2014 Toyota Corolla
2014 Toyota Corolla. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Quebec City, Quebec – Despite being a top seller for Toyota Canada, the current Toyota Corolla has a reputation for being one of the most boring cars on the planet – even Corolla owners and Toyota execs admit this, although not in such precise terms.  At the media launch for the all-new 2014 Corolla in Quebec City, Toyota Canada Vice President Stephen Beatty said, “We want to appeal to the hearts as well as the minds of Corolla owners,” adding that, “we need to appeal to younger buyers.”  2014 Corolla Chief Engineer, Shinichi Yasui, said that a survey of current Corolla owners revealed that they “liked its reliability but said it lacked the excitement they desire.”

However – and this is the crucial part – current owners weren’t willing to compromise the Corolla’s fuel efficiency, reliability, resale value, and competitive price to get that desired boost in excitement.   Proof of that is the discontinuation of the 158 hp 2.4L Corolla XRS for the 2013 model year due to its poor sales performance.

That also explains why the new 2014 Corolla offers sportier looks, improved vehicle dynamics and more fuel-efficient technologies, but doesn’t offer a big increase in horsepower and torque, a fancy dual-clutch transmission or standard four-wheel disc brakes.  The base engine remains the same 132 hp 1.8L DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder motor that’s been around for donkey’s years.  It’s mated to a new six-speed manual transmission (replacing the five-speed) or a new optional continuously variable transmission (CVTi-S), supplementing the old four-speed automatic, which is still available on the base model.  It’s these new transmissions that help improve fuel economy.  The CE with a six-speed manual offers (L/100 km) 7.1 city/5.2 hwy and 6.3 combined (previously 7.4 city/5.6 hwy/ 6.5 combined with the five-speed) while the Corolla LE with the CVTi-S provides 6.8 city/4.9 hwy/5.9 combined (previously 7.8 city/5.7 hwy/6.8 combined with the four-speed auto).

2014 Toyota Corolla
2014 Toyota Corolla. Click image to enlarge

Even more economical is the new-for-2014 Corolla LE Eco which includes a new 140-hp 1.8L four-cylinder engine with a new variable valve timing system called ‘Valvematic’:  by varying the intake valve opening duration to a greater degree, this engine achieves slightly more horsepower and better fuel economy and lower emissions than the regular 1.8L engine. The Corolla LE Eco also includes a driver selectable Eco button that saves gas by reducing throttle input and air conditioning operation – Toyota says it can improve fuel economy by up to five percent.  Also helping to improve fuel economy are underbody panels that reduce aerodynamic drag.  The LE Eco sips just 6.5 city/4.6 hwy/5.7 L/100 km combined, according to Toyota.

Surprisingly, even though the new Corolla is bigger and more fuel efficient, it’s quicker in a straight line, reaching 100 km/h from a standing start in just under 10 seconds with the CVTi-S – the previous Corolla automatic took 10.7 seconds.

2014 Toyota Corolla
2014 Toyota Corolla. Click image to enlarge

Perhaps more importantly, the Corolla’s new CVTi-S offers a level of throttle responsiveness and quietness that shouldn’t alienate buyers who prefer a traditional automatic transmission: Toyota’s all-new CVT minimizes the typical ‘rubber band’ droning effect common to many CVTs by being more responsive to throttle input.  During a day driving around the rolling hills near Quebec City, I found the engine would stay below 3,000 rpm most of the time while accelerating and settle down to just 1,700 rpm while cruising at 100 km/h on a level road.  Engine noise entering the cabin is also minimized in part due to increased sound insulation between the engine compartment and the cabin.

To increase the driving excitement factor in the Corolla LE and LE Eco, the CVTi-S includes an S mode (just to the left of D in the shift gate) which provides higher revs and more responsive throttle for driving twisty roads where there’s a lot of braking and accelerating to do.  It also has a B drive mode (just behind S mode) which acts like a low gear for engine braking when descending steep hills.

Connect with Autos.ca