2014 Toyota Corolla

Toyota is attempting to build excitement around one of the company’s longest-running and most conservative nameplates: the Corolla. It’s an uphill climb that started months ago with the 2013 Toyota Corolla Furia concept making the rounds at the major 2013 American auto shows and culminated with the official launch of the new `Rolla in Santa Monica. The redesign aims to bring some life back into the model after years of languishing while the entire Toyota lineup was redesigned around it.

The Corolla is a serious cash cow for Toyota , with 2012 sales reaching nearly 300,000 units, despite the lack of substantive changes since 2003. What’s the rush to replace a model whose tooling and engineering costs have long since been paid off? After eleven years, the 2014 model finally promises to bring the Corolla into the fold with modern electronics and styling, refined engines and more spacious dimensions all around.

Those expecting revolution will be mildly disappointed, but the changes are far deeper than a facelift in hopes of re-energizing what has become a laughing stock in the wider automotive enthusiast community. Desperate to ditch its beige image, the new Corolla promises to win back the boy-racer crowd that’s long-since abandoned the Corolla in favor of the mechanically similar Scion tC coupe or the rear-drive Scion FR-S .

With two solid sports models in the Scion corner of Toyota showrooms, does the new Corolla’s style risk alienating loyalists? Or do the new updates simply massage in a quieter ride, better infotainment tech and a bit more room in the back?

Ahead of the 2014’s arrival in early September, we’ve prepared a full review, image gallery and styling analysis of the new Corolla.

Update 8/27/2013: Toyota has just released the pricing details for the 2014 Corolla. It starts out at $16,800 and caps at $20,100, minus optional equipment. Se the specifics after the jump.

Update 10/7/2013: The 2014 Corolla just underwent testing from the IIHS, and it received a shockingly low "Marginal" score in the small-overlap test. See more after the jump.

Click past the jump for the full story.

Exterior

Toyota Corolla

The Corolla was ripe for improvement. The previous model was designed during a totally nerdy phase for Toyota, one that also saw the high-roof Toyota Echo subcompact go splat against the pavement. The car simply couldn’t have been nerdier, so the new one needed far more than a nose job to keep up with those stylish Kia’s and Hyundai’s.

The 2014 Corolla at last delivers a meaningful style counter-punch against the almost-elegant Hyundai Elantra and others in the segment. Anyone with a pulse can see the 2014 model is a big improvement, but let’s break it down.

The nose of the Corolla is evidence of its new style mission, with a large gloss black trapezoid forming a false grille below the matching slim grille between the headlights. Trimmed in chrome, the black lower grille is very curious and serves little purpose except a bizarre homage to the full shield grilles Audi used to prefer. Overall, it’s not a bad look directly from the front and offers a more distinctive and pseudo-dignified appearance on the highway. No one will mistake this for the new Aston Martin Rapide S , but the nose leads off a cascade of changes to the entire proportions.

The overall dimension changes show progress in banishing the Echo-based style. The new Corolla is nearly 4 inches longer than the previous model, and about 1/2-inch wider and lower than before. It’s a subtle evolution by the numbers, but the impact on the road is far better.

From the front quarter angle into the profile, the hood line is significantly lower near the base of the swept-back windshield. While not as space-age as the European Honda Civic , the Corolla gets close to the futuristic style that is popular in this segment.

Standard-fit LED low-beam headlights are a surprise inclusion by Toyota as the tech has only recently trickled down from high-range Audi’s and into mass-market models like the Seat Leon (pronounced “Say Aht”) from Volkswagen in Europe as well as the latest Avalon here in America.

This beats the technology’s intro on most Lexus models bar the $100,000-plus Lexus LS600h L and brand-new GS and IS sedans. The headlights themselves are a sharply pinched shape and carved out of the front fenders instead of facing dead center as before.

The light graphic still uses a projector beam backed by multiple high-powered LED bulbs for the low beams. The assembly around the projector ball creates an inverted trapezoid and actually is pretty close to the Furia concept. LEDs for the real headlights do double duty as the daytime running lights. The overall look is spoiled by the cheap reflector turn signals and basic halogen high-beams.

