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Never in my life would I have guessed I'd be test-driving cars for a living. Okay, maybe not for a living, but I did get to take the new Toyota Corolla 2014 for a couple of weeks ago for my blog and that's almost the same thing. Toyota hosted a regional preview of the latest editions of the Corolla family here in Seattle, and I spent the better part of two days mingling with auto bloggers and media contacts, many of whom I would never have otherwise.
The Toyota team treated us to quite the Seattle experience, with an evening at the Chihuly Glass Museum and dinner at the Experience Music Project. At the EMP, Toyota pulled out all the stops for a full visual presentation of the new Corolla, highlighting all of the updates, revisions and additions to the S, L, LE and LE-Eco models. I learned more about the many pieces that make up the Corolla than I've probably ever learned about any car in my entire life.
Though it was borderline like a foreign language, it was clear Toyota pushed itself to improve and elevate the Corolla in every way possible. It could easily have just coasted by on Corolla's reputation as one of the most reliable, solid cars out there, but there was a lot of work to keep it at the head of the pack with its latest model. Improved fuel economy with its CVTi-S and Valvematic systems; the expanded and readjusted leg room and airbag configuration; the updated Entune app suite and connectivity with your iPod, Bluetooth, USB or auxiliary tunes are just a few of the updated features that stuck out to me.
What also stuck out to me was Toyota's shift in target demographic for the Corolla. While you and I have probably always thought of the Corolla as the decent car a family member or three owned, there's a clear effort to appeal now to the Gen Y / millenial market. I definitely heard the words "young entrepreneur" mentioned more than once. With all of your (stock) choices under $20k, this is definitely a reasonably affordable bang for your buck.
The first night was capped with a sweet dinner and viewing of the EMP's latest exhibits, "Women Who Rock" and "Hendrix in London." If you haven't been by recently, I highly suggest you do! I went home with a sweet swag bag that was all the way Seattle.
The next morning, I met the group at the Alexis Hotel for our test drives. Toyota had a fleet of the Corolla 2014 models.
Sue Frause, a fellow writer and cool lady who resides in Whidbey Island, was my traveling buddy for this driving excursion. I'm not gonna lie, I was super intimidated by the auto media who do this kinda thing all the time, so I was really happy to have Sue as my driving partner. She and I were super laidback about the whole experience. We started with the standard L model Corolla. I wove through the Seattle waterfront up through Magnolia and Discovery Park before Sue took the reins the rest of the way to Snoqualmie Falls.
On the way back to the Alexis, I had the fortune to drive the Corolla LE-Eco, which was especially appealing to me (I drive a Civic Hybrid.) Both cars were such a smooth drive, but with the Eco I drove so much faster than I thought I would. It's got a lot of power for a hybrid vehicle, but with the quiet purr I'm used to from a hybrid. The technology in the dashboard might be a little overwhelming for someone who's not normally used to a lot of that, but I didn't find it too distracting, and the steering panel itself was mostly old-school anyway.
My travel buddy! Photo via Sue Frause
All in all, I had a lot of fun after the initial anxiety of driving a car that isn't mine. The whole experience was a blast and I'm definitely looking forward to doing it again. Thanks Toyota and team!
If you're in the market for a new car, the new Corolla's base MSRP (stock models) range from $16,800 for the Corolla L to $19,000 for the Corolla S. There's a Toyota Corolla iPad app if you want to explore the new Corolla more, or you can visit the website for more information.