2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco
2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco
2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco
2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco. Click image to enlarge

Review by Brendan McAleer

By all accounts, the California launch event for the eleventh generation Toyota Corolla was quite the do. Writhing gymnasts sloshed around in a translucent tank suspended from the ceiling like some Cirque du Soleil representation of an industrial laundromat, thumping bass music provided by DJ Internet-something blurred vision and imparted long-term hearing damage, and then funnyman Adam Carolla (get it? Carolla/Corolla?) showed up to do a few jokes.

It was a typically Hollywood-style party, all flash, spectacle and sizzle, and sitting here in a car that’s made its bones on a history of durability, economy, value and resale, it pretty much had nothing to do with the machine Toyota produced. Corollas are purchased based on substance, and substance is not a word ordinarily associated with Hollywood. Unless, of course, it’s immediately followed by the word, “abuse”.

Away from the zippity-do-dah of PR spin and out on the somewhat-dreary open road, I took this latest generation of Toyota’s mass-market sedan on an extended shakedown drive. There were no sequins. There was no dub step. We may have spent a portion of the trip listening to an audiobook about the history of typography. Hashtag CorollaLyfe – here’s how it went.

First off, have a gander at the Corolla’s angry new mug. As is now the tradition among any car you choose to name, having a friendly face is not ‘with it’ anymore. To paraphrase Grandpa Simpson, the car industry has changed what “it” is, and now, what’s “it” is required to be weird and scary. It’ll happen to yoooouuuuu…..

And it’s happened to the Corolla, particularly the sportier S trim which, as I’ve said before, looks like this guy here.

However, my more conservative-looking LE Eco tester didn’t mean-mug more than was required to not look like a dweeb in the grocery store parking lot. While the jutting forward valence, scowling LED headlights, and gaping, four-slat lower grille give off the prerequisite 2014 menace, it’s not over the top. I don’t even mind the fake carbon-fibre-look bumper insert. Really though, how many cooling ducts does a 140-hp four-cylinder engine need?

From the side and the rear, the new Corolla is pretty much the same as its pleated-front-pants predecessor. You don’t get much in the way of style lines or a roof that slopes to an aggressive pitch; instead, it’s even boxier than the old one, as though the sheet metal has been inflated and then creased. It doesn’t look bad; in fact, it doesn’t look like anything. I’ll say that the 16-inch alloys that are part of the “Upgrade” package on my tester filled out the wheel wells nicely, but as far as the rest of it goes, it’s entirely unremarkable, inoffensive, forgettable.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco
2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco. Click image to enlarge

However, the extra bulging is due in part to some stretched accommodations. This is a perfectly cromulent car and it’s also embiggened – ten centimetres longer overall, with a wheelbase stretched by the same amount, plus slightly wider and taller. Loading up the luggage for a trip down to central Washington, the extra space was very noticeable.

Few cars can fit a full-size running stroller through their trunk space opening without a struggle, and fewer still have much area left over after you wrestle the damn thing in there. The Corolla ate up our Bob in a front-to-back configuration that left enough space for the folding cot and four suitcases worth of baby stuff. You may not have a kid, and therefore may have this “free time” stuff I’m always hearing about, and I can assure you the Corolla will easily fit your foursome’s golf bags or BASE-jumping apparatus or Renaissance-fair jousting equipment.

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