First Look: Toyota Corolla Furia Concept

The Corolla may be one of the most important cars in Toyota's lineup, with 291,000 sold in the U.S. last year and a total of nine million sold here since 1968, but it's hardly the stuff of car enthusiasts' dreams. It owes its sales success to a continued image of sensible, practical, and economical driving. Imagine our surprise, then, to see that the Corolla Furia concept shown at the Detroit auto show wears 19-inch wheels, carbon fiber accent pieces, and a flashy orange paint job.

"We want to move the brand from more of a rational brand to more of an emotional brand", says Toyota Division group vice president Bill Fay. "We see an opportunity for growth in the compact-car segment."

Fays says that the Corolla Furia concept "could" preview a sportier, sexier Corolla sedan, but declines to give a date for when the updated compact will go on sale. Aside from the big wheels and aggressive body kit, the next-generation Corolla should look very similar to this concept. In profile, the Furia looks just like a squared-off version of today's Corolla, with a few extra body creases. Yet the LED headlights, blacked-out grille, carbon-fiber rocker panels, and chrome parallelogram exhaust tips from this show car will almost certainly be erased before the next-gen Corolla reaches showrooms.

The Furia is just 1.9 inches longer and 0.6 inch wider than the 2013 Corolla, but because the wheelbase increases by 3.9 inches, the Furia has much shorter overhangs. Toyota's Fay says that pushing the big 19-inch wheels out to the corners was key to creating a more aggressive look, and we expect those proportions will carry over to the production car.

There's no word for now on what will power the next-generation Corolla, but Toyota will probably just update the current car's 1.8-liter inline-four engine. Fuel economy remains an important Corolla selling point, and the new car should easily eclipse the 30-mpg highway rating of today's model. In other words, any "aggression" that Toyota injects into its new car will be in the form of updated styling only.

Expect to see this Furia concept morph into the 2014 Toyota Corolla by the end of this year. Unfortunately, we can also expect most of the fun and flair on display here in Detroit to evaporate so that the new Corolla will better appease mainstream buyers. At least that should ensure continued segment-topping sales for Toyota's compact sedan.

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