Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla S manual transmission toyota car test drives
Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla S manual transmission toyota car test drives
Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla S manual transmission toyota car test drives
2014 Toyota Corolla S. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Simon Hill

In the Canadian compact car market, a few names stand tall above the rest, selling more than 40,000 cars per year in 2013. You know these cars well, for they populate our roads, they belong to our friends and family, and they turn up in the background of our photographs. They are the Honda Civic, the Hyundai Elantra, the Mazda3, and yes, the Toyota Corolla.

Staying ahead in this hard-fought segment is tough, and even tougher if you’re offering the oldest and plainest design in the group, as the Corolla was by 2013. For 2014 that has changed, however, with Toyota bringing its new 11th-generation Corolla to market.

Not wanting to mess with success, Toyota hasn’t strayed far from the formula with this latest Corolla, but the Japanese automaker has made a real effort to dress the Canadian-built compact for success.

The changes start on the outside, where Toyota has given the Corolla a slightly more angular, forward-raked look, with some new character lines and a big trapezoidal maw of a lower air inlet, as is all the rage these days. My test car’s S trim and Technology package amplified the stylistic statement with sharp-looking 17-inch alloy wheels, rear lip spoiler, and fog lights set in a more aggressive front fascia with a chrome-outlined hexagonally shaped lower air inlet (the specs list a unique rear fascia for the S too, but I couldn’t really tell the difference at the back). In my test car’s Blue Crush Metallic paint (a colour unique to the S trim, as is Barcelona Red Metallic) the overall effect was really quite pleasing.

If the Corolla’s exterior transformation is quietly impressive, its interior transformation is all that and more. No, Toyota hasn’t gone all soft-touch materials, leather and real-wood trim à la Jaguar, but there’s a soft-padded dash topper with moulded “stitching,” and my test car featured convincing-looking (and breathable) SoftTex leatherette seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and leather-trimmed gearshift. Most of the remaining interior elements are constructed of rigid plastics, but the vaguely Tupperware-like appearance of the previous-generation Corolla has been entirely banished, and instead Toyota has selected textures and finishes that work well together to create a sophisticated, modern and decidedly upscale atmosphere, especially in S trim. My test car had a full-width band of brushed-metal-look trim running across the dash and into the doors to help create a sense of unified visual space, with piano-black inserts above this and at the centre stack (other trims only get the piano black at the centre stack).

Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla S manual transmission toyota car test drives Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla S manual transmission toyota car test drives Test Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla S manual transmission toyota car test drives
2014 Toyota Corolla S. Click image to enlarge

I should point out that the sense of spaciousness is more than merely visual: The new Corolla has a 99 mm longer wheelbase than the previous model, and is noticeably roomier inside. I found the front seats very accommodating and comfortable, and while the back seat is a trifle flat and bench-like it’s well angled and supportive enough at the legs and back, and it certainly offers lots of legroom and headroom for my 5’11″ frame. I was also impressed that I didn’t have to move either the headrests or the front seats in order to fold the 60/40 split rear seatbacks forward, although with the Corolla’s big 368 L trunk you won’t need to fold the seats except to accommodate very long or ungainly cargo.

Standard equipment with the Corolla includes power locks and windows, heated power-adjustable exterior mirrors, LED headlights, four-speaker audio with USB input and Bluetooth telephone connectivity, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, 12V outlet, map lights, dual vanity mirrors and much more. All but the base CE models get air conditioning, cruise control, backup camera, keyless entry, heated front seats, and an upgraded six-speaker audio system.




About SimonHill

Simon Hill rebuilt his first engine, an air-cooled Volkswagen, at 14. He started writing professionally about cars in 2009 and is also the editor of Boat Journal magazine. He lives in Vancouver, BC.