2014 Toyota Corolla: Lots of Fanfare, but Worth the Hype?

By Keith Buglewicz | June 07, 2013
Toyota went a little bananas last night when it introduced the all-new 2014 Toyota Corolla. You could even say the event at the Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hanger was a circus. Literally. FuerzaBruta (Spanish for "brute force") performed during the meet-and-greet, and before the actual unveil of the car. The group--a performance art troupe that's best analogized as an Argentinian Cirque du Soleil--was supposed to add some excitement and pizzazz to the unveiling of a car that, historically at least, is practically defined by its dullness.
Breaking the newest Corolla away from its dishwater-dull reputation was the obvious theme of the night. There were ice cream and frozen cocktails, hand made with liquid nitrogen--always neat to watch--and several buffets of not-quite-big-enough exotic food. Even the vintage Corollas on display were from the exciting side of the Corolla family tree: a pair of first-generation cars that included a funky two-door wagon; a sleek early '80s coupe; a mid-'80s FX16 hatchback; and outside, a pair of the "AE86" rear-wheel drive Corolla GT-S coupes that helped spawn the whole "drifting" movement. The only place you'd find the current car was in the parking lot, far from the festivities.
So as the dancers twirled above us on their cables, or splashed about in a giant plexiglass Slip 'n Slide above the titillated crowd, or smashed a box-like room on the stage--the most symbolic part of the whole performance--the car itself rested on a platform near the hangar's ceiling, waiting for its moment in the spotlight. And it waited. And we waited. And waited, and waited, and...seriously, we're back to the Slip 'n Slide again? You know you've lost the crowd when they'd rather see a Corolla than an erotic display of wet and scantily clad women sliding around.
But eventually the dancers retreated, the music swelled, and the 2014 Toyota Corolla descended from on high, getting its only chance at a first impression. And you know what? It looks pretty good. The executive speech was mercifully short and free of technobabble, an appearance by Adam "Hey, Remember 'The Man Show'" Carolla was equally brief, and soon we were able to get up close and personal with Toyota's newest compact.
No More Blending In While the 2014 Toyota Corolla--the 11th generation of the car, incidentally--is destined for near-ubiquity on American roads, it's clear that Toyota no longer wants it to blend into the scenery. The styling is bold, especially the front's strong nose and tiny LED headlights. The rear end is not quite as forceful, but the sculpting around the taillights and bumper are definite breaks with previous Corollas. The profile may be the weakest angle, but it correctly hints at a much larger interior. From the front and rear angles, where you get the end and sides of the car, it's even a little dramatic. Inside Story But in all honesty, I'd already gathered that from photos of the 2014 Corolla a couple days before. What I was really interested in was the interior. I'm a bit of an interior snob, and unapologetically so. A car can look great on the outside, but if the interior--where you spend all your time--is unpleasant, then the car is a waste of time.
Luckily, that's not the case here. While the interior materials aren't top of class, they're a leap forward from where they are in the current car, and definitely class-competitive. If you've sat in the most recent version of the Toyota Camry, you'll be instantly familiar, as the Corolla's dash looks something like a 7/8-scale version of that car. The dash top is thinly padded, and has faux stitching molded in. Contrasting panels adorn the doors, there are a few chrome highlights here and there, and the center stack uses a piano-black surround that looks cool...and smudges like crazy. The seats were very comfortable though, and in typical Toyota fashion, the controls, switches, knobs, and gauges were all easy to use and see.
What really surprised me was the rear seat. I'm about 6 feet 2 inches tall, and I try to perform a "self behind self" test in vehicles, where I'll adjust the driver's seat to my liking, then sit behind it. The 2014 Toyota Corolla passed this test with flying colors, giving me good headroom and a solid two inches between my knees and the soft driver's seatback. This is in a car that's ostensibly a compact, and will likely sell for the high teens. The trunk was also surprisingly large, and with a big enough opening that getting large items in shouldn't be too difficult. Worth the Hype? Make no mistake: A new Toyota Corolla really is a big deal. It's usually the best selling car in its class, even though it hasn't been the actual best car in its class for some time now. This new car promises to fix most of the current car's problems, and then some. With standard LED headlights--still an expensive option on premium luxury cars--a huge interior, sharp styling, and what Toyota promises will be fuel economy in the 40-mpg range, it's all but certain to retain its place at the top of the heap. If it drives as well as it looks, the 2014 Toyota Corolla will once again be a fuerza bruta for its competition to contend with.

Introducing the new 2008 Ford Focu... er, uh, the 2014 Toyota Corolla! My wife has an '09 Focus, and upon one look at this new Corolla, she said it looked like her car. I recognized the styling of the last-gen Focus immediately. Why is it KIA and Hyundai know how to make BEAUTIFUL C-class cars, and Ford, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, and Toyota do not? WHY NOT MAKE THEM BEAUTIFUL? I just don't understand ugly cars. I simply find no reason in making this new Corolla look like a Japanese-updated 2008 Ford Focus. Simply no good reason at all.