The Toyota Corolla has been the compact segment leader for many years (across several decades) and seemed to all but have a lock on it forever. But as the last generation Corolla began to age, and multiple competitors focused more on this segment, their added (and improved) vehicles required that Toyota develop and deliver a much improved Corolla for 2014.
To meet this competition, the new 2014 Corolla was pretty extensively remade including new features and styling, enhanced ride and handling including electric power steering, more passenger space including five more inches leg room in the rear and seriously improved fuel economy t through the introduction of a new trim level – the 2014 Corolla LE Eco.
Toyota, in making the transition from the last generation (2013 model year) to the new generation 2014 Toyota Corolla, finished 2014 trailing the Honda Civic by 34,000 units at year end as the new 2014 Corolla entered the market and began to gain some traction. Based on the Corolla having regained compact segment leadership after the first four months of 2014, it appears that the new 2014 Corolla is resonating favorable with the consumer. We know it is with us.
Earlier this year, we drove a new 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium (see our March 12 review in examiner.com) and confirmed the Toyota claims and consumer acceptance of their new and improved Corolla for 2014 - that is, except for the LE Eco.
We were very interested in getting to drive the all-new LE Eco version to see if the effort to make it more fuel efficient took anything away from our favorable impressions of the performance of the Corolla S. Just recently, we had that opportunity.
Our test vehicle was the 2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco Plus which offers an enhanced powertrain as standard that includes a new 1.8L four-cylinder engine equipped with what Toyota calls Valvematic that improves the operating efficiencies of the base engine - adding fuel economy (now 30/40 mpg City/Highway with an expected average of 34 mpg) while increasing horsepower to 140 from 132.
The enhanced 1.8L engine is mated to their new CVTi-S Continuously Variable Transmission with a unique ECO Mode for the LE Eco to maximize performance. The CVT-S (intelligent – shift) transmission has been tuned uniquely to the vehicle in order to deliver a more precise set of shift points to match the car’s acceleration and deceleration curves. Additionally, an ECO Mode feature for the LE Eco model makes the accelerator control non-linear to manage the engine performance in relationship to demand requirements across the entire vehicle including things like reducing AC compressor power as needed for fuel efficiency.
After a week of driving the new Corolla LE Eco around the urban and rural areas of Central Texas, we think they nailed this pretty well. The added horsepower 1.8L engine mated to the CVTi-S automatic transmission and specifically tuned for this vehicle for fuel efficiency met our expectations.
With a base MSRP of $19,400 our Blizzard Pearl 2014 Corolla LE Eco included a pretty complete array of features not always found in a value priced compact sedan.
Those features included LED low beam - Halogen high beam headlamps with daytime LED running lights (first in the segment), integrated fog lights, front chrome grille surround with piano black insert, color keyed heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, integrated rear deck spoiler, 16-inch uniquely styled alloy wheels, chrome tipped exhaust, softex fabric trimmed heated seats with sport bolsters and sport fabric inserts, 6-way adjustable driver seat and 4-way adjustable passenger seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, piano black center stack and upper instrument panel, three gauge instrument cluster trimmed in chrome, cruise control, automatic climate control with dust and pollen filters and integrated backup camera with projected path display.
Additional features included the Entune Audio System with 6.1-inch color touch-screen display, AM/FM CD Player, auxiliary audio jack, USB Port, iPod connectivity, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless plus the Entune Multimedia Bundle.
Our test 2014 Corolla LE Eco was nicely finished out with the optional Driver Convenience Package ($1,510) that included the Entune Premium Bundle with Navigation and App Suite, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, HD Radio with Weather and Traffic and Smart Key Keyless Door Entry System with Push Button Start.
The Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof with Sliding Sunshade ($850) completed the package on this LE Eco.
With delivery and an upcharge for the special color, our test 2014 Corolla LE Eco Plus priced at $22,965.
At the end of the day, we feel that the performance of the 2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco is very close to the Corolla S.
The Corolla S has a slight advantage over the LE Eco in powertrain performance due to the tuning of the S trim level's CVTi-S automatic transmission (with seven semi-discrete shift ranges) integrated with a performance engineered SPORT Mode plus available paddle shifters that enable more driver involvement in the power train performance.
On the other hand, the LE Eco Plus creates its own unique advantage by delivering eight percent better fuel efficiency than the S Plus with what is still very decent power train performance.
With these Corolla price points beginning right around $20,000 and, when fully featured and equipped, still well below $25,000, either model will certainly do for compact segment consumers looking for value and good performance and should help Toyota maintain its segment leadership with the new 2014 Corolla.