Toyota has reason to be proud of the Corolla -- it is reliable and long-lasting, with more than 80 percent of these compact sedans sold in the past 20 years still on the road. Happy owners return and recommend the Corolla, which recently passed the 40 million mark in total lifetime sales, making it the best-selling auto nameplate ever.For 2014, the Corolla enters its sixth generation, having been launched originally in Japan in 1966, and first exported to the U.S. as a 1969 model. With a complete redesign of the Corolla for 2014, Toyota introduced the LE Eco version to the lineup, which joins the L, LE, and S models.The new Eco model raises the EPA fuel economy ratings to 31 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway, with an impressive 35 mpg combined. To achieve that, the LE Eco has improved aerodynamics; a CVTi-S continuously variable automatic transmission (“i” for intelligent, “S” for shift, with noticeable shift points); a 5 percent more-efficient 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine, which produces 140 horsepower; and low-rolling-resistance tires. Corolla’s CVT also has an Eco driving mode. Driving mostly short trips around town, along with an occasional freeway jaunt, I averaged 33.5 mpg. The Corolla S model has a Sport driving mode, allowing enthusiastic drivers to cycle through virtual gears using paddle shifters for a “sportier” feel.Prices begin at $16,800 (plus $810 freight) for the base L model with a six-speed manual transmission, and range up to $21,300 for the S Plus, also with the manual. All Corollas are front-wheel drive.The car has been redesigned inside and out, and comes with plenty of standard equipment, such as LED headlights, eight air bags, audio-streaming connectivity, and Bluetooth hands-free phone.Also available are the next-generation Entune audio system with a 6.1-inch touch screen, navigation and app suite, and premium sound; smart key/pushbutton start; rear deck-lid spoiler; power moon roof; the paddle shifters; back-up camera; automatic climate control; 17-inch aluminum wheels; and SofTex “leatherette” (plastic) seats.A longer wheelbase for the new Corolla adds almost three inches to the rear seating area, giving backseat passengers 41.4 inches of legroom. The cabin has a spacious feel, thanks in part to a horizontal-oriented dash. The 42.3 inches of front legroom feels like more without the intrusion of the dash into the passenger area.The interior now sports new soft-touch materials with finer graining, piano-black trim, satin-finish metallic accents, and better sound-deadening materials, improving the interior’s ambience for what Toyota calls a “more advanced, modern-looking vehicle.”Corolla’s air bags include front seat-mounted side bags, driver’s knee bag, driver and front-passenger seat cushion bags, and front and rear side-curtain bags. The seat-cushion air bag deploys in frontal crashes to keep the passenger from “submarining” under the seat belt.Toyota’s Star Safety System includes electronic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and smart stop technology. The Smart Stop system is designed to prevent unintentional acceleration if the brake pedal is pressed.The outboard rear seats have child safety-restraint tethers, and front seats have whiplash-injury-lessening technology. All seats have three-point seatbelts. In a rear-end collision, a front occupant’s upper body and head are supported by the headrest and seat back at the same time, to keep the head from jerking backward. Corolla earned top ratings in all categories from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.For this report, I drove a Brown Sugar Metallic LE Eco ($18,700) with Amber fabric seating, 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, heated/power outside mirrors, and rear-deck spoiler.The LE Eco has standard LED daytime running lights, intermittent windshield wipers, automatic climate control with pollen filter, Entune audio with app suite, 6.1-inch touch screen with integrated backup camera, Bluetooth/USB/CD/auxiliary access, cruise control, steering-wheel controls for audio and hands-free phone, an Eco indicator, and keyless entry with lock/unlock and panic on the smart key. With the LE Eco, there is a choice of four exterior colors and three interior colors, in cloth or leatherette.My Corolla was roomy and comfortable, with good visibility all around. Even the dreaded middle seat in the rear was tolerable for short trips.The four-cylinder engine was no dynamo, but the power was sufficient for merging and overtaking; and the ride was smooth with just a little road noise coming through. n my tester, the audio system was the standard AM/FM/CD with simple controls and decent sound (I am somewhat spoiled by HD and satellite radio, though).There were small map pocket/bottle holders in the door panels, two convenient cupholders on the front center console in front of the armrest/cubby, and two pop-out cupholders in the back of the front console.Its 13-cubic-foot trunk was more than adequate for everyday use — groceries, small tools, donation bags/boxes. For hauling long/wide items (plywood, wallboard, lumber), the rear seatback folds 60/40 by pulling a knob on the top of each seatback section.The Eco model offers several packages such as Body Protection with a rear bumper appliqué, body-side moldings and doorsill enhancements for $487, and a Protection Package with carpeted floor and trunk mats, rear bumper protector and cargo net for $353.Attractive, well equipped, comfortable and economical to buy and own, my Corolla LE Eco had a total delivered price of $19,510, including freight and options.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.