Five-Point Inspection: 2014 Toyota Corolla S

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad

There are all sorts of creative ways to transform something boring into something exciting – here’s one: adding grizzly bears to baseball! Sadly, Toyota didn’t really capitalize when it comes to sprucing up its Corolla S, which is advertised as the sportier model of the affordable Japanese compact car, but really isn’t.

So if the Corolla S isn’t a sportier compact, what is it? In traditional AutoGuide Five-Point Inspection form, here are five things that help describe the Corolla S in a more accurate form.

The interior design and materials of the new Corolla are what makes it look like a modern product. Poke, prod or rub any of the materials and they’ll exhibit less flex, abrasion and offer a much softer touch than past Corollas. It’s no premium compact but it’s about on par with others in its price range.

The interior is interesting too, the Corolla S features blue striping on the interior in addition to funky blue cloth in the seats. These are the extra elements that give this car some personality, a trait that is easily forgotten in affordable cars.

CVTs are criticized for their flimsy feeling engagement and the grating sound they make. Could Toyota have been thinking about those traits, when it came to giving the Corolla a CVT? While most CVTs are content to hang around at the red-line when you floor the gas pedal, the Corolla will rev up to the peak-point of the tach and then drop, giving it a pseudo shift before revving up again. You can sense the gear ratio changing to offer more speed and it’s just enough to make you feel comfortable with the idea of a CVT.

But whether it’s the lack of sound deadening or the CVT, the car isn’t quiet and the noise was easily noticeable during phone calls in the car.

When it comes to fuel economy, this new-generation CVT isn’t a step behind and after a full week of testing through various driving conditions, the Corolla saw 33 MPG, which is a notch above the EPA estimates. The 33 mpg number is about average when it comes to the Corolla’s competition. However, if you wanted a fuel conscious Corolla, you could have opted for a LE Eco model, which gets 35 mpg combined including 42 mpg on the highway.

But isn’t this the Corolla S, meaning the “sporty” model? Of course! That’s why there’s a sport button by the shift lever and paddles on the steering wheel. However, these two features barely make the Corolla feel any more exciting to drive.

The sport button keeps the engine speed high along with the noise level. Maybe the car is a bit more responsive in this mode, but with just 130 hp on tap, the it isn’t ever going to feel powerful across a highway on-ramp. The paddle shifters were equally uninspiring.

Fortunately, when it comes to steering and handling, the Corolla S is easy to drive, with mild road manners that won’t encourage drivers to exceed the speed limit, or scorch the tires on the back-roads. It’s tighter than before, but still doesn’t measure up to the driving dynamics of some of its competition like the Mazda3 or Ford Focus.

I’d suggest that the S in Corolla S should stand for “Spacious” but that wouldn’t be quite right, since all Corolla models get solid front and rear passenger amenities. The Corolla S is spacious enough for adults to sit in the back, but like many other compacts, a third adult won’t fit comfortably. Competitively speaking, the Corolla trumps the Nissan Sentra and Mazda3 in terms of rear seat leg-room and is about on par with the class leaders in terms of rear seat head room, too.

Trunk space is also acceptable in the Corolla, offering 13 cubic feet of storage. Standard folding rear seats help owners fit bigger objects into the car. Buyers looking for more space in a compact should opt for the Hyundai Elantra, or move up to a hatchback, like the Mazda3 Sport, Focus or Elantra GT.

Base Corollas start at $16,800, which is a reasonable base price, but the Corolla S Plus came to $20,510. While it isn’t the fully loaded S Premium model, it still has plenty of features while undercutting the competition in price. Sadly, there’s no single killer feature in the Corolla S like a fancy flip-up HUD and iDrive-inspired infotainment system like in the Mazda3.

Instead it features Toyota’s EnTune infotainment system, which can use your iPhone to connect to a number of internet connected services including Yelp and Pandora Radio. At a price that doesn’t crack $21,000; the Corolla S certainly delivers the value.

Curious about buying a new Corolla? You can learn more about Toyota’s lineup of cars in AutoGuide’s new car section. Or if you prefer, navigate directly to the new Toyota Corolla S by clicking here.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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