It’s not a word I would have previously used to describe the Toyota Corolla. Reliable? Yes. Affordable? Yes. But exciting? Uh, no.
Not until now, that is.
The all-new 2014 Corolla has a visually pleasing design as well as a peppier ride than its predecessor. In fact, during the first few days of my week-long road test, I kept forgetting I was driving a Corolla.
No, you wouldn’t mistake this for an expensive sports car, but there’s plenty of zip in the compact’s 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower. The Corolla handled very well in stop-and-go city traffic and it was more than capable during high-speed passing manoeuvres on the busy highways.
The driving experience was made even more exciting — at least in the S model I tested — by the CVTi-S transmission, which gives the car a sportier feel during both city and highway driving. The seven-speed sequential shiftmatic mode can be actuated through the shift gate or via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Along with being a pleasure to pilot, the 11th generation of Toyota’s best-selling compact sedan is also more spacious than ever. With a 100-millimetre-longer wheelbase and 99-mm-longer overall length than the previous model, the new Corolla feels incredibly roomy inside. The front seats have a longer, lower cushion and a 15-mm increase in the range of adjustment in all directions. It is now much easier to custom-fit the driver’s seat, resulting in a much more comfortable ride. That’s much appreciated by this vertically challenged motorist!
And yet, the car’s sleek, new rounded design makes it look smaller on the outside than its boxier predecessor, giving the Corolla a sportier, more attractive stance. The S tester came in a bright Barcelona Red Metallic hue and sported 17-inch alloy wheels, giving the sedan an almost sexy exterior. Yes, sexy (almost). Bet you never thought you’d hear a Corolla described that way either!
All Corollas come with standard features such as LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, colour-keyed door handles and outside mirrors, a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, power door locks with automatic locking feature, power windows with driver-side one-touch up/down, eight air bags and Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist as well as the standard Smart Stop Technology brake-override system and an electronic tire pressure monitoring system.
There are four trim levels available: the CE, LE, S and a new ECO version, which offers better fuel economy via a more efficient 1.8L engine with VALVEMATIC technology and CVTi-S transmission.
The Corolla S model I tested came with a leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, Softex simulated leather heated seats (which I could’ve sworn were the real thing until I read otherwise on the spec sheet), a power tilt and slide sunroof, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display audio with Bluetooth and six speakers, automatic air conditioning, eight-way power-adjustable driver seat and more. All this for $24,204 CDN. (The base CE starts at just $15,995.)
There’s good reason the Corolla has been the world’s best-selling compact sedan for the last 47 years, according to Toyota: price. But it used to be a boring box on wheels. Now, there’s an exciting new design and fun-to-drive factor to go along with that frugality.
Launched in June, the made-in-Canada Corolla is available in dealerships now.