Saturday Road Test – 2014 Toyota Corolla

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2014 Toyota Corolla

Bulls Eye on its Target Audience

By Ron Amadon

POTTER PLACE, N.H. – This may not be the most exciting thing on four wheels, and candidly it needs a few more horsepower, but no one can argue that the redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla meets the needs of its loyal customers. In June, it remained Toyota’s second best seller behind the Camry and finished just behind the Honda Civic in compact car sales.

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An excellent reliability record, first-rate fit and finish, a modern exterior redesign for 2014, good gas mileage and a price that is right for many budgets keep the Corolla on the best seller lists.

A quirk of fate resulted in my being able to drive both the LE model and the top of the line S. Even as a rental, the LE was an agreeable, comfortable car on a day long trek all across Southern New Hampshire on mainly secondary roads. An improved interior, comfortable seats, and easy to decipher controls added to its appeal.

Upon my return to Mary-land, a slightly sportier S model showed up in the test driveway. Don’t get overly excited about that one since it shares the 1.8-liter, 132 horsepower, and 128 lb-ft of torque engine with its other stable mates. All but the base model is tied to one of the better CVT’s on the market but that isn’t saying much. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer stick shifts or more traditional automatics.

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Passing maneuvers on two lane country roads should be well thought out as acceleration is not very strong. A 0-60 run works out to about 9.8 seconds. Handling is on a par with its rivals, with a suspension that was neither too soft nor too hard. Like so many things in Corollas it should met the expectations of its audience. In short, if you liked the previous model, the new one performs about the same, but then again if you are Toyota and have a hot seller, why mess with success?

Economy wise, the EPA rating is 29-37 with a combined 32 mpg, and I came in at 33 in a longer week’s test of the S model. LE owners should rack up about the same numbers, and I have heard that some owners hit 40 mpg on trips.

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The LE comes nicely equipped with heated mirrors, keyless entry, automatic climate control, and in the test car, an air conditioner that had no trouble keeping things cool on a humid 90 plus degree day. Also kudos to Toyota for including a rear view camera.

Step up to the S model, and you add fog lights, front sport seats that I thought were a touch less comfortable than those in the LE, upgraded instruments, 17 inch alloy wheels and a bit firmer suspension. An important addition – disc brakes replaced the rear drums on the LE. Engage the Sport mode via a center console mounted button, and the CVT hold “gears” a bit longer, but there really is little difference in performance.

Inside there was lots of room for four, controls were wonderfully simple with knobs (imagine that) for audio and ventilation. I thought the 6.1 touchscreen where the navi resides was a mounted a bit too low for quick glances and it tended to excessively wash out. There are all the expected connections for phones and music choices.

One major downside was the lack of visibility to the right and left rear corners due to a rather wide C pillar. While the rear camera does help, one should use care when backing out of angled parking slots at malls and shopping centers.

The S model came well equipped with an $850 power moonroof and a long list of gear in a $1,150 “Driver Convenience Package” – everything from a Multimedia Bundle to GraceNotes. Frugal shoppers might be happier without it. Now what about prices?

The base L model starts at $17,610, the LE at $19,110 and the S at $19,700 base. With all the options, and delivery included, the S came to $22,870 which is not bad in today’s market. Yet, I thought an LE with just a few options might be the best buy.

Not everyone wants a car that turns heads when they come down the street, or carves up back roads like a veteran butcher going to work on steaks. They want something that goes from Point A to Point B, is comfortable, well built, long lasting, and ignores a lot of gas stations. The Corolla has done that for years and once again hits the bulls eye for its target audience even in its new duds.

Oh, one P.S. The Potter in this dateline was around long before Harry.

 

 

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