2014 Toyota Corolla Spy Photos: Once Again a Mini-Camry

What It Is: A next-generation Toyota Corolla sedan covered in heavy black camouflage. The Corolla is the smallest four-door in Toyota’s U.S. lineup, now that the Yaris sedan was dropped for 2012. The current-generation Corolla has been around in largely the same form since 2009—it was lightly updated for 2011 with a new face and some fresh features—but it’s time for a redesign.

Why It Matters: Toyota has dutifully updated the volume-generating sedan every few years, but no recent model has excited anyone outside of the company’s accountants. Now that the Corolla’s competition includes reloaded efforts from Ford with its new Focus and Dodge with the Dart—in addition to the competent Chevy Cruze, the stylish Hyundai Elantra, and the fine-driving Mazda 3—it looks even more dated than it did before.

Sky-high mpg is perhaps more important than ever, but the Corolla will need to offer more than just good EPA numbers to properly compete. Compact-car buyers today expect mid-size features and technology in a reasonably priced package. Doodads such as navigation, heated seats, and even self-parking systems are becoming prevalent in the segment. The current Corolla offers neither upmarket features nor an appropriately low price to overcome its lack of modern amenities.

Platform: From the look of the prototype in these spy photos, the Corolla likely will follow in the footsteps of the larger Camry and use an updated version of the current platform. Besides aping the Camry’s evolutionary platform strategy, the Corolla also will borrow heavily from that sedan’s styling. The taillights on this test car look nearly identical to the latest Camry’s units, while the Corolla’s front end incorporates several angular cues cribbed straight from its big brother. The car seen here shares its relatively high beltline with the current model, but manages to not appear dowdy and tall for it, at least in this armored look.

Powertrain: As did the recently redesigned Camry, we suspect the Corolla will carry over most of its powertrain stuff. The Corolla currently offers but a single engine—a 132-hp, 1.8-liter four—paired with either a five-speed manual or an outdated four-speed automatic. We wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota muscles the engine up a bit with some more power, although we hope that both transmissions benefit from more gears. A six-speed manual or automatic would bring the Corolla’s gearswappers into this century, and would help improve upon its already admirable fuel economy. The EPA rates the current stick-shift Corolla at 27 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway; the automatic is good for the same highway number, but sacrifices 1 mpg in the city. Not terribly shabby stuff for technology seemingly borrowed from 1983, but we expect Toyota will shoot for the magic 40-mpg mark with the 2014 Corolla.

Competition: Chevrolet Cruze, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 3, Volkswagen Jetta.

Estimated Arrival Time: The next-gen Corolla should appear sometime next year as a 2014 model, which would keep the sedan in line with Toyota’s typical five-year product cycle.

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