2014 Toyota Corolla Sport PremiumPosted on May 30th, 2014
Compact sedan gets a makeover for 2014
By Nina Russin
No car in the Toyota lineup speaks more to the brand’s heritage and its success in the United States than the compact Corolla. While the Corolla is no longer Toyota’s best selling model, it was the first car to capture the hearts and more important, the trust of American motorists when the compact sedan arrived stateside in 1968: two years after it debuted in Japan.
The Corolla wasn’t the first car Toyota imported to the United States: that honor goes to the Toyopet Crown that had arrived eleven years earlier when the brand opened its first US headquarters in Hollywood, California. But unlike the Crown, the Corolla filled an imminent need for good small cars in the wake of fuel shortages throughout the 1970s.
Delivers on value and durability
While much has changed for the Corolla over the past 45 years, the compact sedan’s mission and its audience remain much the same. The Corolla is a stylish, efficient car that is affordable to purchase and own, durable and dependable. It is often a buyer’s first car for those very reasons.
When Toyota introduced the current model in the fall of 2013, engineers didn’t reinvent the wheel: they simply refined it. The most visible difference between the new Corolla and the models it replaces is the grille. The new exterior features the trapezoidal grille that has become the newest expression of Toyota design. I’m not sure I’m in love with it, but the new grille does give the Corolla a lot more presence on a crowded highway.
There are four grades: L, LE, S and LE Eco, all powered by a 1.8-liter engines. The block for the L, LE and S grades delivers 132 horsepower and 128 foot-pounds of torque. The Eco model engine is slightly different.
A manual gearbox is available on the base L and sporty S grades. All other models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission except for the L that comes with a four-speed automatic.
S grade focuses on performance
The test car is the sporty S grade priced from $20,400. Options include a convenience package that adds push button start, navigation, Entune premium audio, Bluetooth interface, iPod connectivity, touchscreen display, satellite radio and real-time traffic and weather updates as well as a power moonroof. Final MSRP, including the $810 destination charge is $23,570.
While the S model shares the same basic powertrain as other Corolla grades, it is the only Corolla model to come with four-wheel disc brakes as opposed to rear drums. For buyers living in areas with significant rain and snow, drums tend to fill up with water, do not stop as well and are harder to service.
A sport drive mode gives the continuously variable transmission more aggressive performance: the equivalent of a traditional step transmission holding onto the gears longer for more power. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels and a rear deck spoiler are also standard.
Test drive in the upper Midwest
Recently, I had the opportunity to drive the 2014 Corolla S on a road trip between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Elkhart Lake for the annual Midwest Automotive Media Association spring rally. The trip of about 125 miles round trip included some time on surface streets inside the city of Milwaukee as well as urban highways and rural roads leading to my destination to the north.
Despite its compact dimensions, the Corolla has what it takes to be a good road trip car. The interior is spacious enough to seat up to four adult passengers comfortably, and the trunk big enough to hold their luggage.
While the engine is by no means a barnburner, its power is more than adequate for stop-and-go driving in urban centers and faster motoring on the highway. Engineers developed a new pulley design that gives the continuously variable automatic transmission performance closer to a traditional step unit. It lacks the rubber band feel that earlier designs suffered from.
The electric power steering system performs well at low speeds with plenty of assist for maneuverability. At higher speeds it feels a bit numb, with soft on-center response.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. I’m not a huge fan of live rear axles but it works fine on a compact front-wheel drive sedan where most of the weight and braking occurs up front.
The four-wheel brakes on the S grade stop the sedan in firm linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. The test car is equipped with a rearview camera that projects a wide-angle image to the rear of the car when the driver shifts into reverse. It’s helpful for monitoring cross-traffic in crowded parking lots and eliminates blind spots caused by the rear pillars.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior, making it easy for both rows of passengers to converse or enjoy the audio system.
The Corolla interior is well designed from an ergonomic stance. I found the power driver’s seat controls easy to use, with ample lower lumbar support. I was able to adjust the seat high enough to have a clear forward view.
Redundant steering wheel controls minimize driver distraction. The formula-style paddle shifters seem a bit silly on a 132-horsepower car with a continuously variable transmission.
The rear seat folds flat in a 60/40 pattern: extending the cargo floor for longer items. While I would not describe the sedan as bicycle friendly, it would be possible to slide a road bike with the wheels removed inside in a pinch.
Both the gauge cluster and center stacks screen are easy to see in a variety of lighting conditions including bright sunlight.
The Toyota Corolla comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lamps.
The newest Corolla is on display at Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, dependable compact sedan that is affordable for first-time car buyers.
Dislike: Poor on-center response from the electric power steering system.
Model: Corolla S Premium
Base price: $20,400
As tested: $23,570
Horsepower: 132 Hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 128 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 29/37 mpg city/highway
Leave a reply