ToyotaToyota unveiled the 2014 Corolla on Thursday. The company made three key changes that should make it more appealing to shoppers in the competitive compact car market.
The Corolla, known for its basic — even boring — looks, is a huge car for Toyota.
After the Camry, it is the automaker's best-selling model in the U.S. It's on the market in 154 countries. In 47 years, it has sold nearly 40 million units.
Toyota reported "solid" U.S. figures for the Corolla last month, down 12.1% from May 2012. Calendar year to date sales are up 5.9%. That's especially impressive for the last year of a model about to be refreshed.
The Japanese automaker wants stronger numbers for the 2014 Corolla. Here's how it plans to entice buyers:
1. It's Bigger In The Back
Toyota extended the wheelbase of the 2014 Corolla by nearly four inches, to add three inches of rear leg room. Ford pulled a similar move in the 2013 Kuga (known in the U.S. as the Escape), to appeal to buyers in China.
That's likely why Toyota followed suit. In the world's new largest auto market, rear seats are more important than they are in the U.S., where they are usually occupied by children. More room in back could make Americans happier as well, but it will have a bigger impact in China.
2. It's Actually Somewhat Stylish
The Corolla has never been an exciting car. It's pretty boring, actually. For the 11th generation, Toyota has produced something much fresher. It's really not bad looking.
In the automaker's words:
The Corolla’s design theme dictates a more advanced, modern-looking vehicle with a longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs, resulting in an athletic stance with greater presence. More pronounced flared wheel arches, and the impactful simplicity of cleanly sculpted surfaces, help lend the Corolla an exterior elegance.
When viewing the profile, there is a sweeping character crease in the body’s sheet metal that spans the length of the sedan and accentuates the integrated door handle design. The 2014 Corolla’s exterior form tapers towards the front and rear of the vehicle to emphasize the wheel arches, with a longer, faster sloping roofline that blends into a shorter rear deck to lend the sedan a sportier image.
As usual with car descriptions, the language is a bit over the top. But the crease in the sides of the car is nice. LED lowbeam headlamps come standard.
Options include touchscreen audio, push-button start, moon roof, back-up monitor, and paddle shifters , if you want to change gears like a race car driver. You can even get "styled alloy" wheels, and choose from three new exterior colors.
The point is, this Toyota is cooler than it was before (we no longer think it's an appropriate comparison to the ugliest electric car around, the Coda sedan).
3. It's More Fuel-Efficient
For American buyers, this is a big consideration. Surprisingly, Toyota did not announce a hybrid version of the Corolla, but it will make an LE Eco model that promises more than 40 miles to the gallon. The current model offers a combined 30 mpg.
In ECO drive mode on the LE Eco, Toyota actually tuned the throttle to be less responsive, "to encourage more fuel-efficient driving and eliminate sudden starts."
Considering the outgoing model's strong sales record, there's reason to believe Toyota will have even more success with its new look for 2014.
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