2014 Toyota Corolla LE Review – Still 100% Corolla

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Fisherman's Cove

If Coca-Cola were to rejig their recipe every four or five years, we would instinctively compare the taste of the new Coke (hey, this sounds familiar) to the taste of the outgoing Coke. 

Maybe they’d change the exterior of the can in order to appear more modern. Perhaps, in 2009, they would have reduced the amount of sugar in order to sound healthy. Perhaps, in 2014, they would have increased the amount of sugar so as to be nostalgic. They’d probably ride the wave of hyped-up fruit by adding a pinch of açaí. In a mid-cycle refresh, Coca-Cola could add a Punch Top vent to the top of the can, market the new design as all-new with commercials starring the next Hollywood icon, an actress who as of yet has no DUIs on her record.

Reputation for reliability
Easily operated interior
Successful CVT implementation
Doesn’t look bad
Great steering wheel

Not feeling all 132 ponies
Interior feels… old
Very little manual availability
Rear beam axle can be jarring
It doesn’t handle

One thing is certain: no matter how they altered Coca-Cola Classic, no matter the extent to which they tinkered and adjusted, we would drink the new can side-by-side with the old can in order to form conclusions.

Cars, however, are not Coca-Cola. Well, most cars aren’t. Auto reviewers have been united in drawing favourable comparisons between the 2014 Chevrolet Impala and the ninth-gen car it replaced, but they’ve often forgotten to consider that consumers might cross-shop the new Impala with, for example, the new Toyota Avalon or a Chrysler 300. You don’t care if the new Mitsubishi Outlander is better than the old one – time should bring about improvement, shouldn’t it? – but you do care whether it’s a viable rival for the Honda CR-V. Which it isn’t.

2014 Toyota Corolla Wharf

But the new-for-2014 Toyota Corolla isn’t a Chevrolet Impala, established though that nameplate is, nor is the new Corolla the same as the Mitsubishi Outlander, fighting tooth and nail to break through the 1000-unit monthly U.S. sales barrier.

The Corolla – an LE version of which was delivered to GCBC Towers a week ago by Toyota Canada – has historically inspired the kind of brand loyalty that leads its owners to consider replacing their current Corolla with nothing but a Corolla. It has generated a reputation for peerless reliability that leads nieces of nine-time-Corolla-owning aunts to test drive just the one car, a Corolla, because, “My aunt’s Corollas never break.”

As a result, why bother considering the ramifications on the compact segment that a new Corolla provokes? Why bother entering the Corolla in a comparison test with the Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, and Chevrolet Cruze?

Corolla owners, of which there are bijillions, simply want to know if this Corolla is a worthwhile improvement over the Corolla they’re currently driving. Is it time to upgrade, time to trade in, time to donate the ’02 they’re currently driving to Meals On Wheels.

If Coca-Cola Classic was new for 2014, you’d only need to know if it was better than the old stuff. Toyota’s Corolla is new for 2014. Is it better?

Uh… yeah, Cletus, it’s better. It better be better. Corolla owners are loyal, but they’re not going to stick with the Toyota brand forever if the car they’re hoping to purchase turns out to be ready for a retirement garage.

Base Price * (CDN): $21,020
As-Tested Price * (CDN): $22,520
Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission: continuously variable
Horsepower: 132 @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 128 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Curb Weight: 2855 pounds
Drive Type: front-wheel-drive
Length: 182.6 inches
Width: 69.9 inches
Height: 57.3 inches
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Passenger Volume: 2750 litres
Cargo Volume: 368 litres
Centre Console: 9 tennis balls
Glove Compartment: 38 tennis balls
EPA City: 29 mpg = 8.1 L/100km
EPA Highway: 38 mpg = 6.2 L/100km
Observed: 28.3 mpg
Observed: 8.3 L/100km
* includes destination/delivery. 
Base price refers to Corolla LE. 
Basic Corolla’s true entry-level 
price is $17,515.

The new car is roomier, more efficient, more attractive, better equipped, more modern. Less octogenarian, less dowdy, less frumpy. Quieter, with less vibration through pedals and shifter and wheel. Smoother, too, although the rear beam axle can still shudder worrisomely when January’s east coast potholes are rudely struck.

Part of what charmed me about last year’s Corolla – okay, “charm” may be way too strong a word – was the car’s ultra-simplistic interior. There was no time required to get to know a complicated infotainment system, no hunting around for vital buttons, no searching for something as simple as the radio seek button. 

That’s all still in order in the 2014 Corolla. Steering wheel buttons, for example, are massive. M-A-S-S-I-V-E, I tell you. Control knobs are actual knobs. Cruise control and fan speed aren’t controlled by the same voice command. Connecting your phone isn’t a 27-step process that involves turning the treble down and adjusting the passenger-side mirror. 

