. Cargo capacity is just about average for the class, too, with 13 cubic feet of trunk space.

Under the Hood, Under the Radar
Under the 2014 Toyota Corolla's surface, it's pretty much business as usual, too. Base models get the same 132-horsepower 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through an antiquated four-speed automatic transmission. Should you choose a manual transmission there's a new six-speed to replace last year's five-speed.

Our LE Eco-trimmed test vehicle, however, receives a new Valvematic system with variable intake valve lift and timing. This increases horsepower to 140, but reduces torque from 128 to 126 pound-feet.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

The big change under the hood is the addition of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is available on all but the base L trim. With the CVT and the Valvematic engine, the Corolla's EPA-estimated fuel economy is increased to 35 mpg combined (30 city/42 highway). That's an increase of 3-4 combined mpg over the non-Eco models. In its time with us, we managed an overall average of 30.5 mpg and bested the highway estimate with 42.7 mpg in one highway-heavy driving session.

Good MPG Means Marginal Acceleration
With such favorable fuel economy numbers, we expected performance to suffer, and track testing confirmed our suspicions. Acceleration is leisurely, requiring 9.2 seconds to reach 60 mph (8.9 seconds with a 1-foot rollout as on a drag strip). Compared to the Ford Focus and new 2014 Mazda 3, which both reach the milestone in 8.3 seconds, the Corolla feels noticeably slower. Its CVT does it no favors, with slow response and typical CVT drone.

In braking tests our Corolla required 130 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is shorter than the Focus and Mazda 3 at 131 and 133 feet, respectively. The Honda Civic stops shortest of the group at 124 feet. Like the others, the Corolla was well behaved in panic stops. The brake pedal remained moderately firm, distances were consistent after several passes and the car held its line.

Take the Good With the Bad
Despite unimpressive acceleration, the Corolla acquits itself well where you'd expect: daily commuting. On surface streets the Prius-like acceleration is adequate. And though the CVT might bother an enthusiast, we doubt the Corolla loyal will notice.

The lack of engine braking in Drive means you'll be riding the brakes more than you would with a conventional transmission. Multiple transmission modes (Sport and Braking) solve this problem but will decrease fuel economy when accelerating or cruising.

Despite the slow standing-start acceleration, the Corolla overtakes dawdlers with relative ease. Though the CVT's behavior steals some confidence, you won't find yourself hung out when passing a tractor-trailer.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

At freeway speeds the twist-beam rear suspension felt busy over the concrete seams common on Southern California freeways. Rain grooves, too, made the Corolla wander more than we'd like. As a result we were busier behind the wheel than we should be. Even so, the interior remains acceptably free of wind and road noises.

With handling numbers that trail its rivals, the Corolla is truly out of its element on winding roads. Body roll is abundant and there's little feedback through the steering wheel to clue you into what the front tires are doing. The CVT, which prefers to keep revs high, doesn't respond quickly to rapid changes in throttle position. But let's be honest: The Corolla has no sporting intentions whatsoever, so these deficiencies matter little.

40 Million Owners Can't Be Wrong. Or Can They?
In all of its basic-ness, the 2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco will likely excel at being a dependable, unchallenging mode of transportation. With the base trim ringing in at only $16,800 and an as-tested price of $19,735, it's a sensible choice for those who need a long-term commitment that fits into a tight budget.

But those who expect more will do well to look at the Corolla's competition: in particular, the 2013 Honda Civic, which has its own reputation for dependability and longevity. For essentially the same price, a Civic delivers more personality, better styling and the feeling that you got a little more for your money. Mazda's sleek, new Mazda 3 is definitely worth investigating for its more engaging driving dynamics, which makes few sacrifices elsewhere. Rounding out the group is the Ford Focus, which remains one of our top picks in the segment for its all-around excellence.

Despite the fact that the 2014 Toyota Corolla looks and behaves like it's already trailing its contemporaries by a few years, we're confident it'll sell on its reputation alone. That peace of mind, as vanilla as it may be, is the ultimate attraction for pragmatic buyers. We just happen to think there's more to driving than strict sensibility.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Comments

  • 7driver 7driver Posts:

    Worst redesign since InsideLine became Edmunds Whats Hot.

