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2014 Toyota Corolla Drive and Review By Larry Nutson

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2014 Toyota Corolla

2014 Toyota Corolla - Elevated

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

Yes, elevated. It has to be because the bar keeps getting raised in the compact class segment.

The Corolla is now in its tenth generation. First sold in the U.S. in 1968, and now celebrating its 45th anniversary with over ten million sold. Four and a half million of these are still on the road. The outgoing Corolla was introduced in 2008 and was No. 2 in sales in the compact segment last year.

The compact segment is growing in leaps and bounds. Some forecasts say it will grow by 25%. Today’s buyers of compact cars are affluent and successful, and many are downsizing their household fleet, such as active lifestyle empty nesters. And there are many young buyers who want up-market features and the infotainment and connectivity that today’s world offers.

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The first thing that gets discussed on any new car is looks. On the outside the all-new, generation eleven, 2014 Corolla is more expressive. Some say distinguished. And, it is certainly less utilitarian looking than the previous model. It’s bolder and quite attractive. You can say the same about the inside with more upscale appearance and nicer fabrics and trims. An increased use of premium grade materials helps a lot. Like many new compacts, the 2014 Corolla is longer, lower and wider. There’s more rear seat legroom.

The 2014 Corolla is offered in four trim levels: L, LE, LE Eco and S. Each is powered by a 1.8-L 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine, driving through the front wheels. There are three different transmissions depending on model. A 4-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual are offered on the L. An all-new CVTi-S drives the other three models. The S can also be had with the 6-speed manual. Compare all 12 versions of the 2014 Corolla...see the specs for each in the yellow box below this story.

The L, LE and S engine is rated at 132HP. The LE Eco engine is rated at 140HP and has an EPA test highway fuel economy rating of 42mpg, 31 city mpg, for a combined EPA test rating of 35mpg.

The LE Eco’s boost in horsepower comes from Valvematic , a valve train technology which appears for the first time in North America with Corolla. Valvematic offers a broader range of continuously variable valve timing (lift and phasing) to provide optimal intake valve (not on exhaust side) operation relative to engine demands. Valvematic offers more than a five-percent improvement in fuel economy and engine output.

This CVTi-S (i for intelligent, S for shift), which will be available on the LE, S, and LE Eco Corolla models, features several enhancements to improve its efficiency and driving performance with discrete shift points that help create a sensation more similar to a traditional hydraulic automatic transmission. The characteristic CVT “rubber band” driving sensation of the engine winding to its power band upon acceleration has earned detractors and Toyota has tried to rectify this.

Toyota’s engineers improved the drivability of the new Corolla by adapting discrete stepped “gears” or shift points, into the car’s acceleration and deceleration curves. The Corolla’s new CVTi-S even mimics the familiar characteristics of hydraulic automatics creating a sense of positive shift engagement. On the Corolla S trim, up to seven shift-points can also be manually actuated from the shift gate or steering wheel paddle shifters.

We drove an LE Eco, an LE and an S at a recent product introduction. Around town in urban driving they all perform well. Toyota says zero to sixty is in the nine to ten second range. Stepping deep into the throttle and making the engine works creates some buzz and gets you up to speed. Not the quickest compact around, but adequate.

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Pricing starts with the L model at an MSRP of $16,800. The LE is priced at $18,300; the LE Eco at $18,700; and the S at $19,000. Shipping and handling needs to be added to this along with the price of any options. Noteworthy when it comes to dialing in the full cost of ownership is that the 2014 Corolla comes with Toyota Care which covers all scheduled maintenance for two years.

The most popular Corollas are expected to be the S and LE models, with each taking about 40% of sales. The L and LE Eco will each be about 10% and only a couple percent of buyer are expected to go for the manual transmission.

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The interior is nicely appointed with seats being fairly comfortable. The different materials and surface finishes seem to get along with each other. I liked the S seat upholstery the best. One small item that bothered me, it’s one of my pet peeves, is the outside mirror control mounted on the lower left instrument panel. The door armrest is where it belongs so you can stay seated in your driving position without leaning forward to adjust the outside mirrors.

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The new Corolla seemed pretty quiet in the urban driving we did with a minimum of ambient, wind, tire and engine noise in the passenger cabin. Acoustic glass windscreen, improved floor carpet insulation, an instrument panel seal between the cowl and the windshield, a fender sound insulator, and an inner dash silencer pad all help to achieve this.

The 2014 Corolla features 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. It also features the standard Smart Stop Technology brake-override system. An electronic tire pressure monitoring system is also standard.

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As we go to press the “short list” of finalists for the North American Car of the Year has been released. The 2014 Corolla is on the short-list so we’ll see how they make out in a market place of ever increasing competition and in a market of “no bad cars”.

The new 2014 Toyota Corolla is in Toyota stores now.

Larry Nutson