The people give it a B

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - TOYOTA - By Greg Wil­liams

AARON Ed­wor­thy liked the in­te­rior of the 2014 Toy­ota Corolla S — trusted by mil­lions.

Since its in­tro­duc­tion in 1966, the Toy­ota Corolla has, it would be safe to say, ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions. World­wide, more than 40 mil­lion ex­am­ples have hit the roads, with 1.3 mil­lion of them sell­ing in Canada. It has be­come the VW Bee­tle of its era, and in 1997 the Corolla be­came the best-sell­ing name­plate in the world.

Orig­i­nally a sub­com­pact, the Corolla long ago mor­phed into a com­pact-size ve­hi­cle and has gone through 11 gen­er­a­tions of de­vel­op­ment.

In Septem­ber, the lat­est Corolla it­er­a­tion was launched in Canada. Will it con­tinue to ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions?

When he was selected to drive the 2014 Corolla S, our People’s Test Driver, Aaron Ed­wor­thy of Cal­gary, had some pre­con­ceived no­tions about the Corolla.

“I fig­ured it was a bot­tom-of-the-bar­rel, ba­sic fam­ily car,” Ed­wor­thy said.

But af­ter pick­ing up his test ride, he said “the new car has a re­fresh­ing look, and the S model is def­i­nitely de­signed to look sporty.

“It has a good-look­ing grille, and the (op­tional) 17-inch brushed alu­minum rims had a low pro­file tire on them. Over­all, I thought it looked pretty cool.”

Ed­wor­thy holds his commercial pi­lot’s li­cence and is an air traf­fic con­troller at Spring­bank Air­port. He com­mutes to work from his home in Dis­cov­ery Ridge and trav­els a mix of city and ru­ral roads ev­ery day to reach the air­port.

Do­ing the com­mute in the Corolla S wasn’t a hard­ship. Ed­wor­thy said the car, equipped with the eight-way power-ad­justable driver’s seat as part of the pre­mium pack­age, was com­fort­able. He also liked the black Sof­Tex (Toy­ota-speak for syn­thetic) leather seat­ing sur­faces, com­plete with con­trast­ing white stitch­ing.

At 5-10, Ed­wor­thy is aver­age height and said the Corolla had plenty of head room.

“The gauges were easy to see, and I liked the blue back­light with white pointers — they weren’t plain, by any means,” Ed­wor­thy said of the cock­pit’s in­stru­ments.

The mix of ma­te­ri­als used in con­struc­tion of the dash and over­all in­te­rior, how­ever, con­founded him.

“The up­per dash is a nice, soft-feel­ing vinyl, but it has a fake stitch pat­tern along the front edge,” he said. “Then the (leather-wrapped) steer­ing-wheel cen­tre­piece is a hard plas­tic with an even worse fake stitch­ing that doesn’t quite match the dash­board.

“There’s a piece of leather on the door that matches the seats, but the rest of the door is a hard, hol­low-sound­ing vinyl/plas­tic with flimsy but­tons. It’s just like there was no co­he­sive de­sign through­out the cock­pit area.”

Ed­wor­thy was aware the S badge on the car didn’t add any ex­tra per­for­mance un­der the hood — the same en­gine, with 132 horse­power and 128 pound-feet of torque, pow­ers the Corolla CE, LE and the S. In the S, the car can be had with ei­ther a six-speed man­ual gear­box or an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled, con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT). Ed­wor­thy’s car was equipped with the lat­ter.

“I didn’t ex­pect overwhelming per­for­mance, but it had no prob­lem get­ting up to high­way speeds,” he said. “I’d never driven a CVT be­fore, and it doesn’t shift through the gears like a usual au­to­matic.

“Around town or on the high­way, the car is quiet in­side, but when you’re ac­cel­er­at­ing to get up to speed, the en­gine just drones away un­til you get to the speed you’re shoot­ing for.”

Han­dling felt good in the city, Ed­wor­thy said, but at cer­tain speeds on the high­way the steer­ing felt a bit light or “sloshy.”

“Too much wheel move­ment, not enough re­sponse,” he ex­plained.

Ride qual­ity in the Corolla S was firm enough to give con­fi­dence in the cor­ners, but soft enough to smooth out large bumps and be more than com­fort­able.

“The ride was, in my opin­ion, one of the car’s high points,” he said.

Brak­ing, too, earned praise, with an easy-to-mod­u­late pedal and a solid feel when pressed in a hurry. The Corolla S is equipped with four-wheel discs as op­posed to disc front and drum rear on the CE and LE mod­els.

Ed­wor­thy and his wife, Kalyn, drove the Corolla to the Su­per­store for a gro­cery run. The trunk was spa­cious, and he liked the fact the rear seat­backs could fold down to in­crease cargo area. The glove­box was big, and there were plenty of other ar­eas for stor­ing small items.

Dur­ing his week with the Corolla, Ed­wor­thy added 600 kilo­me­tres to the odome­ter, and he ob­served real-world fuel econ­omy of 7.1L/100km. He ad­mits that dur­ing his first few days, he was driv­ing the car harder than he would nor­mally, just to see how it would per­form.

While the Toy­ota had many of the tech­no­log­i­cal fea­tures Ed­wor­thy likes in a car, in­clud­ing a touch screen, USB and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, he couldn’t see him­self pur­chas­ing one — mostly be­cause it’s not a seg­ment in which he would be look­ing.

“There are lots of cool fea­tures, and I wouldn’t give the Corolla a thumbs down, that’s for sure,” Ed­wor­thy said. “And I wouldn’t say no if some­one asked me if they should buy one.”

The Toy­ota Corolla S is not the most value-packed of the com­pact seg­ment,.

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