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    Reviewing this car evenly would be difficult and Mark did a very respectable job of it. Because what else can you write about this car that hasn't been said of most new Toyotas of the last decade? Bulletproof and practical to a fault, with creeping hints of cheapness that were not present in the tangible quality of past Toyotas. Does nothing wrong from a utilitarian perspective, but comes off as incredibly lazy to anyone who wants personality in their car. Appreciated by most owners who use their car as a tool rather than a statement, but hated by enthusiasts, who don't make much of a contribution to new car sales anyway and are therefore rightfully ignored by Toyota. From pictures anyway, the interior looks to be a significant improvement and is no longer awash in that awful rental car grey. Acceleration is identical to the Civic, but the Mazda3 and Focus will walk away from it on the onramp and still get similar mpg. The only thing to really recommend it is a backseat large enough to legitimately postpone even negate the need for a midsize sedan. As someone with two kids in car seats, I can say this counts for a lot and prevented me from looking seriously at a Mazda 3, Focus, or Cruze regardless of their superiority in other areas. Didn't end up with a Corolla, though :)

  • isaacl isaacl Posts:

    7driver, that was funny. thank you. but seriously, even though i would never buy a corolla for myself, i can see why people do. Shoot, i bought a Pontiac Vibe in '06 just because it had Corolla internals.

  • piredon piredon Posts:

    Nothing says I hate driving and know nothing about cars quite like a Toyota Corolla. I think they should adopt a new slogan: "the Ultimate Transportation Appliance"

  • tim_boo tim_boo Posts:

    Although Corolla has never been the most exciting car sold, it has in the past offered decent power, better than average fuel economy, great fit/finish and decent ergonomics. All of this, plus low price and the promise of great dependability enabled Toyota to sell 40 million Corollas, however all the other car companies have similar cars that excel in those same areas and are more exciting to own. 40 million buyers were not wrong, but the next 40 million might be!

  • shatner shatner Posts:

    "Nothing says I hate driving and know nothing about cars quite like a Toyota Corolla. I think they should adopt a new slogan: "the Ultimate Transportation Appliance"" ============== Actually I think it says more "I actually get laid and just want a reliable car to take me places and not try to overcompensate for my sexual insecurities"!

  • lions208487 lions208487 Posts:

    @ shatner- You must own the SE model.

  • "We just happen to think there's more to driving than strict sensibility!" Really Mark Takahashi ?????!!!!! "What's Hot"s type of "sensibility" is what kills people on the road!

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    There's nothing wrong with having an appliance car. Just like there's nothing wrong with using a cell phone camera instead of an SLR; there's nothing wrong with drinking Smirnoff instead of Ketel One; there's nothing wrong with writing with a ballpoint instead of a fountain pen; there's nothing wrong with listening to music on mp3 instead of on vinyl. But for people who have acquired some level of taste, "vanilla" just doesn't cut it.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    That green looks pretty slick. I like it a little better than the Corvette lime rock green, at least in these photos.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I hear people justify purchases like this saying they just need basic transportation that gets them from A to B reliably, but they're making it a false choice. Almost every other competitor in this segment is every bit as reliable and drama-free, because that's simply the price of admission into this super competitive market segment. On top of that, they add performance, character, size, efficiency, style, and/or feature content. It isn't either/or. You don't have to sacrifice reliability for any of those other things, they come free of charge.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @shatner - you assume people only look for features in a car in order to impress others. Isn't it possible that some people look for more than mediocrity not because of what others think, but because they want to enjoy themselves? I drive a Miata - that i

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    I haven't got that much interest in the car, but I am enjoying all the pseudo-psychology about Corolla ownership in the comments page!

