2014 Toyota Corolla LE EcoPosted on December 23rd, 2013
All-new compact sedan with fuel-saving technology
By Nina Russin
This year, Toyota introduces an all-new Corolla, celebrating twenty-five years for the compact sedan in the United States. As one of the oldest nameplates in the Toyota line-up, the Corolla is also one of the most popular, with sales approaching 40 million units globally. The new sedan is the eleventh-generation model, featuring both sport and Eco variants.
The Eco model is new for 2014, achieving up to 40 miles-per-gallon on the highway according to the EPA. Power comes from a 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine with Toyota’s newest version of variable valve timing and a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Under-covers beneath the chassis reduce turbulence around the engine bay and spare tire well. Low rolling resistance tires come with either the base 15-inch wheels or optional 16-inch alloy wheels.
The Corolla Eco is available in three trim levels, with pricing starting at $18,700 for the base model and $20,100 for the Premium, excluding an $810 destination charge.
Convenience features on the Premium model tested include the sixteen-inch wheels, automatic climate control, touch screen with rear backup camera, Entune with apps and heated front seats.
Options on the test car add keyless start, navigation with traffic and weather updates, USB port, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth streaming audio and a power moonroof, bringing the final MSRP to $23,270.
Test drive in Arizona
This week, I drove the Corolla Eco on a combination of high-speed surface roads and highways in Scottsdale and Chandler, Arizona as well as rural roads south and east of town. Fuel economy for the 120-mile test drive averaged 38 miles-per-gallon: four miles-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate. Although I made no effort to baby the throttle, there was not a lot of time spent in stop and go traffic that typically eats up more gas.
The Corolla has developed a loyal following over the past quarter century because it is a solid and dependable car: a good choice for those who are not necessarily driving enthusiasts but depend heavily upon their vehicles for transportation.
Toyota tends to be rather conservative in its approach to engineering, erring on the side of tried-and-true versus uncharted waters. As a result, Corolla owners can depend on the fact that their cars will spend very little time in the repair shop, and will deliver the performance and fuel economy the manufacturer promises throughout the lifecycle of the vehicle.
Styling for the 2014 car is more aggressive than for former models, with a redesigned grille that has a kinship with the new generation of Lexus cars. The idea is to appeal to younger buyers who might be moving up from Scion or migrating to Toyota from other brands.
But the heart of the car is still the same: quiet, durable and trustworthy. The 1.8-liter engine is a little anemic in this writer’s opinion, compared to competitors such as the Mazda3. But there is certainly enough power for whatever situation the driver finds himself in, be it high-speed traffic, weaving through narrow urban streets, or passing a slower vehicle on a two-lane rural road.
The continuously variable transmission is one of the better units out there. Engineers emulated the type of shift points traditionally found in a step transmission, eliminating the annoying rubber band feel that plagues many CVT units.
An electric power steering unit saves weight and space under the hood and reduces internal pumping losses. This one is particularly well tuned to the car, with good on-center response. There is plenty of assist at lower speeds as well for maneuverability. The Corolla’s 35.6-foot turning circle makes it easy to slip into a small parking spot on the street or perform the occasional U-turn.
The suspension consists of an independent MacPherson strut set-up in front and torsion beam rear end. I did not notice any hop of harshness in the back of the car: a problem with some solid rear axles. The suspension seemed to do a good job of isolating passengers from harsh road surfaces. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
The braking system consists of discs up front and drums in the back. Although the front brakes do most of the braking, I take issue with any manufacturer who still installs drum brakes on their vehicles. Drum brakes hold water so they don’t work particularly well in wet weather. They are also harder to service than discs.
Visibility around the sedan’s perimeter is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes. The rearview camera on the test car eliminates blind spots in the sedan’s back corners and makes it easier to monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots.
Despite its compact dimensions, the Corolla interior can easily accommodate four adults: five in a pinch. The new car is slightly longer than the outgoing model, translating to some additional rear legroom. I found the power seat adjustments for the driver’s seat easy to use, although I would have preferred some additional lower lumbar support.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob, adding a measure of safety for owners who enter their vehicles in urban areas after dark.
The large center stack screen is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. I found the audio and climate control settings intuitive to operate. Controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. Redundant steering wheel controls enable the driver to use the Bluetooth interface, change display settings and program the audio system with minimal distraction.
An information display in the gauge cluster gives the driver trip meter and odometer readings as well as instant and average fuel economy.
The trunk is spacious for a sedan of this size, easily holding the weekly groceries, luggage and some smaller camping equipment. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items. However cyclists who need to carry their bikes inside the vehicle will be better served with the Prius liftback or one of Toyota’s crossover vehicles.
The Toyota Corolla comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, whiplash lessening from seats and daytime running lamps.
Toyota builds the Corolla at its Tupelo, Mississippi assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, safe and durable compact sport sedan with exceptionally good fuel economy.
Dislike: Rear drum brakes tend to hold water and are not as easy to service as discs.
Model: Corolle LE Eco
Base price: $20,100
As tested: $23,270
Horsepower: 140 Hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque: 126 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 30/40 mpg city/highway
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