Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla – Knifing through the wind better than ever

Redesigns of a company’s bread and butter sellers can be a tenuous task. Toyota rested on their laurels for a long time with the previous Corolla and offered only a half-hearted mid cycle refresh, which added USB connectivity and new exterior lighting. The 2014 Corolla really is an all new effort and does drive, whine, or look like its half-baked predecessor.

Click here for more news on the Toyota Corolla.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco Specifications:

  • Style: Four-door sedan.
  • Seating Capacity: 5.
  • Base Price: $16,800.
  • Price As Tested: $18,700.
  • Engine: 1.8L I-4 with Valvematic – 140bhp at 6,100 rpm and 126 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (Toyota CVTi-S).
  • 0 to 60 mph: 9.4 seconds.
  • Top Speed: 110 mph.
  • Curb Weight: 2,855 lbs.
  • Fuel economy: 30/42 mpg (EPA) 30 (observed)  city
  • Options: None.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

Exterior

Is that fake carbon fiber surrounding the license plate? Yes. How do we feel about it? Less than excellent, but other than that, this car is styled to be sold. At a distance, this car doesn’t shout or even whisper “Corolla.”Are the standard wheels still made out of steel with unnecessary plastic wheel covers? Yes.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

Interior

This is where it becomes interesting.  This car doesn’t pretend to be large inside. The windscreen is not too far away from your face and the dashboard treatment is an upmarket affair. In the Camry, this styling looks unimaginative, but in the Corolla, it looks refined and contemporary. Do the outlets in front of the shift gate look like an afterthought? Perhaps.

Driving

The good news is that the Eco trim level gets a modest bump in power from the standard engine of a few horsepower; the bad news is that it isn’t something one can feel. There’s a CVT that manages your ratios and there is no manual override to speak of; while there is a Sport mode and a B mode for engine braking, it exhibits all of the whining and disengagement you’d expect from a CVT; it’s also the car’s party piece. With a hybrid-challenging 42 mpg on the highway, this car is cheap to run, but is a decent place to sit; the ride is well tuned for highway cruising and doesn’t break your back over expansion joints. Rough surfaces are audible, but Toyota really has the rebound dampening dialed in correctly for high speeds. It gets better: this car weighs 2,855 lbs and drives as such. Is the steering too light? Yes. Is the torque steer tamed? Absolutely. It’s no Ford Focus, but it’s more interesting to push around corners than a Chevy Cruze.

 

2014 Toyota Corolla LE EcoErgonomics

There are certainly many buttons on the steering wheel, and they mostly make sense; the infotainment system on this car announces the sender of all text messages you receive and their phone number and the multi section center stack, if you can call it that, seems just a bit too multi sectioned, but we’re really just looking for faults at this point. Flappy paddles are an option to adjust the CVT, but they are really an academic response to keep up with the joneses; in the absence of a dual clutch automated manual, go for the manual transmission if you live in a suburban area. While we’re on the topic, Toyota still offers a traditional four-speed with a torque converter. This measure seems like another academic response, or perhaps a board-room response to knock some money off the base price of an automatic model, though fleets may sincerely enjoy this low-cost option.

Leather seating surfaces are an option as are heated seats, full smartphone connectivity, keyless go, and a variety of colors and wheels; many of these upmarket options may tempt buyers cross shopping more expensive cars with more standard equipment, but there is one blisteringly obnoxious feature, which makes you fee like a peasant every time you get near it: the trunklid can only be operated remotely. Sure, there may be a dash of modern technology with the rear view camera located out back, but this lack of easy cargo egress left us scratching our heads.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

Conclusion

This is a very solid car for the money and will likely tempt more folks away from more expensive offerings. The drivetrain has become more refined, more powerful and more economical, and the list of optional (though not standard) equipment has gone through the roof since the last generation. Though I have not driven the latest refresh of the VW Jetta, now that this car shows a hint of personality, offers great efficiency and is backed up by a longstanding reputation for build quality and reliability, the Corolla is a more serious option for those of us who enjoy cars, and not just appliances  that serve as transportation.

– By: Sawyer Sutton