I had a girlfriend in college who had a 1970 Toyota Corolla. Back in the day the
boxy Japanese compact was an oddity, sort of like what early buyers of Hyundai
and Kia vehicles experienced when they drove South Korean cars in the early
But what that light green Toyota lacked in style it more than made up in reliability and fuel efficiency at a time when Detroit built such compact clunkers as the Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega, and American Motors' Gremlin and Pacer.
That first in the United States Corolla introduced in 1968 was nearly indestructible. My brother married a woman who drove a 1969 model for 15 years. The other car of choice for college students of that era was the rear-engine Volkswagen Beetle. I married a woman who drove a '71 VW Super Beetle nicknamed "Norton" for 17 years and a college student drove it away when we finally parted with it.
My wife still loves her 14-year-old Corolla and so do many other loyal Corolla owners. Toyota has sold nearly 40 million Corollas worldwide since 1966, 1.2 million last year.
The world's largest automaker recently took the wraps off the 11th generation Corolla, an all-new model of the front-wheel drive compact with design flashes from the Corolla Furia Concept that made the rounds at auto shows from Detroit to California.
In a bid to break its conservative vanilla design mold, the all-new 2014 Corolla has some cues from the top competitors in the segment, sporting a bold front fascia reminiscent of the Mazda3 and an exterior and instrument cluster evoking the Honda Civic.
Style and Corolla have been polar opposites for decades, but I was impressed with the practically of the vehicle when we rented a 2013 Corolla on vacation last winter, a vehicle some auto critics dubbed an "automotive appliance."
The last few generations of the Corolla probably helped inspire the bumper sticker: "My car is a [picture of a toaster]," but the volume seller, second in sales to the Camry, has been Toyota's bread and butter. Safe, good mileage and no breakdowns has been a winning formula.
For 2014, Toyota ups the ante with more size and style. The front-wheel drive Corolla will come in four trim levels in showrooms this fall -- L, LE, S and a new LE Eco version. The wheel-base has been stretched by 3.9 inches and the car is lower and wider.
LED headlights, running lights and tail-lamps are standard and the sporty Corolla S adds more accents along with the 132-horsepower version of the 1.8-liter, VVT-I four-cylinder engine. The LE Eco engine boosts power to 140-horsepower and has continuously variable valve timing to improve fuel economy to 40 mpg on the highway.
The Corolla L and Corolla S offer a four-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission while the other models come with a new continuously variable "intelligent shift" automatic.
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