In profile, the Corolla looks longer than the 4-inch stretch in length, indicating the wheelbase has taken all of the growth into the passenger compartment. The sides feature a sharply-defined crease running through the door handles and some swooping shaping to the fenders that flows upward toward the trunk lid from the front wheels. A subtle up-kick in the rear window line sets the model apart from the old model. Overall, in profile the Corolla closely resembles the Dodge Dart .

The rear end is far less successful. It looks boring and cheap, despite some strong aerodynamics-led creases at the bumper corners that create a rounded graphic. The biggest problem style-wise is the trunk, which seems far too high off the ground and again makes the Corolla look like an econobox in a new wrapper. The LED innovations in the front are not matched out back, with dull Camry-inspired reflector taillights.

Despite losing the plot out back, the Corolla stays relatively current in initial photos via dark wheels, big swathes of gloss black trim and not a shimmer of chrome trim anywhere but the ‘Big T’ badge.

Exterior Dimensions, with change versus previous model in parentheses:

Wheelbase 106.3 in. (+ 3.9 in.)
Overall length 183.1 in. (+4.4 in
Overall width 69.9 in. (+0.63 in)
Overall height 57.3 in. (-0.39 in.)

Interior

Toyota Corolla

As even the lowliest Hyundai’s packed affordable tech gizmos galore, the previous Corolla soldiered on with super-hard and scratchy black plastic surfaces and a navigation system without any of the sophistication needed to woo new (younger) buyers. The redesigned inside is very comprehensive and reflects the latest Toyota theme of making its models’ interiors GT86 clones.

This means a flat topped dash with a sharp, cliff-like face housing all the instruments. There’s no question that it is a huge improvement in style and functionality. At last, the clock and info screens are a subtle blue tint versus the alarm-clock green Corolla drivers will know all too well.

The gauge cluster ahead of the driver now has circular binnacles around the speedometer and tachometer that are blacked with matching blue tones to the outside rims. An (optional) central screen called the Multi-Information Display between the two analog gauges helps provide far better trip computer displays, vehicle maintenance alerts, outside temp and more. Another screen serves as the HVAC display to show fan and temp settings just below the nav screen in the center stack.

The navigation unit is finally integrated into the design, with a large piano black shroud that forms the middle portion of the dash in a classier way than the old head-unit based system. Flush buttons on either side of a still-small, still low-res screen allow not only navigation functions but serve as the primary stereo display.

Having a dedicated infotainment display is important even when not getting driving directions, because it drastically simplifies selection among audio sources like FM radio or the driver’s phone/media device. Bluetooth calling is standard on all four model lines, the L, LE, S and new-for-2014 LE Eco trim levels.

The steering wheel now integrates a multifunction control pad in its left stalk, a stitched-vinyl center piece, and better hands-free phone and cruise controls on the right spokes. In these initial photos of a high-spec LE Eco and Corolla S, the wheel is leather wrapped with nice, tactile stitching. Be warned: lower models get the old-fashioned injection-molded plastic steering wheel trims.

Toyota’s also worked hard to improve the road, engine and wind noise from disturbing the cabin. Smartly, engineers applied extensive NVH material to the inside front fenders, plus a multi-layer sound blanket below the dashboard.

Major standard features:

  • Display Audio - includes 6.1” touch screen, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, 6 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity and control, vehicle information, hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology
  • In-glass AM/FM radio antenna
  • Power windows all around with one-touch up/down for the driver’s window only
  • Power locks
  • Split folding rear seatback
  • Filtered AC system
  • Color-keyed door handles and mirrors (versus black plastic)
  • Bluetooth hands-free calling

Options include:

  • Smart Key System that provides keyless door locks (front doors only) and keyless ignition with push-button start
  • Auto climate control AC with pollen filtration
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio and Bluetooth controls
  • Display Audio with Navigation and Entune - Includes 6.1-inch Touch Screen, AM/FM CD Player with MP3/WMA Playback Capability, six speakers, SiriusXM Satellite Radio (Includes 90-Day Trial Subscription to XM Select Package), HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, Auxiliary Audio Jack, USB Port with iPod Connectivity and Control, Vehicle Information, Hands-Free Phone Capability, Phonebook Access, Advanced Voice Recognition, Text-to-Speech with Programmed and Customizable Text Responses, and Music Streaming Via Bluetooth Wireless Technology.
  • Automatic transmission: a new-for-2014 CVTi-S system that promises the feel and control of a traditional seven-speed automatic but in a light, cheaper and more-efficient CVT configuration

Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes

Toyota Corolla

Here is where the redesign really falls flat. Additional chassis bracing and sportier suspension tuning can’t mask the puny power and performance outputs from the two available engines. Both are actually the same 1.8-liter with just a handful of horsepower separating them. The newer engine features continuously variable valve timing on the intake side under a new Valvematic nomenclature. The base engine gets the less-sophisticated VVT-i two-step variable valve timing and phasing, again only on the intake side and not both intake and exhaust.

Top horsepower is 140 from the Valvematic engine and 132 from the VVT-i engine, but both lag significantly behind the cutting edge tech Toyota Toyota is capable of. For example, the engines do without direct injection, which is employed extensively across even the econo segment to boost efficiency by up to 10 percent versus the electronic fuel injection used here.

Efficiency is likely to be better than the older models on account of the better automatic and new-for-2014 six-speed manual that comes standard. The previous Corolla’s four-speed automatic was hopelessly dated and delivered poor economy, yet is still available as a low-cost upgrade only on the base Corolla L.

The CVTi-S is now more responsive to sporty driving with dedicated Eco and Sport buttons to alter the tuning toward efficiency versus performance. A new-for-2014 automatic gearstick with dedicated manual mode and gear display in the gauge area enhances control of the CVT. Less “Mooing” and sling-shot delays in acceleration are promised, but don’t hold your breath. The Corolla remains far more comfortable at a relaxed cruising pace than it does in aggressive freeway merges.

Drivetrain Specifications:

Engine Code 2ZR-FE2ZR-FEA
Engine Size and Type 2.0-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder with Dual VVT-i2.0-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder with Valvematic
Peak power 132 horsepower140 horsepower
Peak torque 128 pound-feet126 pound-feet
Transmission Six-speed Manual, Four-speed Auto or CVTi-S AutomaticSix-speed Manual or CVTi-S Automatic
0-60-mph 8.6 seconds, est8.5 seconds, est
Top Speed 117 mph, est117 mph, est
EPA Fuel Economy 25 MPG city, 34 MPG highway (est)25 MPG city, 36 MPG highway (est), LE Eco Model: 27 MPG city, 40 MPG highway (est)

Safety, Pricing and Reliability

The Corolla is expected to modestly bump up the $16,000 base prices for the previous model and can climb much higher than before due to the newly available tech options, like Entune and keyless ignition. The fully loaded S and LE Eco models are expected to pass $23,000 versus barely $21,000 for the previous loaded models.

The 2014 Corolla just underwent its testing process and came up short in IIHS testing. It received "Good" ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats areas. The one area that the Corolla fell short was the new and controversial small-overlap test, which the new sedan received a "Marginal" rating, showing significant risk to the occupants in this type of crash. The NHTSA has yet to test the new Corolla.

As with all Toyota models, two years of free servicing is included with the purchase as part of ToyotaCare complimentary maintenance.

The new Corolla gets a big airbag upgrade over previous models, and now comes standard-fit with eight airbags as standard.

Pricing Details

Trim Transmission MSRP
L6MT$16,800
L4AT$17,400
LECVTi-S$18,300
LE PlusCVTi-S$18,700
LE PremiumCVTi-S$19,400
SCVTi-S$19,000
S PlusCVTi-S$19,700
S PremiumCVTi-S$20,400
S Plus6MT$21,300
ECOCVTi-S$18,700
ECO PlusCVTi-S$19,400
ECO PlusCVTi-S$20,100

Option Pricing:

Package Contents MSRP Model Applicability
MoonroofPower tilt/slide moonroof with sliding sunshade$850LE Plus, LE Premium, S Plus*, S Premium*, LE Eco Plus, LE Eco Premium
Drivers Convenience PackageSmart Key System on front doors and trunk with Push Button Start, remote keyless entry system with lock, panic, trunk-release, and liftgate functions

