As gas prices continue to climb – and Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations come closer to taking affect – manufacturers are trying harder than ever to squeeze every mile per gallon out of their cars. They’ve realized that to reach the goal of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 simply offering a few hybrids in their fleet won’t be enough. Manufacturers must improve the fuel efficiency of their non-hybrids as well. With these issues in mind, Toyota, a leader in getting every mile out of a gallon of gas, has introduced it latest fuel-sipper, the 2014 Corolla LE Eco.
The Corolla LE Eco, starting at $18,700 (not including the destination fee) is one of the cheapest and most fuel efficient midsize cars you can buy. At 42 miles per gallon its highway mileage is as good as or better than some hybrids… and its 30 miles per gallon in the city is not bad. For comparison, the midsize Hyundai Sonata Hybrid starts at $25,650 and only gets 40 highway and 36 city. While the Sonata gets better in-town gas mileage it’s nowhere near enough to make up for the price difference. In fairness, the Sonata is slightly larger car (104 cu. ft of passenger volume versus 98) but surprisingly the Corolla LE Eco has the larger trunk (13 cu. ft. versus 12). Also, the Corolla LE Eco meets California’s tough LEV 3 air quality standards.
Toyota has improved the interior design of the Corolla, but it is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Little touches like the stitching on the soft touch arm rest or the optional piano-black accents are improvements over the previous generation Corolla, but not over some of its competitors.
One significant improvement in the interior is the optional SofTex seats. SofTex is a comfortable, leather-like seating surface that costs less than leather, yet is almost as comfortable and durable. While actually a woven plastic (thermoplastic polyurethane) SofTex reportedly breathes more than vinyl and reflects infrared rays better. In addition, Toyota claims SoftTex is more environmentally friendly than leather.
Standard features and options
For a car starting at $18,700 the LE Eco is well equipped. Standard features include air-conditioning, power mirrors, door locks and windows. In addition, the LE Eco has a few standard features you might not expect such as LED headlights, a rear back-up camera, automatic climate control and a Tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth® hands-free phone controls.
Ride and Handling
The LE Eco doesn’t have as much power as a Chevy Cruze nor the handling of a Honda Civic but it is definitely… okay. Toyota knows what made the Corolla the segment leader so they aren’t going to take too many chances with it. It’s one thing to bring the interior and exterior of the Corolla into the 21st century; it’s another to mess with the suspension.
Because the 2014 Corolla is a new model the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ratings are not yet available. For the record, the NHTSA overall rating for the 2013 Corolla was 4 out of 5 stars. The IIHS rated the 2013 Corolla as a Top Safety Pick.
Other manufacturers have released fuel efficient versions of their mid-sized cars. The table below compares two comparably equipped cars with the Corolla LE Eco: the 2013 Chevy Cruze Eco and 2013 Honda Civic HF.
Previous generations of the Corolla have demonstrated outstanding reliability; it would be surprising if the latest generation of the Corolla was any different.
The Corolla has led its market segment for years as a somewhat boring but generally indestructible car offered at a low price. Now, by improving the fuel economy and styling and adding even more standard features Toyota has come up with a car that is very, very hard to beat.
<strong>Quick Comparison Table</strong>
|2014 Corolla LE Eco||2013 Chevy Cruze Eco||2013 Civic HF|
|MSRP (Not inc. dest. fee)||$19,400||$21,855||$19,765|
|Horsepower||140||138 @ 4900||140@6500|
|Torque (Ft. Lbs.@ Max RPM)||128@4400||148@1850||128@4300|
|Cargo volume (cu. ft.)||13.0||15.0||12.5|
|Wheels||16” alloy||17” alloy||15″ alloy|
|Sound system||6.1-in. touch-screen display, AM/FM CD player, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port 8 with iPod®||AM/FM CD player, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port 8 with iPod®||AM/FM CD player, four speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port|
|Voice activated communication||Standard||Standard||N.A.|
|Headlights||LED Standard (halogen high beams)||Halogen||Halogen|
|Daytime running lights||LED standard||Standard||Standard|
|Air conditioning||Automatic climate control||Manual climate control||Manual climate control|
|Seats||Cloth – 6-way adjustable||Cloth – 6-way adjustable||Cloth – 6-way adjustable|
|Fold-down rear seat||Standard||Standard||Standard|
|Steering wheel mounted audio/Bluetooth controls||Standard||Standard||Standard|
|Leg room (front/back)||42.3/41.4||42.3/35.4||42.0/36.2|
|Transmission||CVT||6-speed automatic||5-speed automatic|
|IIHS Rating||TBD||Top Safety Pick||Top Safety Pick|