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YAK Gets Shifty

2014 Toyota Corolla S

Fucillo Toyota sales associate Luigi Corradino asked before my test drive, “Can you drive a standard?” Hah! My first pedal car was a standard. I think.

It was a legitimate question to ask, however, as who shifts for themselves anymore? But I jumped at the chance when I found out that the Slate-colored sedan had the six-speed manual transmission, as there just aren’t many on the lot these days.

The new 2014 Corolla is the 11th generation of a car that began in 1966 as a sub-compact (the Corona was its larger sibling), and it is consistently a best-seller for the Japanese automaker. Corollas for the North American market are produced in a plant located in Blue Springs, Mississippi; they previously, for years, were built in a jointly owned plant with General Motors in Fremont, California.

The redesign of a Corolla is no small project. After all, it’s a huge seller for Toyota and they certainly don’t want to put-off their customer base. And I doubt that this latest iteration will hurt at all. It’s much more modern looking than the previous version—although it seems to have fallen into the cookie-cutter styling-cue vat of most other compacts. Better though to look the same in a good way than to look different in a bad way. I guess.

The interior was very comfortable, although it contained an overwhelming amount of…black. Except for the underside of the roof (it just sounds wrong to call it a ceiling in a car) everything was black. Luckily there are some other interior color choices, however. The test car, which was the Corolla S Plus, had black leather seating with black cloth inserts. The inserts are also available in Amber and Steel Blue. LE models also offer cloth seats in Ash (gray) and Ivory (tan). The optional moonroof didn’t seem to infringe on head room; leg room was more than adequate; and the rear seat, which is a 60/40 folding set-up, would be comfortable for most adults for a long trip. The trunk also, is generous for a compact car.

The dash was simple to figure out, with everything within reach. The test car came equipped with a handy back-up camera displayed in a 6.1-inch screen within the audio system. That audio system, a six-speaker unit with the usual satellite, mp3, and CD capabilities, operates with a combination of buttons and a touch screen. Regular readers already know my feelings on touch-screen controls for audio and HVAC — they’re fine if you have a passenger to navigate through them, but when you’re driving alone they force you to take your eyes off the road to make the simplest adjustments. Not any safer, in my mind, than texting. I’m surprised the government allows this.

Anyway, there are two powertrains available on the new Corolla: Both are 1.8-liter engines, connected to either the six-speed manual or an automatic transmission. Regular Corollas are EPA-rated at 29/32 miles per gallon city/highway for the automatic, while the LE Eco Plus package is rated 30/42.

Pricing for the Corolla is as follows: the base model Corolla L starts at $17,610 for the stick shift; the LE with a CVT automatic starts at $19,110; it’ll be another 400 bucks for the LE Plus; and the LE Eco Plus begins at $20,605; sportier S models are: $22,110; S Plus $20,510; and the S Premium $22,060. The test car? It was an S Plus, which means a slew of extra equipment. Here are a few highlights: heated outside mirrors; 17-inch alloy wheels; a sound system whose mere description is a paragraph long; back-up camera; power moonroof; nav; and push-button start.

I’m guessing that with the new Corolla, Toyota will continue its tradition of selling as many as they can make. It’s certainly worth a look.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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