The people give it a B
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,.