Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

January 26, 2014

Corolla gets a makeover

For decades now, the Toyota Corolla has been the default choice for millions of people who want a dependable little car.

In fact, the Corolla’s long-term reputation for reliability is a big reason people think of Toyota as a quality brand. It’s a foundational car for Toyota, one that sells in huge volume in the United States and around the world, which sets the tone for the entire global company.

And that’s what makes this car, the all-new 2014 Corolla, incredibly important.

This year marks the start of a new generation of Corolla, and this fresh version feels dramatically different from the old one when you get behind the steering wheel.

For one thing, it addresses the outgoing Corolla’s only two weaknesses in my mind — fuel economy and driving enjoyment — while also getting a fresh look inside and out.

The fuel economy issue may come as a surprise to many buyers who think of the Corolla as an efficient, economical car, but it had actually fallen behind its competitors by the end of the previous generation’s lifespan. Last year’s Corolla was rated for 34 mpg on the highway, which was unimpressive when many of its competitors could brag about ratings of 40+ mpg.

That changes with this next-generation design. The new Corolla is available in a special Eco version that is rated for 42 mpg on the highway, and even the non-Eco Corolla gets a 38 highway/29 city rating — a nice jump over the outgoing model.

For me, though, the bigger news is that Toyota has actually managed to fix one of my longstanding, picky complaints about the Corolla: its dull driving feel.

My test car — an S model that comes with a firmer, sportier suspension than the base version — is more fun to drive than I can ever remember a Corolla being. Its suspension has an almost Honda-like tautness, providing the kind of precise, dynamic feedback to the driver that make small cars enjoyable on winding roads.

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