Car Tech Video: 2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco
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Car Tech Video: 2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

8:09 /

Like the hybrid, Toyota largely defined the general purpose compact with the Corolla

-If you think the Prius owns the hybrid category, what about the Corolla? This thing owned the compact econo car category way before we ever heard of a Civic. Let's see if Toyota still has it as we drive the 2014 Corolla LE Eco and check the tech. Now spot a '14 Corolla easily, just open your eyes and look at it. It doesn't look at all like the outgoing generation. Every panel, every detail's heavily revised. Here's a spotters trick though, look for LED low beam headlamps. They're standard on all the '14s which I believe is a first for any affordable car. Now, if you wanna tell an Eco from a non-Eco, forget it, there's no real clear visual cue, little difference on the chin, but not much. Let's get inside. Now inside, Toyota's done something at least different. This dash really harkens back, to be honest, to the late 70s and the early 80s in a tasteful I think, but this whole eyebrow and kind of flat face thing is at least a refreshing change from the kinda doughy ovoids that seem to pop lit every other cars' dashboard these days. Now what's in it? Here is the star of the show, you have an LCD Touch head unit in either a standard or premium configuration we'll get to in a minute, 6 inches of touchscreen is not a lot and when you hear on the homescreen like I have and you've split it three ways-- one, two, three-- everything gets real small. Upper left corner in this case, I've got my entertainment settings going. Lower left, those are phone settings, and on the right, there's the map peeking through. Now, of course, these will come full screen as you go to any one of the actual functions. I like this about the Toyota interface; they put all the audio together under audio. If I go to my navigation system, I get there via apps. Perfectly functional, a tad slow on the uptake, but not bad and as you can see it's microSD-based. Voice command on this car is also standard, I think on every trim level as is at least some version of this head unit. -What would you like to do? -Start a new route, 235 2nd Street, San Francisco, California. One. -I have 235 2nd Street, San Francisco, California. Is that correct? -As you can see the voice system is very good at comprehension, dog slow at doing it, so it's a mixed bag. But it's nice to have it. When you get into these apps here that are part of the Entune Suite, it's a mixed bag of weather and how well voice command works with them, and the array has not change. We've seen these before and they're still in there, but it's nice to have them based on every Corolla. Now, if you get the Premium Package, it upgrades to have HD radio, satellite radio, Gracenote database for your sources, and a couple of interesting features I haven't seen before. Check this out. When I go to AM or FM radio and I pull open this little slide over tray on the right, this is a 20-minute buffer, so if you press live, you're in real time. Or if you wanna skip back, you can skip back to various marks using these buttons. Here's another one-- under traffic. So, here is a traffic map but if I hit this slider down here, I can get predicted traffic over the next 45 minutes. You've also got a weather overlay on the map if you'd like. And you've got the option for some pretty rich text messaging support up to including a vehicle sig for outgoing messages. Rear camera on all these Corollas I understand to be standard, that's also a nice feature given the price point of these cars. It doesn't have any predictive direction technology. It merely shows you zones and it comes on and that's about all it does. Also nice, automatic temperature control single-zone is standard on all these cars as well. And to go along with the climate, thank you, we've got a mechanical seat heater buttons. I like those 'cause when they're on, they stay on. The drifter drive control, this is our one choice automatic. It's a CVT, a Continuously Variable Transmission with three positions-- regular drive, sport and 'B', which from the Prius is a additional regenerative breaking mode. I'm not quite sure what it does on a car without a regeneration cycle. There's no shiftable gate no matter where you are. No paddles because it's a CVT, but it does have synthetic shift points programmed into it. And here's your Eco mode button, this is part of the Eco trim model we have. This will put the car into a particularly fuel-saving mode, although it's confusing because you've also got an Eco light over here that tells you when you are driving economically and then you've got another light that tells you when you've got the button to press to make you drive economically. It's a little odd. Now one of the most interesting innovations on the new Corolla is kind of a magic trick. They extended the car 2.6 inches over the outgoing model. Within that, they found almost 6 inches of additional legroom. That's packaging. So, if I set up my seat here on the front as I have so it's comfortable for me to be driving and I come to the back row, can I actually sit behind myself? There are very few cars where I can. But in this one, I certainly could. They've added 5 inches of leg room to the backseat over last year's model. That's like going from a Lexus LS to an LSL or an Audi 8 to an 8L. That's like big car legroom and they've got it here. That's really nice. Now upfront on the new Corolla, you've got a 1.8 liter inline 4 sitting sidesaddle driving the front wheels. Here's where things get different, this one has what's called Valvematic technology on the Eco, which allows it to ring another 5 percent mpg out of what is otherwise the same basic engine as the other Corollas. Here are the numbers-- 140 horse, 126 foot pounds of torque, just adequate-- 216, about 9.7 seconds at least for the S trim, it should be about the same for this car, but they don't have a number published yet. Now, the mpg is the key-- 30 city, 42 highways if you get the real strip remodeled that has the steel wheels. We have an upgraded car with bigger alloys and that drops it to 30 city, 40 highways, still really good numbers, and this car weighs about 2,000 pounds, not a whole lot on the hook that certainly helps the efficiency. Let's go for a ride, see how it all works together. Now underway, the Corolla's exactly what you probably thought it would be, it's a driving appliance, but it's not sloppy or numb. It's just sort of uninspired. In the drive mode, this power plant and CVT combined for kind of laggardly response. But once it gets revving, it's a pretty satisfying powertrain. Wander over in sport mode and you get not so much more oomph as much as you get, but more alertness in the powertrain and then there's this non-sensible 'B' position, which puts you into a heavy break sort of a deceleration mode by gearing down. I don't understand that. It doesn't make sense on a car that doesn't have break region. I can do that myself except there's nowhere to shift on this car, so I guess that's why you have to have 'B'. Drive quality is pretty good on this vehicle. I don't have a harshness coming through. It's a-- it's firm enough. I don't feel all like I'm wallowing. Nothing about the car feels cheap. That's a-- that's a key thing you gotta get done in a car that is. Now pricing this guy is interesting. We have an LE Plus. There is a lower trim level, but not available here in my part of California anyway. So, check by region because if you go one lower, I believe it's where you get the extra 2 mpg with the lower trim package and apparently skinnier tires that are key to that. 21,300 for the LE Plus, the second one on the line, on top of that I'm gonna add one option, for 2,360 the Convenience Package. It gives you the power moon roof, the enhanced Entune System with navigation, satellite radio, HD radio, whole bunch of niceties, little improved audio, I believe as well, and that's definitely worth the money. So, all in your 124 grand for a car that has no significant downsides as nice transportation. Not a driver's car, but it's a nice car for everyday living because of what they've done by stretching that floor pan, putting it to use in the back seats and doing a very credible job on a small but packed central head unit.

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