Toyota Corolla. Hmm, I have to admit that I’ve always rated it as about as exciting as a week-old cheese sandwich. With a side order of tofu.
But then what do I know? After all, close to 40 million people around the globe have bought one in the 47 years it’s been in production.
Here in the States, since 1968, four out of every 10 Toyotas sold have been Corollas. That’s nearly 10 million cars.
But Toyota itself has long-recognized that its best-seller has been bought because of its fridge-freezer-like reliability rather its svelte, sexy styling.
Which is why the brand-new 2014 version, which hits dealerships this week, puts the focus firmly on sleeker, crisper design, improved refinement and instilling in its road manners a bit more, er, soul.
Most of the design effort has gone into the front end. The grille is bigger and more distinctive – now there’s less chance of losing the car in the International Plaza parking lot.
Nice new headlights too, with funky angles and standard bright-white LED bulbs.
The rest is pretty predictable, but there are lots of swoopy lines to keep the eye entertained, along with a slightly lower roofline to make the car appear longer.
To widen the Corolla’s considerable appeal, the whole car has grown in size. It’s 4 inches longer, pretty much all of which has gone in to providing more rear seat legroom.
Beneath that chiseled new body, the greasy bits are carried over largely unchanged. Which means the trusty 1.8-liter twin-cam four-banger continues to deliver its 132 horses.
What has changed is the addition of a new electronically controlled CVT continuously-variable automatic that Toyota calls its CVTi-S.
And whereas most econo-car CVTs have all the refinement of an outboard motor on wide-open throttle, this feels and responds like a regular seven-speed automatic.
And one that helps give an excellent 42-to-the-gallon highway economy.
While the 2014 Corolla lineup starts in price at $17,610 for the base L and tops-out at $19,810 for the well-equipped S, four out of five new Corollas sold will be the impressive new $19,110 LE. That’s the one to look at first.
An interesting Toyota Corolla? You bet. And not a whiff of old cheese.