  • @stovt001 Disagree about the comment on reliability. Of course new cars are reliable because they are new. However as they start to age over 7 or 8 years and break down it's what separates bad cars from good cars. Sure, a lot of auto makers are making imp

  • skw0123 skw0123 Posts:

    Actually I can't get over that they didn't ace the small overlap (offset) test. It completely baffles me. This is a NEW model (supposedly) and it followed the RAV4 also flunking this test. Failure of the small overlap test means (typically) the crash dummy's head misses all the airbags and hits the dashboard, and it can very often mean structural intrusion into the driver side wheel well, potentially resulting in crushing injuries to legs and feet. Small overlap crashes account for less than 10 percent of frontal crashes, but they are responsible for a big share of accident fatalities. In 2014 a *new* model that can't pass this test is not a safe car as far as I'm concerned.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    @skw0123 The small overlap test is not a mandated DoT test, so Toyota and every other manufacturer can invite the IIHS to enjoy some sex and travel whenever the subject comes up.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @camrydriver69: I worked at a Toyota dealer in 2007, the Summer of Endless Recalls except we didn't call them recalls, they were "Warranty Enhancements". I'm not talking about the overblown stuck throttle debacle, I'm talking shot transmissions,

  • shatner shatner Posts:

    @shatner - you assume people only look for features in a car in order to impress others. Isn't it possible that some people look for more than mediocrity not because of what others think, but because they want to enjoy themselves? I drive a Miata - that i

  • My vote for "Best Compact Sedan" goes to the Cruze, but in the Corolla's defense, I think it has most or all of what matters in this segment. The vast majority of compact-car buyers don't care about the things that car-enthusiasts do, so kudos to Edmunds for regarding this car in that scope. You may scoff when you see someone driving a Corolla, but I'm sure Toyota is laughing all the way to the bank.

  • ne1butu2 ne1butu2 Posts:

    From my non-scientific observation, these are already selling well. During my 150 road trip this weekend, they're already on the roads clogging up the left lane. What is it about Corolla, Prius and Camry drivers that makes their owners enter an expressway, then immediately move into the fast lane? This is probably the least impressive redesign I've seen in quite a while.

  • ne1butu2 ne1butu2 Posts:

    From my non-scientific observation, these are already selling well. During my 150 road trip this weekend, they're already on the roads clogging up the left lane. What is it about Corolla, Prius and Camry drivers that makes their owners enter an expressway, then immediately move into the fast lane? This is probably the least impressive redesign I've seen in quite a while.

  • I think the difference in price is significant. When we bought our Corolla, we also looked at the Mazda 3, and the Civic and it was enough to make a difference. I disagree with the comment on Toyota not trying - the new one is an improvement in every single way. It's bigger, interior is better in every way, styling is a lot more modern, you have a CVT, a 6 speed manual. The engine is carry-over but I don't see anyone criticizing Honda for doing the same thing. Sure it's not best-in-class, but it's on par with a lot of it's competition, and you make it sound like it's the Jetta 2.0. This Edmunds article also falsely assumes that people buy the Corolla solely on the reputation. The Corolla is a very practical car. The fact that the new Corolla is cheaper and larger than it's competition gives it a big advantage. Not everyone cares about sporty handling - to some people a sporty ride feels harsh and uncomfortable. The new Corolla is a lot more comfortable, and drives like a bigger car than the old one. The review doesn't mention anything about this, and instead Edmunds complains about it's twist-beam rear suspension. Seems like there is some pre-conceived notions to fill.

  • nanapat2 nanapat2 Posts:

    Picked up a 2014 Corolla LE lease car in 12/2013 car only has 480 miles on it & already problems not only with car but with dealer "again" (nothing new about that with Toyota).. Went to dealer on Thursday 2/20/14 when the check engine light went on & the service manager told me he would 'call' me on Monday 2/24/14 they don't have the part (?) but to drive the car anyway Hmmm... OK sent an email to SE Toyota about both things the car & the dealer so I will do a wait & see..

  • I purchased a brand new Toyota Corolla on 3/31/14 from Cherokee Toyota of Canton, Ga. only to have in break down on 4/2/14 with 189 miles. The check engine light was on, the traction control light was on, the engine idled abnormally high and the engine skipped/cut out going down the road. This made me absolutely sick as my wife had only babied it and no gas had been added since leaving the dealer. I considered it a bad omen and asked the dealer to take the car back. They flatly refused. As for the Toyota customer care number, good luck. They told me the GM is the decision maker and there is nothing they can do. BUYER BEWARE!

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

$149 per month*
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