The wraps have finally come off of the all-new 2014 Toyota Corolla, and at first glance the 11th generation recasting appears to be a major success. While production realities mandated a bit of backtracking from several of the pure showcar touches seen on the Corolla Furia Concept presented in Detroit last January, the volume-build Corolla sedan retains a good deal of that one-off's evocative exterior design and introduces some impressive new technology as part of its step-up in style, scale and sophistication.
The 2014 Corolla will be available in four trim levels when it goes on sale this fall: L, LE, S and a new LE Eco. Although it remains a technical compact, this new front-drive 4-door is longer, lower and wider than the current model and adds a welcome 3.9 inches of wheelbase that's especially noticeable in the car's far more hospitable aft quarters. Its front and rear fascias feature bolder character cues, highlighted by the fitment of first-in-class standard LED low-beam headlamps along with LED running lights and prominent LED-infused taillamps. Wheel/tire fitments run from 15-inch steel rims and 195/65 rubber to 17-inch alloys wrapped in 215/45 tires.
Inside, the 2014 Corolla continues with what Toyota refers to as an "Iconic Dynamism" design theme that's manifested in a more upmarket look and feel. Redesigned seats that offer greater comfort, support and adjustability are wrapped in premium cloth or leather-like SofTex material. The main instrument cluster was redone to provide greater legibility and the sportier Corolla S even features a supplemental TFT driver info readout. Piano black and metallic-look accents further define the new look, while an acoustic windshield glass coupled with a bounty of supplemental noise-attenuation materials further add to the ambiance. While the roster of standards varies, all 2014 Corollas will feature air conditioning, power windows/locks, basic Bluetooth connectivity and eight airbags, as well as the comprehensive suits of Toyota Star Safety System items.
In addition to its more engaging appearance, the 2014 Corolla also promises a significantly better dynamic experience as well as improved fuel economy. A healthy dose of high-strength steel and new underfloor bracing adds rigidity to the basic platform which should give new electric power steering and revised suspension a better overall feel, particularly on the enthusiast-oriented S model. On the powertrain front, the 2014 Corolla will offer two 1.8-liter/4-cylinder engines and three transmissions. The L, LE and S get the current 132-horse VVT-i engine while the LE Eco gets a version that adds Valvematic, a technology that provides for a broader range of continuously variable valve timing encompassing both lift and phasing on the intake side. Making its first North American appearance, Valvetronic bumps the engine's pony count to 140 and also offers a five-percent improvement in relative fuel economy -- which Toyota anticipates will give the LE Eco an EPA highway rating in excess of 40 mpg.
While the Corolla L will offer a choice of a 4-speed automatic or 6-speed manual -- a transmission also available on the S -- all other models will come with a new "smart" continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) designed to provide a more direct connection between throttle pedal effort and vehicle response. Dubbed CVTi-S -- for "intelligent" and "Shift" -- it features unique program maps for the S and LE Eco models generating seven pseudo cogs in the former and between four and seven in the latter, depending on driving conditions. The Corolla S with CVTi-S transmission also comes with a manual-style gate on the console and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles that can be used when operating in Sport mode, while ECO mode in the Corolla LE Eco revamps the accelerator programming as well as the operation of the car's climate control system to improve mileage. The Corolla LE Eco also rides on low-rolling resistance tires and has a subtle rear spoiler as well as multiple wind-cheating underbody fairings - several of which also are shared with the S model.
Full details, EPA stats and pricing for the 2014 Toyota Corolla lineup will be released closer to the time the cars arrive in showrooms.
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