In a bid to fight the inroads rivals have made in the compact car business, Toyota Motor Corp. on Thursday revealed a new sleeker and more aggressively styled 2014 Corolla compact sedan at a news conference in Santa Monica.
The car, which competes with the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze, has the same 132-horsepower engine of the current model, but has other improvements.
Besides making the typically boring car more stylish, Toyota has made it larger, with a longer wheelbase and more interior space. It is using more insulation to cut down on cabin noise. It also has ungraded the interior, using more ornamental stitching and soft touch materials.
And in a departure for Toyota, all but the base level Corolla will have a continuously variable transmission to improve fuel efficiency.
Although some drivers complain about the noise such gearboxes can make, it’s unlikely this will be a problem for Corolla buyers, said Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for automotive consulting firm AutoPacific Inc.
“This is a Corolla, not a sports car, and it will have a buyer who isn’t too picky about transmissions. They will like fuel economy and interior room,” Sullivan said.
The car, the 11th generation of a vehicle that was first sold in the U.S. back in 1968, goes on sale this fall.
Toyota has not released price or fuel economy data for the new model, although a special "eco" version will get more than 40 miles per gallon.
Through the first five months of this year, Toyota has sold 132,514 Corollas, narrowly outpacing the recently redesigned Honda Civic, with sales of 128,980, to lead all compact cars.
"You can't underestimate Corolla's importance to Toyota's success," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with auto information company Edmunds.com. "Its legions of buyers continue to grow Toyota awareness, and Corolla is a strong gateway into the brand.”
However, Caldwell said the current model did need “some improvement in order to capture the more discerning compact car buyer in this competitive environment."