The Toyota Corolla, introduced in the U.S. in mid-2008 as a 2009 model in its current generation, has not aged particularly well. But man, can Toyota ever sell the hell out of this car. Despite fairly consistently lukewarm critical reviews, the Corolla manages to stay near the top of the sales charts for a few reasons: reputation, reliability, and habit. Did you notice that I didn’t mention excitement or features?
Since the current Corolla was launched, competitors have leapfrogged Toyota’s cheap-but-cheerful Corolla. They almost universally have nicer interiors. Many get better fuel economy. Most perform better. Nearly all have more interior space, as well as more interior features. Many automatic-equipped Corollas still have 4-speed automatics, while competitors increasingly feature 6-speeds (and Chrysler is rolling out 9-speeds in front wheel drive applications soon).
If you thought that Toyota was resting on its laurels with the Corolla, you probably thought correctly. But that doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t at least intend for the next-generation car, due in a year or two, to again set the standard for the class.
In Detroit today, Toyota showed a thinly-disguised concept for the next Corolla, called the Corolla Furia. Toyota’s VP & GM for Toyota Motor Sales USA, Bill Fay, couldn’t help but throw in every pun on the Furia name. Why Furia? Because the car’s appearance has a “ferocious” look and a “fury” of energetic design elements. He said that he named the car’s color “Fuego Furioso” and that they were working “furiously” on future products. Gag.
As should not be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Toyota Division’s recent products, the car is not breaking any new ground in terms of exterior design. Yes, it’s more interesting looking than the current Corolla, or even the Cruze. But I don’t think it’s as attractive as the Hyundai Elantra, and it’s probably on par with the Honda Civic.
Inside the 2012 and newer Camry, Toyota managed to really raise the bar in terms of material quality and technology. Perhaps the company can pull off a similar feat, perhaps on a slightly lesser smaller scale, in the next Corolla. Hearing talk of “roominess, comfort, and premium materials” in the Corolla’s interior certainly sounded promising. Now let’s see if Toyota can deliver.