Entune Premium Audio - includes the Entune Multimedia Bundle with navigation and app suite, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, 6 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod® connectivity and control, hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology and 6.1 in high resolution touch-screen display with HD radio with traffic and weather, SiriusXM Radio with 90-day All-Access trial, Gracenotes
$1,510LE Plus, LE Premium, S Plus*, S Premium*, LE Eco Plus, LE Eco Premium

Standard-fit Safety Features:

  • ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist
  • Traction and stability control
  • Brake throttle override
  • Eight airbags

Competition

2014 Honda Civic

Honda Civic Coupe

In 2013, Honda pulled a quick 180-degree turn by refreshing the Civic just a year after it was fully redesigned. With this redesign, Honda Honda really saved the Civic’s tailpipe, as things were taking a turn for the lackluster after 2012 sales number started rolling in. This refresh should hold the Civic over for at least another 5 years, or so.

Under the 2014 Civic’s hood, we’ll see the same lineup we see in the 2013 model: a base 1.8-liter with 140 horsepower; a hybrid 1.5-liter with 110 horsepower; and a 201-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-banger from the Si model. These engines give the Civic a 0-to-60 mph time of 9.2 seconds, 10.1 seconds and 6.9 seconds, respectively. Prices will likely start around the same $18,000 mark as they do in 2013 and stretch up to $23,000 in the Si model.

Unlike what we expect from the Corolla, the Civic comes in a coupe and sedan, making it far more versatile than the Corolla. However, Toyota may surprise us by offering a Corolla coupe for the first time since 1991.

2014 Mazda3

Mazda3 Hatchback

We managed to catch up with the hatchback variant of the 2014 Mazda3 testing, but we have yet to catch a sedan model in action. Guessing what the new Mazda3 will look like is not a tough task, as it always has and always will be a pint-sized version of the Mazda Mazda 6. So, we expect to see the same “Kodo” design language that we saw on the Mazda6 and the spy shots have shown that.

This will certainly make the Mazda3 a far sexier car than it ever has been, plus it’s expected to carry over the Skyactiv 2.0-liter engine with around 155 horsepower and 40-plus mpg. Additionally, we expect the Mazdaspeed3 version and its 260-plus-horsepower engine hanging around for at least a few more years.

As for pricing, we expect it to continue to hover around the $17,000 mark.

Conclusion

Toyota Corolla

This Corolla revamp is sorely overdue as the above critiques show. Eleven years without a meaningful change is simply embarrassing, and it seems the Toyota execs in California may have been shamed into updating what was a hot seller even in its last year.

Ultimately, the changes are important in broadening the Corolla’s horizons past its existing zombie customer base. They’ll be looking for the new Corolla to make some waves in the compact segment and hopefully increase sales to near-Camry levels of 350,000-plus units in the United States. Additionally, the Japanese giant really seems markedly different than just a few years ago. The new management is young and hip and sporty, and wants cars to match this ethos.

Toyota’s turnaround and resilience in the face of recall scandals is admirable. A few surprise features liven up the 2014 Corolla with style and improvements to the core technology package. Buyers expecting the old Corolla’s trusty nature will be happy with the new Corolla, while the new-found style can only improve the fortunes of Corolla on the world stage.

Category RatingDetails
Driving CSportier Suspension Tuning Will Hurt Ride Quality While Offering Few Thrills
Performance CSix-speed Manual and CVTi-S Can’t Hide Underpowered Engines
Look BVastly Improved Proportions and Detailing
Value AStill A Leader In Value; Great Reliability; Better Mileage
Overall BA Huge Improvement With Modern Style Plus Better Interior
LOVE IT
  • Six-speed Manual
  • LED low-beam headlights
  • Interior Tech Updates
LEAVE IT
  • Lethargic engines not at cutting edge for power or efficiency
  • Frumpy rear styling; ride height seems too high in the back
  • Prices will go up versus 2013, especially with must-have Entune and leather steering wheel options

What is your take?

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