When Toyota took the wraps off of the 2014 Corolla some time ago there should have been a collective gasp. Were our eyes playing tricks on us or were we seeing something, well, stylish and youngish? Yes, we did and do see such. The boxy, yet dependable Corolla has been transformed into something that fits into this century. It’s stylish (at least for a Corolla) and drives far better than any recent Corolla.
The exterior of shape of the Corolla is now more slippery with a grill reminiscent of the current Avalon, sans chrome, replaced by a black matte finish. Few may find it odd, but it is at least forward looking. The interior is far more roomy, especially the back seat. Three adults can fit comfortably, but this is not Camry roomy. The dash has been reworked with an upscale look. There is plastic but with a combination of soft and shiny surfaces. It’s black but not drab. Crisp lines and a center stack that houses the audio and climate controls make this an excellent redo.
The engine is a 1.8-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder hooked to a continuously variable transmission. It makes 140 horsepower with 126 pounds-feet of torque. That’s not enough to make your blood boil with excitement but your real appreciation for this engine comes from being able to pass many gas stations. The tank size is an OK 13.2 gallons but you can get an average of 35 miles per gallon. Yep. City milage is 30 with highway coming in at 42. That’s without a hybrid engine. If this isn’t best in class its got to be close.
The engine works well, but as with all CVTs, this car is tuned more for sipping fuel. That’s not to say Toyota hasn’t worked on the chassis. Front and rear sway bars, traction and stability controls and a good set of brakes raise this car several ticks above basic transportation. The ride is very comfortable but the car doesn’t bounce around like it’s at sea. The Corolla may lack some of the spice of other cars in it’s class but the refinement and build quality may be the best. Despite some recall problems, Toyota still makes a fine car.
My test vehicle was a standard equipped LE Eco model. With no options, the car can be had for $19,510. That gives you air, power package, heated mirrors, cruise control, ABS, traction control, stability control, auto down driver’s window, LED low-beam headlamps, rear headrests and keyless entry. Not a bad haul for less than 20 grand The Corolla has placed itself back on the list of cars to be recommended. You can push the price into the mid 20s with touch screen infotainment center, sunroof and the like if you want. Still, as is, this LE Eco is good as is.