2014 Toyota Corolla Sedan Review
Paul Murrell’s 2014 Toyota Corolla sedan review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
IN A NUTSHELL The Corolla became Australia’s best selling car in 2013, the first Toyota to achieve such a record, and the company is hoping the new one will retain the crown.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS For years, the Toyota Corolla has almost been the default choice for conservative buyers. The eleventh generation sedan doesn’t break much new ground, but that’s how Corolla buyers seem to like it: lots of small improvements rather than anything too radical.
AT THE LAUNCH OF THE NEW TOYOTA COROLLA, Toyota’s executives were at pains to tell us how the new design differed from the old. There’s a T-shaped motif to the front, a thin upper grille and headlights that extend beyond the corners. The bonnet has curved edges and no sharp angles, visually extending the front of the car. The tail lights and stop lights are LEDs.
Toyota call it “modern prestige” styling. We call it “inoffensive”, which is a polite way of saying “bland”. But as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is no doubt the new Corolla is smart, simple, and sure to appeal to its potential market.
American car design guru Harley Earl was well aware that the buying public takes time to adapt to radical new design; Toyota has made an art form of not moving too far ahead of its loyal buyers. One thing is certain: Toyota takes small steps. It‘s why it has been so successful for so many years and a good part of why it has sold more than 1.25 million Corollas in Australia since 1966 and more than 40 million worldwide (and according to Toyota, more than 26 million of them are still providing service to their owners).
Shinichi Yasui is Global Chief Engineer for Corolla. He claims the new model is “more aspirational” and carries the weight of 47 years of DNA. The Corolla is built in 16 plants around the world and sold in more than 150 countries – the model coming to Australia is built in Toyota’s Thailand factory. The brief was to “get back to basics” and to that end, Toyota listened closely to the opinions of local customers. And apparently those customers were adamant they wanted the Toyota image and reputation for reliability and durability.
Small improvements abound: the wheelbase has been pushed out by 100mm, the body by 80mm and the front seat backs made slimmer, tiny increases that have resulted in a useful 92mm increased rear seat knee room. It doesn’t sound much but it can be the difference between having your knees pressed into the back of the front seat or not.
The use of contrasting light and dark colours inside and a two-tier dash create a sense of space, and in reality, the Corolla falls little short of mid-size cars thanks to its interior space. The steering wheel angle has been changed by two degrees, the steering ratio reduced from 17.3:1 to 16.1:1, the seat cushions lengthened and the driving position slightly modified.
More importantly, the suspension and driving dynamics have been locally tuned in Melbourne for greater high speed straight line stability, changes that have been adopted in a number of overseas markets too.
The 1.8-litre four-cylinder dual VVT-i engine puts out a few more kilowatts (now 103) and its 173Nm of torque are produced lower in the rev range (4000rpm). The manual model achieves a claimed official 7.0L/100km, an improvement of a little more than four per cent. The auto is called Multidrive (and adds $2250). It’s a CVT unit but because it uses a torque converter, it doesn’t slip like most other CVTs. It actually rewards smooth driving and light to moderate throttle use to return official fuel consumption of 6.6L/100KM.
The new Corolla is a far better drive than many people might expect, but for most buyers, all they’ll be looking for is trouble-free, hassle-free transport and they’ll be well served. The CVT is one of the best of its kind around and unless you really push it to extremes (and most Corolla drivers won’t) it handles its task completely unobtrusively. You wouldn’t know (or care) that it’s a CVT rather than a true automatic. Strong torque comes online at 4000rpm and this makes dealing with traffic less stressful and for more confident overtaking.
Wind noise is pleasantly low and in the entry-level Ascent with its 15-inch wheels and 65 profile tyres, road noise is subdued. Even moving up to larger wheels and lower profile tyres makes little appreciable difference. Despite being tuned more for comfort than the hatch is, handling is commendably precise and predictable and I confidently threw it into corners at far higher speeds than 90 per cent of Corolla buyers are ever likely to attempt, I’d suggest.
Toyota has revised the model line-up. Entry level is still the Ascent (expected to account for 70-80 per cent of sales) at $20,740, a reduction of $250 over the outgoing model despite having (according to Toyota) $2000 worth of additional features. Next up the range is the SX from $22,990, effectively replacing the Sport and Conquest (and costing $500 less than the former and $1500 less than the latter). Top of the line is the ZR at $30,990 ($1000 less than the outgoing Ultima).
The Corolla sedan is apparently a quite separate model to the hatch which made its debut in late 2012. It has a different wheelbase, different gear ratios, different steering ratio and a number of other differences. The sedan is aimed at a slightly older age group, people who are more interested in luxury and comfort than agility and sportiness.
For most people in the market for a new Corolla, the good news will be that it’s still a Corolla. It’s a formula that has served Toyota well, and they’re not about to change it now.