Auto Review: New Corolla offers economy with style

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Dec. 26, 2013
- Contributed Photo

There was a time when the quest for an affordable, fuel-efficient sedan meant you had to sacrifice certain creature comforts. These days, however, even the most entry-level models can be had with generous accessory manifests to go along with the high efficiency and low price of admission. This does not always come with a charismatic personality, though, so to grab the attention of potential buyers, you need to offer something the other guys don’t.

The Toyota Corolla has enjoyed a reputation of dependability and practicality while not exactly catching the world on fire in terms of styling. For 2014, this trusty compact has received a dramatic overhaul that not only increases fuel economy, but also adds a generous assortment of features wrapped in styling that is much more dynamic and contemporary. It does all this with a price that is still very appealing, especially for first-time buyers.

The 2014 Front-Drive Corolla is an all-new design, and comes in a dizzying array of models and versions including L, LE, S, and LE Eco (and each has several sub-variants). We tested an S Premium version, and this is the Sport Corolla in more than name only. It’s powered by a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter Inline Four, and there are three transmission choices including a six-speed manual or two automatics: a four-speed or a very impressive Continuously Variable unit (CVT-iS with “i” for Intelligent and “S” for Shift) that features a seven-speed manual mode. We got to try out this innovative new gearbox, which is reasonably quiet for a CVT and works well. The manual mode employs paddle shifters on the steering column and makes it easy to use the engine’s relatively modest power to the fullest. The S has a Sports mode that Toyota describes as “not a track focused mode, but rather a transmission setting that, along with unique electric power steering programming, helps create a sportier driving sensation during normal road and freeway driving.” The Corolla benefits from a new, stiffer body structure and the S gets unique coil, damper and bushing tuning to further enhance handling. Suffice it to say, the car responds well and is great fun to drive, yet still manages to deliver exemplary fuel economy.

Along with the very crisp, angular new exterior styling, the interior is revamped and is successful at giving the car new life. There’s a lot of hard plastic, but overall the choice of materials is sound, and the driver’s instrument cluster is very modern, with a center stack touch screen to access various functions (including Toyota’s Entune infotainment system). The seats on our tester were trimmed in Softex material that is leather-like and seems durable, and the front buckets are heated. Rear seat room is very good for two adults, with a flat floor and very good headroom for a compact.

The 2014 Toyota Corolla S is EPA rated 29 MPG city/37 highway and has a base price of $20,400. With options, our sticker came to $23,570.

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