Toyota Motor Corp. is tossing aside a reliable but aging compact recipe by adding room, refinement, and bolder styling to the redesigned Corolla.
Toyota scraps dowdy compact strategy with bolder, roomier Corolla
The 2014 base Corolla will carry over a 1.8-liter, 132 hp four-cylinder engine. But an optional Eco 1.8-liter engine will be available with 140 hp and highway fuel economy estimated to be above 40 mpg.
The base Corolla L will be offered with a carryover four-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission. Those transmissions will represent a small percentage of Corolla sales.
For the vast majority of the lineup, the 2014 Corolla will be equipped with a continuously variable transmission, the first CVT offered by Toyota in North America.
Because many drivers dislike the "rubber band" feel of CVT pulleys searching for the optimal power-to-economy ratio, the Corolla CVT will have preset steps to behave more like an automatic transmission.
Toyota says the interior is quieter with the addition of an acoustic glass windscreen, improved floor carpet insulation, an instrument panel seal between the cowl and the windshield, a fender sound insulator and an inner dash silencer pad.
Inside, much of the extended wheelbase has been used to expand the rear-seat area, with nearly three more inches of legroom in the back.
Standard features for all Corollas will include Bluetooth, eight airbags, air conditioning, in-glass AM/FM antenna, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, color-keyed outside door handles and mirrors, power door locks and windows with driver-side one-touch up/down, LED low-beam headlamps and daytime running lights.
The Corolla will maintain its current front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension setup -- although there have been changes to suspension geometry and spring rate and bushing settings. The front and rear brakes are slightly larger, with optional solid discs in the back.
As the current Corolla has aged, fleet sales have been on the rise, according to data from Edmunds.com.
Fleet sales are estimated to make up 23 percent of Corolla's sales mix in 2013, almost double the rate from five years ago. It also has a higher concentration of fleet sales than all of its compact competitors except the Focus, according to Edmunds.
The Corolla buyer skews more toward female, married and urban buyers than the rest of the compact segment, according to demographic data from consultancy AutoPacific.
How the Corolla buyer compares
|Toyota Corolla||Compact car buyer|
|Mean / Weighted average||53.2||50.9|
|No college degree||51.1%||42.1%|
|2-Yr College Degree||8%||10.2%|
|4-Yr College Degree+||40.9%||47.7%|
|Mean / Weighted average||$62,327.8||$84,385.7|
|Source: AutoPacific 2012|
One unanswered question is whether the Corolla's sibling vehicle -- the Matrix five-door hatchback -- will remain in the lineup.
The Matrix was added to the Toyota stable in 2002 and initially constituted 15 percent or more of the Corolla sales mix. But sources within Toyota say the Matrix represents well below 10 percent of sales today. Hints from executives indicate the Matrix will not be reloaded.
Pricing will be announced closer to the fall date when the 2014 Corolla goes on sale.
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