Bland Car Enthusiast: Defending The 2014 Toyota Corolla

Redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla.Critics far and wide are panning the redesigned Toyota Corolla as a new shell on the same old boring car underneath. To me, this is wholly advantageous.

By all accounts from those who’ve driven it, the 2014 model is the same as the 2013 model, meaning it’s a low-horsepower, high-mileage suburban runabout. Here’s the thing about that, though: this low-horsepower, high-mileage suburban runabout is the world’s top-selling car. As a for-profit corporation, Toyota would be foolish to change that formula. If you can produce the same car but wrap it in a newer, more interesting exterior, then by all means, do so.

I’m just grateful that the new Corolla looks so good. I mean, it looks really, really good. Toyota’s recent design language has been, shall we say, missing the mark in my opinion. The redesign of the Corolla brings the count of Toyota vehicles that I think actually look good up to two. (No, the other one is not the Camry. It’s the Avalon. More on that later.)

And the world’s top-selling car, being essentially the same economical and reliable car on the inside, is very likely to continue near the top of global sales, a large chunk of that being in the US.

I live in the US. That means no matter what, I’m going to see a lot of Corollas all around me. And now that the Corolla is a good-looking model, that means my view will improve. So, although I have no plans to buy a Corolla myself, I will absolutely endorse one for anyone else looking to buy a compact sedan.

So thanks for the redesign, Toyota! Well done.

5 Replies to “Bland Car Enthusiast: Defending The 2014 Toyota Corolla”

  1. What I wanted to say was that the one thing good anyone has to say about the 2014 Corolla is the looks. I’ve even seen this in reviews that otherwise lambast it for being a fancy dress on the same old thing. Personally I like the look of the prior generation better since this gape mouth design trend seen in many new cars with the Ford Fusion and the Aston Martins on the small end of the scale and this corolla on the huge side. I do like how it looks on the others but this one, not so much.

    I could go into detail on how on some level I expect utilitarian vehicles to look like they are utilitarian but I won’t.

    1. Oh, by all means, do go into detail! That is a discussion worth having. Exterior styling is where we get our first impressions, so what does the new look say that the old look didn’t (and vice-versa)? How do we define the “utilitarian look?” Is this Modernism vs. Post-Modernism?

      1. Well I did some thinking on this matter since my initial instinct was to write something along the lines that all simple, unassuming, and practical cars should all look like these:
        http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2013/07/01/lost-cars-of-the-1980s-volkswagen-pickup/
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:%2785-%2786_Toyota_Tercel_5-Door.jpg
        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/68/Ford_Fiesta_MK1_front_20071023.jpg/800px-Ford_Fiesta_MK1_front_20071023.jpg

        But then I realized that bland simplistic design is something I also insanely dislike in the spirit of form should follow function but look amazing while doing it. While these vehicles are not devoid of design elements, and we really like the VW pickup, there is something kinda unattractive about that Fiesta or Tercel. With this is my feeling that I don’t want to wedge a studio apartment’s worth of stuff including futon frame and mattress into my ’04 Corolla, but I was totally OK doing that to my ’96 Sentra.

        Breaking this thought process down I realized that it represented a split between my aesthetic sense and my practical sense, both honed from years in the arts and tech work. My aesthetic side likes nice curves and elements in auto design from the 1930’s-1960’s, with much of what is created now as OK since I’m not a huge fan of the harsh angularity of late 1980’s design to the aggressive curves of more contemporary design. Though exceptions abound. My practical side finds appeal in spaces that constructed to most efficiently hold loads as possible and that even large internal space can be rendered useless due to exterior construction. This comes from years of using personal vehicles as transport for various shows, and how curves and aesthetics could eliminate access to interior volume. Once again going back to my two cars I’ve owned: the Sentra had a rear seat set that dropped and completely opened access to the trunk which was great for moving lumber, flat things, and stuff in general. My Corolla has a barrier there with a 24″ radius flattened half moon opening in it that makes it much harder to load odd sized objects in. However, I realized that this was more a critique and dislike on inefficiently designed internal space for doing things like schlepping loads in cars that a critique of exterior design. Also while I dislike the destruction of space access through heavily curved exterior design, I accept it as my lot in life to have this semi contradiction to work with.

        So while I find the look of the New Corolla overly aggressive and unappealing to me I don’t hate it. But I do appreciate that the opening from Trunk to cabin looks like this:
        http://image.automobilemag.com/f/reviews/driven/1308_2014_toyota_corolla/47534714+w968/2014-Toyota-Corolla-S-rear-seats-folded-down.jpg

        In the end I like my old Corolla and have no intention of replacing it but we are starting to ponder maybe getting a 2nd car. The question being a small compact one (Fiat 500 Abarth, or Scion XD) or do we get something larger (Mazda 5, Subaru Baja, or used Ford Ranger) either for children or for load carrying or both. And those are all acceptable practical and relatively utilitarian vehicles so my crisis of practicality vying with aesthetics is abated, for now.

        1. Indeed, I think you’ll find that nowadays you really don’t have to sacrifice function for form (or vice-versa), since there are so many options. The good thing about the auto industry nearly melting down in the Great Recession was that auto makers have all stepped up their game, building cars at Toyota-level reliability and providing both useful functions and modern, attractive designs. Interior space is something consumers like, so auto makers are making even sub-compact vehicles with as much interior space as they can fit in.

          Regarding your potential car choices: I would recommend avoiding the Fiat 500 (Abarth or other) because, while it may be cute, it’s overpriced and extraordinarily useless for anything other than getting one or two people to parts of town too far to bike.

          I drive a Scion xD, and I am very, very fond of it. I personally think it looks good, it’s zippy and fun to drive, and it has a surprising amount of interior space. The rear seats fold completely flat and I’ve hauled many a theatrical item hither and yon. However: watch out, because that model is coming to an end and parts are scarce, so you might find down the road that overall cost of ownership is higher than anticipated. I’ve replaced the tires on mine, and they recommend a size that is rare and super-pricy. (I went with a NON-recommended tire size that was half the cost.) Because so many parts of that car are juuuuust different enough from a Corolla that they warrant their own brand-specific version (such as an alternator), and because so few used parts are available in the market, you may need to order replacement parts directly from the factory (which is WAY more expensive). And this model is being discontinued after next year, so eventually replacement parts may not be available at all. I’ll miss it, but I’ll definitely be trading ours in after we have our other vehicle paid off in 2015.

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