Driven: 2014 Toyota Corolla S

Written by Shaun Keenan | Photography by Shaun Keenan on .

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Up up and away!

The 2014 Toyota Corolla is not faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive. And no, it certainly does not leap over tall buildings in a single bound.

It doesn't grind or railslide, and it doesn't drift. Unless, of course, you are the Stig. Or have a few tricks up your sleeve.

Mercifully, it is not available in beige. Although a comparable brown sugar metallic is there if you really want a more bland-looking Corolla.

But why would you? You can have it in white, silver, black, red, slate metallic or blue crush metallic.

The all-new 11th-gen Corolla is more parts Clark Kent than it his counterpart, and the bright red "S" badge doesn't make this car a superhero.

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But the Corolla is the people's champion of the compact car category. At least in the eyes of Toyota and its customers.

The automaker sells more Corolla than any other model in Canada. They account for 25% of the whole enchilada.

Corolla has been Toyota Canada's best-selling vehicle for 18 years years and counting, the outgoing model having racked up 26,000 sales since January.

Since debuting in 1967, Toyota has sold more than 39-million of them world wide. Here, that figure is over 1.3-million.

They're built to last – 80% of Corolla sold in the last 20 years are still on the road.

At the factory in Woodstock, Ontario, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada is already pumping a new one out every 55 seconds. They're already making close to a 1,000 new Corolla per day.

The free-for-all starts this week. The 2014 models just went on sale.

The base CE starts at $15,995 and rises to $20,250 on the LE Eco. In between are the S and LE trims, the latter ends up north of $24,000 when fully-loaded.

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The S model I drove starts at $19,215. The CVTi-S transmission allows for manual shifting via paddle shifters or the sequential multi-mode shifter and adds $985. It is actually the best CVT I have driven!

The new two-pulley transmission, simulated shift points and smooth/quiet operation are great in normal driving mode, which takes advantage of the “Eco” settings. But it actually comes to life in sport driving mode. I didn't feel the urge to try the six-speed manual afterward, so it's even worth the money. Cue the apocalypse.

Paired with a 132-hp 1.8-litre four-cylinder,  combined fuel economy is rated at 6.1 L/100 km. The display read 8.7 after my short time driving the car.

The LE Eco model gets Valvematic engine technology, which nets 140 hp and returns better fuel economy.

Compared to its predecessor, the car is longer, lower and wider with shorter overhangs.

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Combined with better (chassis) bushings and improved connecting rod angles, the 100-mm longer wheelbase translates to a smoother, flatter, more compliant ride. A horizontal support bar beneath the rear seat lives a double life as a chassis stabilizer and a side impact beam.

Though the rear still does not have independent suspension, the S model holds the twisty undulating rural roads around Quebec City pretty well though.

The test mule is sporting sharp-looking 17-inch alloy wheels and tires, rear disc brakes and a moonroof for $1,500 extra.

The leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel in the S feels more solid than the LE model I drove earlier in the day. Both are electric-assisted but the S feels tighter with better feedback.

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The Corolla has never looked better. Its sportier styling is far more attractive than previous generations. LED headlamps, power door locks, power windows, a new audio system, eight airbags and more are all standard, too.

Customers asked for better visibility and front seat comfort. Toyota delivered with a more spacious interior with more legroom and headroom. Noise protruding into the interior is minimal as well.

Materials and finishes are well improved too, with special mention going to the Softex synthetic leather upholstery.

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The upgraded seats are comfy, supportive and allow a lower seating position. They do lack lumbar support, however. A couple other minor gripes are the lack of a sunglasses pocket, and the painted blue-and-silver dash and door panel garnishes only come in that colour combination.

The trunk though – it's huge!

There is no question the new Corolla delivers better quality, durability, reliability, fuel efficiency, safety (eight standard airbags), style and even more driving fun.

But will the 2014 Corolla go all “Lex Luther” up against the Honda, Ford and Mazda compacts?

This is a massive improvement over the outgoing car, but if you are looking for an affordable Toyota sports car, you have no choice but to look at Scion – the rear-wheel drive FR-S if you want the real deal, or the front-wheel drive tC if you favour the modern Super-Man over the classic Man of Steel.

Pluses:
+ CVTi-S with paddles
+ Warm, spacious and quiet interior
+ Nice exterior design
+ Good seating and cargo capacity
+ Solid value proposition

Minuses:
- A bit underpowered
- Certain interior finishes (blue-and-silver door and dash garnish)
- Glare on displays

2014 Toyota Corolla S Specifications
Base Price: $19,215
Price as Tested (before taxes): $23,354
Engine: 1.8L DOHC dual VVT-i 4-cylinder
Horsepower / Torque: 132 hp / 128 lb-ft
Configuration: FF
Transmission: CVTi-S
Suspension: Independent front MacPherson struts with rear torsion beam type, sway bars (f/r)
Curb weight: 1,295 kg (2,865 lb)
Fuel Economy Ratings (city / highway / combined): 6.9 / 5.2 / 6.1 L/100 km
Warranty (mos / km): 36 / 60,000

Options on Test Vehicle: CVTi-S transmission – paddle shifters, multi-mode shifter, sport mode ($985); Upgrade package – P215/45R17 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, wheel locks, rear disc brakes, power/slide/tilt moonroof ($1,500). Additional charges: Destination and delivery ($1,520).

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