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2014 Toyota Corolla

2015 Toyota Corolla Preview

The 2015 Toyota Corolla is the best car for you if you’ve been impressed by the all-new 2014 version – or are simply ready to renew your Corolla allegiance.

The 2015 Corolla is expected to be a virtual rerun of the 2014 model, which was the first fully redesigned Corolla since model-year 2009. It introduced sleeker styling, dramatically improved rear-seat comfort, and additional features. The 2015 Corolla will retain all that, with the outside chance of minor adjustments in equipment availability, and an even slimmer possibility of some horsepower juggling.

Should you wait for the 2015 Toyota Corolla or buy a 2014 Toyota Corolla? Buy a 2014 Corolla if you want the entry-level L version, the most popular model, the middle-of-the-line LE, or its high-fuel-economy derivative, the LE Eco. No 2015 Corolla is likely to change enough to wait for, but the L and LE are the least likely candidates. Toyota may recognize the apparent illogic of the sportiest Corolla trim level, the S, having less horsepower than the LE Eco, though, and do something about it for model-year 2015. So wait for the 2015 Corolla if you’re an S candidate and believe an extra 8 horses will make a difference. Otherwise, buy a 2014 Corolla and avoid the almost inevitable model-year price inflation.

CHANGES

Styling: Appearance alterations to the 2015 Toyota Corolla would be a radical departure from tradition. That’s because the 2014 Corolla received all-new sheet metal that sets this car’s styling template for years to come.

Dismissed were the stodgy upright lines that defined this compact for most of two decades. The 2015 Corolla will retain the styling that replaced them. It’s a swept-back shape that, if not fully original, especially in its use of a big-mouth grille, is at least contemporary.

Toyota did innovate, however, by making Corolla the first car in the class with LED (light-emitting diode) low-beam headlamps and daytime running lights. Expect them to continue as standard equipment on every 2015 Corolla model, giving this low-priced car the extra illumination and energy-saving advantages usually associated with premium-class autos.

More important, the 2015 Corolla will benefit from the substantial improvement in rear-passenger accommodations that was part of the 2014 redesign. Corolla went from subpar to among best in class, especially in rear legroom, thanks to a 3.9-inch increase in wheelbase. Wheelbase is the distance between front and rear axles, and Corolla now enjoys one of the longest of any compact car, at 106.3 inches.

The gains came at the cost of a styling-dictated reduction in headroom front and rear. The 2015 Corolla won’t correct that minor shortfall. But Toyota could redress an odd omission by equipping the 2015 model with a rear-center armrest; none was available on any 2014 Corolla.

Don’t look for the 2015 Corolla to alter a dashboard design that polarizes opinion. Critics regard the bluntly upright form as old-fashioned, others as refreshingly simple. It is user-friendly and for better or worse, its lack of contour eliminates any sporty, driver-oriented cockpit feel while inviting the front passenger to fiddle with the centrally mounted climate, audio, and navigation controls.

Expect the 2015 Corolla lineup to reprise four models: a base version called the L, the volume-leading midline trim called LE, the fuel-economy-tuned LE Eco, and the sporty-tinged S model. The S will again be visually distinguished by its black-out grille heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators and, along with the LE Eco, a small decklid spoiler. LE and S models will again be available with optional 16-inch alloy wheels, with the S again eligible for 17-inch alloys as well.

Mechanical: It’s highly improbably the 2015 Toyota Corolla will stray from the conservative mechanical formula that’s been this car’s foundation. It’ll stick with a proven 1.8-liter four-cylinder as its sole engine – though most versions will also continue with Toyota’s slightly unorthodox choice of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) in place of a conventional automatic transmission.

L, LE, and S models are likely to return with 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque (consider torque the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving). The 2015 Corolla LE Eco should be back with a more advanced version of this engine that furnishes slightly better fuel economy while providing 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque.

There’s no discernible difference in acceleration between the LE Eco and the other Corollas. Still, if Toyota detects enough pressure from S-intenders who feel shortchanged, it could equip the 2015 Corolla S with the LE Eco-spec engine.

The tiny percentage of 2015 Corolla L and S buyers who again desire a manual transmission will likely be able to get a six-speed stick. Aimed at cost-conscious fleet buyers (rental companies, mostly), the 2015 Corolla L will continue available with a four-speed automatic transmission. Expect the CVT to remain optional on the Corolla S and standard on the 2015 LE and LE Eco models.

Among Corolla’s high-volume rivals, only the Nissan Sentra uses a CVT, which is designed to perform as an automatic transmission but with without set gear ratios. The aim is improved fuel economy by more precisely harnessing engine output. The result here is sluggish movement away from a stop but perfectly adequate acceleration thereafter. Also present is the CVT tendency to allow the engine to drone annoyingly as speed picks up.

Toyota could extend to all 2015 Corollas the Eco model’s “Eco mode” button that maximizes fuel economy by remapping throttle and shift programs. Only the S, however, is likely to again feature a CVT-manual mode that allows the driver to replicate seven distinct gear ratios by toggling the floor shift lever or flipping steering-wheel paddles.

The S also will return with slightly stiffer suspension tuning, but no 2015 Corolla is likely to rise from the lower ranks of the compact class when it comes to athletic road manners. Most long-time Corolla owners will be content with its predictable behavior, though some may also pine for the marshmallow-soft ride quality of earlier-generation Corollas.

Features: Toyota says it’ll study whether Corolla shoppers have an appetite for certain features increasingly common on rival compact cars, such as blind-spot monitoring to alert of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes. Barring that, the automaker seems confident it has configured each Corolla model at the right intersection of features and price.

Expect every 2015 Corolla to again come standard with Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a USB port, air conditioning, 60/40 split/folding rear seatbacks, power locks with automatic-locking, and power windows with driver’s-side one-touch up/down.

To the L model, the 2015 LE should again add the CVT, plus a rearview backup monitor that displays on a dashboard screen, automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless remote locks, and Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch dashboard screen. Entune links with smartphone-accessed Web applications to enable Internet radio and various information and entertainment services.

Toyota will likely continue grouping popular options to create the LE Plus and LE Premium trim levels. The LE Plus would again include 16-inch alloy wheels and fog lamps, the LE Premium adding to that heated front seats and Toyota’s Softex upholstery, a quite-convincing but less expensive synthetic substitute for leather.

Barring a powertrain realignment, the LE Eco will again be the only 2015 Corolla with the high-fuel-economy engine and specific CVT tuning, plus aerodynamic body tweaks. Expect the 2015 LE Eco Plus to return with 16-inch aero alloy wheels, fog lights, and an exterior chrome strip along its windowsills. To that, the 2015 LE Eco Premium would again add Softex and heated front seats.

The 2015 Corolla S will again build on the LE models with some unique exterior and interior trim, plus sport-bolstered front bucket seats. The S will probably also reprise Plus and Premium trims, with Toyota again earmarking the S Plus as the version available with manual transmission. Expect the manual-transmission S Plus to again come with the 17-inch alloys, a power moonroof, pushbutton ignition, and Entune Premium Audio with Toyota’s well-designed voice-activated navigation system.

Without competitive pressure to the contrary, Toyota probably will again confine rear disc brakes to 2015 Corollas with the 17-inch alloy wheels. That would include the S Plus manual-transmission and CVT models, along with the S Premium, which will again come with the CVT plus Softex and heated front seats.

Don’t look for Toyota to offer the 2015 Corolla L with any options. Key extra-cost items for the other Corolla models should again include a power moonroof and the Driver’s Convenience Package, which would consist primarily of the Entune Premium Audio with navigation and pushbutton ignition.

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at chuck.giametta@carpreview.com

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