2014 Toyota Corolla – Revolutionary or Evolutionary?

For 2014 Toyota is stepping up to the plate with the new eleventh generation Corolla.  It seems like that for the last decade or so, when it comes to styling, Toyota has been playing it safe.  While companies like Ford and Hyundai have released cars like the Fusion and the Veloster, Toyota has stayed with the practical and predictable.  That hasn’t changed with the new Corolla.

Interior Design

Toyota has improved the interior design of the new Corolla, but overall it is more evolutionary than revolutionary.  It’s a better design than you might expect in a base model Toyota, the problem for Toyota is other manufacturers have also improved their designs.  Little touches like the stitching on the soft-touch arm rest or the optional piano-black accents are improvements over the previous generation Corolla, but not over its competitors.

2014_Toyota_Corolla_LE_Interior_720

One area of obvious improvement is seating.   The available SofTex seats provide comfortable, leather-like seating surfaces at a lower cost to the purchaser (and to the environment) than traditional leather.  SofTex (a thermoplastic polyurethane) breathes more than vinyl or leather and reflects infrared rays better which helps it stay cooler and more comfortable than traditional leather seating surfaces.

2014_Toyota_Corolla_LE_Rear_700

Models, standard features and options

Manufacturers are offering more model variations than ever before.  Generally what they boil down to is: Good, Better, Best and Eco.  Toyota is no different.  The Corolla has four main versions:  L, LE, LE Eco and the S.  However, to keep it interesting and make comparisons with other manufacturers vehicles almost impossible, each version of the Corolla except the L has a “Plus” and a “Premium” variation that can add additional features such as alloy wheels, SofTex seats and navigation (and hundreds of dollars to the price).

The L is the entry level Corolla and starts at $16,800 (not including destination fee).  It is decently equipped with the usual standard features: air-conditioning, power mirrors, power door locks and power windows. In addition, the L has a few standard features you might not expect such as LED headlights and a Tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth® hands-free phone controls.

The LE is a step up from the L.  It starts at $18.300 and adds as standard features:  heated exterior mirrors, automatic climate control, a back-up camera, voice activated controls, and cruise control.

For four hundred dollars more than the LE you can buy the LE Eco.  As the designation might lead you to believe, the LE Eco is very similar to the LE, but adds a rear deck spoiler, 15” low-rolling resistance tires (instead of the 16” tires on the LE) and a slightly less powerful but more fuel efficient (and less polluting) engine.  The improved engine design allows the Corolla to meet the California LEV 3 standard.  In addition, the miles per gallon jump from 29 city 38 highway to 30 city and 42 highway.

The last of the Corolla models is the S.  Starting at $19,000 the S adds all the extras that turn an econmy car into an almost luxury car.  17” alloy wheels, premium vinyl seating surfaces, paddle-shifters and navigation take a 17 thousand dollar car and bump it up to around 25 grand.

Ride and Handling

The Corolla doesn’t have as much power as the Jetta nor the handling of the Civic but what it has is completely acceptable.  Toyota knows what made the Corolla the segment leader so they weren’t going to take too many chances.  It’s one thing to bring the interior of the Corolla into the 21st century; it’s another to mess with the suspension.

Safety

The NHTSA overall rating for the 2014 Corolla is 5 out of 5 stars.

The IIHS rated the 2013 Corolla as a Top Safety Pick.

Boomer Value Scale

The BVS rating is for the 2014 Toyota Corolla is 47 out of 75.  Strong points for the Corolla are safety, reliability, visibility and ergonomics.  The Corolla scores particularly high for safety and its combined city/highway mileage according to the EPA is 32.  Exterior visibility is very good and the gauges are well laid out and easy to read.  The seats are comfortable and relatively easy to get in and out of.  For more details, see the Corolla Boomer Value Scale.

The Competition

In 2010 Volkswagen released the new Jetta in an attempt to unseat the Corolla as king of inexpensive, mid-sized economy cars; so far it hasn’t worked.  This latest Corolla probably won’t improve Volkswagen’s chances.  Other mid-sized cars worth a hard look are the Honda Civic, the Ford Focus, Nissan Altima and Chevy Cruze.

Quick Comparison Table –  2014 Toyota Corolla, 2013 Volkswagen Jetta SE, 2013 Honda Civic LX.

2014 Corolla LE 2013 Jetta SE 2013 Civic LX
MSRP (inc. dest. fee) $19,110 $20,815 $19,755
MPG (city/highway) 29/38 26/36 28/39
Horsepower 132 170 – Turbo charged 140
Torque (Ft. Lbs.@ Max RPM) 128@4400 184@1500-4750 128@4300
Length (inches) 182.6 182.2 179.4
Wheelbase (inches) 106.3 104.4 105.1
Width (inches) 69.9 70.0 69.0
Height (inches) 57.3 57.2 56.5
Cargo volume (cu. ft.) 13.0 15.5 12.5
Wheels 16” alloy 16” steel 15” steel
Sound system 6.1-in. touch-screen display, AM/FM CD player, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod® AM/FM CD player, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod® AM/FM CD player, four speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port
Voice activated communication Standard N.A. N.A.
Bluetooth Standard N.A. Standard
Headlights LED Standard (halogen high beams) Halogen Halogen
Daytime running lights LED standard Standard Standard
Fog lights Standard N.A. N.A.
Air conditioning Automatic climate control Manual climate control Manual climate control
Backup camera Standard N.A. Standard
Seats Cloth – 6-way adjustable Leatherette – 6-way adjustable Cloth – 6-way adjustable
Heated Front Seats N.A. Standard N.A.
Steering wheel mounted audio/Bluetooth controls Standard N.A. Standard
Leg room (front/back) 42.3/41.4 41.2/38.1 42.0/36.2
Transmission CVT 6-speed automatic 5-speed automatic
Traction Control Standard Standard Standard
ABS Standard Standard Standard
Tire Pressure Monitor System Standard Standard Standard
Warranty  3 year; 36,000 mile 3 year; 36,000 mile  3 year; 36,000 mile
IIHS Top Safety Pick Top Safety Pick Top Safety Pick

Reliability

Previous generations of the Corolla have demonstrated outstanding reliability; I would be very surprised if the latest generation of the Corolla was any different.  My niece has been driving a 1999 Corolla through college and grad school with virtually no problems.  Seeing how she drives I can’t imagine a more thorough, yet unintentional, testament to build quality.

Conclusion

Toyota has led this market segment for years with somewhat boring but generally indestructible cars.  With this latest generation of the Corolla, Toyota has added improved styling and fuel economy to an already solid package.  I can’t help but think the new Corolla, like the old, will continue to be a best seller.