Time will prove every part of this interior to be indomitable; nothing will crumple under the weight of frequent use. The delightfully compact steering wheel is wrapped in Lexus-like fashion. Unfortunately, the centre screen isn’t canted rearward and it’s terribly far from the driver’s line of sight. 

The interior dimensions are compact, but only so much as they should be in a car this size. Toyota has made the Corolla feel much more spacious in back than it was last year, and even the Corolla driver feels less cuddled by the door door and centre console. Yes, the Corolla interior’s straightforward nature is a welcome sight if you know Corollas or if you’ve spent time in, say, a Ford Focus. Yet the overall design which would have felt futuristic in 2001, out-front in 2005, and normal in 2009 now feels old, from the small gauge font to the 1990s clock to the small air vents. 

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Fisherman's Cove
All Photo Credits: Timothy Cain ©www.GoodCarBadCar.net
Click Any Image For A Larger View – (iPhone 4, Noir Filter)

It’s important to remember that the interior’s high point, the Corolla LE’s leather-wrapped steering wheel, isn’t present for your personal enjoyment. This is a Corolla, and there’s no desire here for there to be much in the way of man-machine bonding. The 2014 Corolla is prone to a bit of wandering on the highway. There’s an unbecoming amount of understeer, as no modern Corolla driver has ever asked for a smidgen of lift-off oversteer. 

In addition, brake feel is poor, but not as poor as it was in the Corolla CE GCBC tested in 2013, a car which was clearly sent here to prep auto reviewers for the wild improvements we’d find in the MY2014 Corolla. You’ll find some power as revs rise, but this car never felt as though it was generating 132 horsepower. 

2014 Toyota Corolla LE rear view

It’s hard to blame the continuously variable transmission for sapping the 1.8L four-cylinder’s output, too, as this is the best low-power CVT implementation I’ve encountered. Would I prefer a conventional 6-speed automatic? I’d prefer to shift for myself, but this really is CVT tech at its best, and it’s a real coup for Toyota, as numerous automakers are fitting their compact sedans with CVTs, and the fitment elsewhere isn’t this successful.

The Corolla is a lightweight compact, and as a result, sudden changes of direction are coped with, but it’s almost as easy to fluster this car as it was to befuddle the 2013 Corolla, a car which never enjoyed being driven swiftly. The Corolla’s seatbacks are too flat to get wet’n’wild in the corners anyway, as you’ll slide into your passenger with haste. This new Corolla is more composed than the outgoing car, a sensation that originates from every place where you could measure composure: power delivery, brakes, steering, NVH, ride quality, etc. But if you wanted a compact car to hustle down back roads, you wouldn’t be looking at a 2014 Corolla.

2014 Toyota Corolla ISTBTP
GCBC Has Instituted ISTBTP, AKA Interior Storage Tennis Ball Test Protocol.
You Can See More On The ISTBTP In Last Week’s Accord Hybrid Review, In This Tweet,
And At Jalopnik’s Opposite Lock. The Corolla’s ISTBTP Results Are In The Spec Chart Above.

One tends to feel bad for Toyota buyers who chose to buy a 2013 Corolla in the last few months, potentially huge incentives aside. The 2014 Corolla, especially in this affordable but nicely equipped mid-range LE Upgrade Package trim, is just as much a Corolla, but it has upped the ante in terms of sharpness and sophistication, and it is far superior all around.

Problems remain. In an industry full of flavourful, refreshing, sweet, fizzy Cokes compact cars, the 2014 Toyota Corolla comes across a little flat. The luxurious Kia Forte, fun and stylish Mazda 3, uniquely diesel-powered Chevrolet Cruze, and a handful of others are generally better than the Corolla. 

But they are not better Corollas. To many consumers, the best Corolla wins. Hands down, this is the best Corolla.

Historical Monthly & Yearly Toyota Corolla Sales Figures
2014 Mazda 3 Sport GT Driven Review
2014 Kia Forte SX Driven Review
2013 Nissan Sentra SR Driven Review
2013 Toyota Corolla CE Driven Review
2013 Toyota RAV4 LE Driven Review

  1. What are you talking about? The last Corolla was fine except for the driving dynamics. This new one look kinda stupid – like it was designed for childish emoting twits.

  2. I was just comparing the CX5 AWD and Encore AWD on Car & Driver's website and the objective performance data is a wash. I don't know where you can say the Encore is slow when the CX5 has similar performance data results and the Encore handledly beat the CX5 in braking with it's light weight. Through a Trifecta Tune on the Encore that adjusts the engine and transmission for more performance the numbers would be lopsided to Encore.

