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Motoring: Co-rollin' into 2014

Credit: Toyota

The 2014 Toyota Corolla is a step in the right direction.

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 27th, 2014

The last generation model of the Toyota Corolla was proof that not many people listen to auto journalists. Almost every review I know of had marked it as a dull appliance that offered nothing that would interest a car enthusiast.

Truth is, many people are not much into cars. For them, a car is a tool that takes them from home to work to the mall and that's it. For these buyers, a vehicle just needs to be reliable and fuel efficient, which the Corolla was.

Since the number of people who like cars is miniscule against the number of people who don't care much about them, the old Corolla was a huge sales success.

However, even Toyota has woken up to the dynamic flaws of the old Corolla, and went about making an all new model. I'm sure you've seen this model already; there are lots of them roaming around, but what is it like to drive?

To find out, I spent a week with one to see if this new Corolla is like the old, or has a fresh new character.

Just walking up to the 2014 Toyota Corolla, you are drawn to it. It is much more attractive than the model it replaces, although some say it looks very derivative. I think the styling is a step in the right direction, but if its appearance on the outside impresses you, wait until you open the door.

Step inside and the 2014 Corolla greets you with a very modern, stylish interior that is spacious, comfortable and built from high quality materials — a welcome update from the old model.

Except for the base CE trim, all other models get a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio system with built-in Bluetooth. My LE trim tester also had heated front seats, reversing camera, keyless entry, and a good amount of other standard equipment.

Equipment is one thing — many manufacturers can boast about a long list of standard features — but what is it like to drive?

In the past, what hurt the Corolla most in many auto journalists' opinions (including mine) was its lazy powertrain and numb controls.

The 2014 Corolla has vastly improved. While mechanically, it might only have a 1.8-litre fourcylinder engine that produces 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque, but it seems eager and exciting, which is what car enthusiasts look for.

Power is sent to the front wheels through either a five-speed manual, a four-speed automatic (for the CE trim only) or a CVT automatic. My tester had the CVT automatic gearbox, and at first I cringed at the thought of a Corolla with a CVT, because that just sounded like the ultimate bland car. However, Toyota's CVT is not bad; in fact, its characteristics compliment the Corolla's personality. The suspension is still softer than most of its competition, but while that does mean it cannot attack corners like a Mazda3, the Corolla does offer a smoother city and highway ride.

One of the strongest reasons the Corolla has done so well in the market was its fuel economy. That still hasn't changed, because in my week, I averaged 7.0 litres/100km, during a very cold, snowy week. In the summer, it will probably do even better. The Corolla is more economical than some hybrid offerings from other manufacturers — Toyota knows how to get the most out of a drop of petrol and all car owners can appreciate this quality.

It is also priced well. The base CE model is yours from $15,995. The LE trim (like my tester) is yours from $19,500. There is a Corolla S model which starts at $19,215, while the LE ECO trim is yours from $20,250. That is not a lot of money for a reliable, economical family sedan that will do all the chores of your daily life.

Will the new Corolla finally win over the car enthusiast crowd? Probably not just yet, but this 2014 model is a big step in the right direction.
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