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2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium may be a bit more than you expect

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2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

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The 2014 Toyota Corolla was completely redesigned for 2014 and – in its eleventh generation – introduced new exterior styling, interior upgrades, improved technology and a pretty impressive new CVT transmission for consumers to consider when looking for a compact sedan.

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The compact sedan segment is pretty crowded with a variety of offerings from several manufacturers all having a wide range of capabilities, features, functions and amenities – along with a wide range of prices - for the consumer to choose from.

The Toyota Corolla has long been a leader in the category selling over 300,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2013 with over 40 million sold worldwide since the first generation of the Corolla going back to the 1960’s. As the competition has increased more so in the last few years, Toyota has taken steps to maintain that leadership.

According to Toyota, they redesigned the 2014 Toyota Corolla to address a range of customer groups from those wanting a solid, basic, reasonably well-equipped and economical sedan that is a comfortable and easy drive and looks pretty good in the driveway – at one end – to groups wanting their compact sedan to be a bit more stylish, with more standard and optional features while delivering a more exciting driving experience for the owner.

We think they may have pretty well hit that mark based on our recently completed week-long test drive of a 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium in Blue Crush Metallic with a Black Softex and Fabric interior.

With a base MSRP of $20,400, the standard features on our Corolla S Premium included:

• LED low beam - Halogen high beam with daytime running lights (DLR) headlamp system
• Integrated fog lights
• Front chrome grille surround with piano black insert
• Color keyed heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators
• Rear deck spoiler
• 16-inch steel wheels with unique covers
• 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
• Leather-trimmed tilt and telescopic steering wheel with controls
• Sport-style instrumentation including speedometer and tachometer and TFT Multi-information Display
• Cruise control
• Automatic climate control with dust and pollen filters
• Integrated backup camera with projected path display
• Piano Black center stack and upper instrument panel

With all of the trim grades being pretty well equipped, the 2014 Toyota Corolla offers just two options or packages for those wanting a bit more. Our test vehicle was equipped with both of them. They were:

Power Moonroof with tilt/slide and sliding sunshade -$850

Drivers Convenience Package ($1,510) which added Smart Key System with Remote Keyless Entry, Push Button Start and Entune Premium Audio which includes Navigation and App Suite AM/FM CD player with MP3 playback, 6 speakers, USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth wireless technology, 6.1-inch high resolution display, Sirius XM satellite radio and HD radio traffic and weather.

With delivery, our 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium priced at $23,570.

Things we liked in particular about the new Corolla are the improved styling both exterior and interior, upgraded materials on the interior, the new CVTi-S transmission, comfortable seating with large bolsters, easy to understand and use controls, large dials on key controls, good leg room and head room in the back seat and the good sized trunk.

Our only criticism of any note was that the driver seat could have been just a bit better if it had another inch of front-to-back adjustment travel in it allowing for longer legs than most drivers have.

Considering that our test drive vehicle was at the higher end of the trim grades available for the 2014 Toyota Corolla, our opinion is that this new Corolla will likely satisfy both of their target customer groups.

The 2014 Toyota Corolla comes in four grade levels – L, LE, S, and LE Eco. Model levels within the grades (except the L-grade) include a Base, Plus and Premium. Pricing ranges from the L-grade (MSRP $16,800 with a 6-speed manual transmission or $17,400 for the 4-speed automatic) to the S-grade (MSRP $19,000 for the Base and $21,300 for the S Premium - both with the new CVTi-S 7-speed automatic transmission).

The L, LE and S are powered by a 1.8L DOHC aluminum 4-cylinder engine with Dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) that produces 132 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and delivers 128 lb.-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm.

Transmissions offered in these grade levels are a new 6-speed manual in the L and S Plus grades, a 4-speed automatic in the L-grade and the all-new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVTi-S) with a 7-speed range that has a normal or ECO mode and a SPORT mode that gives the driver a noticeable snappier driving experience in automatic mode (in LE and S grades).

On the S-grade, the CVTi-S also includes steering wheel mounted paddle shifters that allow the driver to manage the performance of their SPORT drive experience manually.

The CVTi-S coupled with the paddle shifters in our S Premium was really impressive in this Corolla.

We started our test week using the normal (ECO) mode for a couple of days around town and on the highway. ECO might be good enough for some in order to maximize fuel economy, but we found it sluggish and opted for the SPORT mode for the balance of the week using it in both automatic and with the paddle shifters.

The performance for us was so much better that we would recommend driving the Corolla S in SPORT mode all the time.

Fuel economy for the L, LE and S grades are:
• 6-speed manual - 28/37 mpg City/Highway with an average 31 mpg
• 4-speed automatic - 27/36 mpg City/Highway with an average of 31 mpg
• CVTi-S - 29/37 mpg City/Highway with an average of 32 mpg

For those wanting more economy yet, the 2014 Corolla LE Eco offers a new 1.8L DOHC engine with Valvematic VVT-i that that delivers improved fuel economy with a higher horsepower output (140 hp). When coupled with the new CVTi-S transmission, this LE Eco gets 30/42 mpg City/Highway with an expected average of 35 mpg. (Note the SPORT setting is not available on the LE Eco.)

There are other compact sedans available that some would say are higher performing with turbocharged power plants, sports suspensions and styling that is a bit more urban or trendy making them more attractive. But for the widest range of compact sedan customers, the 2014 Toyota Corolla - with its long history of reliability and popularity for the money - will do just fine staying at or near the top of the pack.

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