A fleet of nine 2014 Toyota Corollas rolled into Seattle this September, giving journalists and bloggers an opportunity to test drive the new vehicles. I don't consider myself a car person. Oh sure, I drive a car -- but I don't typically write about them. That said, I was among a dozen writers invited to Seattle for the 2014 Toyota Corolla Regional Product Press Preview.
Seattle was one of four preview cities, along with San Diego, Miami and Minneapolis. I admittedly felt a bit strange driving up to the Alexis Hotel in my 2013 MINI Cooper. But I assuaged some of my guilt by telling several of the Toyota people that my small inventory of cars over the years included a 1973 Toyota Carina.
Our headquarters for the two-day event was Kimpton's Alexis Hotel, one of my favorites in Seattle. Toyota thought of everything, including room key cards emblazoned with a 2014 Toyota Corolla instead of the Kimpton logo. They also provided individual iPod shuffles with 20 of Seattle's musical artists to listen to while tooling around town. Following lunch in the luxury hotel's hospitality suite, we had a few hours before being transported to Seattle Center. There we had an outdoor tour of Chihuly Glass & Garden before going to the Experience Music Project (EMP) for Toyota's marketing and technical presentations. Toyota's new tagline, Let's Go Places, is an improvement over the previous Moving Forward -- which sounded like a politician's campaign slogan. But having grown up with You've Got It, Toyota, which you could sing along to, I admit to missing the whimsical jingle. Following dinner at EMP, and a tour of Paul Allen's museum to music, we headed back to the Alexis to rest up before our driving day.
Breakfast at the hotel included a fun barista lesson by local coffee company Caffe Ladro (we coerced her into making the Toyota logo on our lattes), we headed out to select our cars. My partner was Seattle lifestyle blogger Jess Estrada, who among other things authors the blog Fresh Jess. Most of the 11th Generation Corollas had already been snapped up, and we hopped into the Corolla L, one of four grades of the 2014 Corolla (the others are the LE, S and the new LE Eco grade). I took to the driver's seat first, and we headed through the city and out toward Snoqualmie Falls. Although grey skies threatened rain, I didn't have to use the windshield wipers. So how was the car? First off, very comfortable and much roomier than my little MINI. And it's really a smooth ride, with good sight lines (a big complaint I have with many cars) and easy handling. Priced at $16,800 it gets high marks for its chiseled exterior design -- much sportier than the Toyota Camry my parents drove for oh so many years. You did it, Toyota!