    Grant the Encore is on the small side but fold down the ffront passenger's seat and the cubic cargo is allot closer. I picked up an Encore AWD and have seen 39 mpg on one tankful on my daily 120 mile commute. Most owners on Buickforums are exceeding EPA highway numbers….in mixed commuting. Show me a reviewer that has exceeded EPA highway in mixed driving in thr CX5? I know of more than one that have exceeded EPA highway number in their mixed driving during the review….and with AWD.

  3. What do you drive?

    The Corolla is the Coke equivalent in the segment. Sure there are other different flavours out there but the Coke is the flavour that will always taste right and consistent.

    And will appeal to the masses the best

  4. You must be using the 2013 CX-5 AWD for your comparison. The 2013 models had a 155hp 2.0L engine (from the Mazda3), but only the entry-level 2014 CX-5 Sport uses that engine now. The 2014 CX-5 Touring and Grand Touring models (which account for 85-90% of sales) now have a 184hp 2.5L shared with the Mazda6. In CD tests, the CX-5 blew the Encore away (0-60 in 7.6sec vs. 10.0sec, 0-100 in 22.3 vs. 37.8). The CX-5 averaged 21mpg in their tests and the Encore reported managed 24mpg.

    But Consumer Reports, who conducts the most consistent and extensive fuel economy testing, achieved 25mpg overall in a CX-5 2.5L and only 23mpg in the Encore. Both managed 32mpg on their highway test, but the Encore only got 16mpg in the city cycle compared to 19mpg for the CX-5. The CX-5 also ran 0-60 in 8.0sec vs. 11.0sec for the Encore (both AWD).

    No contest…

  5. My car is an '09 Corolla S, and I've found it a very good car. Even though every auto journalist agrees on the '14s superb CVT, "sharpness" of design, soundness, and so on, there is little to support swapping my 'Rolla for this new one. Why should I? Everyone who rides with me on trips likes it. Room in the back is plentiful, the ride is solid, the brakes are good, the stereo sounds great, and on and on. What does chap my thighs about the '14 model is that they've taken away the coin box AND the upper glove box. Really, I hate that. WHY give us so much storage space and take it away? WHY? For the sake of dashboard design? For the sake of saving $20 on materials? What, do we need LED headlamps and less storage space? Really? Toyota, if you want so desperately to be first, then KEEP THE GOOD STUFF and add the new stuff to it. I know you read blogs, and I'm telling you, ADD THE COIN BOX AND UPPER GLOVE BOX to the mid-cycle refresh. Far as I know, I won't be needing an 11th-gen model anytime soon. After all, I have a perfectly good 10th-gen copy. And, it has both a coin box and upper glove box. Think I'll trade them for LED headlights? No, Toyota, I won't.

  6. I agree with you on the Mazda 3's goofy design. After you've optioned-out a 3, you could have a 6 for practically the same or less money! Matter of fact, all makers are pricing their compacts to the point it's crazy to spend the same money for a smaller car as you would a mid-size version! Truly, all Toyota would have to do to come out on top would be to keep the stuff that we all like and simply improve upon them. Add to that, they should just build their production models to match their brilliant concepts. That they don't indicates to me that they need a new bunch of concept designers who know how to conceptualize brilliant designs using today's regulated standards.

  7. Yeah i 100% agree with what you have said. While the 10th gen corolla is no fashion statement. I think for a daily runabout its better. Have you ever sat in this new Corolla? It has the most awkward seating positions.The dashboard and the general ambiance of the interior is from a 1992 econobox.

    At least with the 10th gen the general interior design was minimalist, not stupid like this new one.

  8. For real. Yeah, I have sat in one. As one reviewer said, the dash is so huge and high up it makes you feel like you're sitting in a truck. And I've recently learned Toyota have eliminated the new Corolla's interior trunk release, too.

    Let's recap (I'm writing this 'cause Toyota have assigned people to read blogs):

    1) More interior legroom comes with less storage space;
    2) LED headlights come with no interior trunk release;
    3) Rear back-up camera comes with the dashboard of a pickup truck.

    Toyota have lost their minds.

  9. While LED headlights are nice, they are unnecessary. In fact their actual illumination is probably less than the conventional headlamps.

    No trunk release from the interior is a cost cutting measure. Also less storage space is more cost cutting.

    The only aspect of this new Corolla that is better than the 10th gen is the steering wheel like what this reviewer mention is like the Lexus leather type.

    Also no one knows the durablilty of these CVTs yet.

  10. that thing is as ugly as can be, a little old lady's car but on the other hand all toyatos are ugly and old folk's cars

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