If fuel economy is the new horsepower, then compact sedans are the new supercars. One of the best-selling compact models not just in the U.S. but worldwide has been the Toyota Corolla. This despite a dated design dating back to 2006, and class-trailing fuel economy ratings. But Toyota's compact standard-bearer is (over)due for a major makeover for the 2014 model year. Based on these spyshots we got on the roads of Southern California, it looks like the next Corolla is going to share a strong resemblance to the current Camry, much like the 2013 Nissan Sentra is the instantly-recognizable little brother of the Altima.
The roofline, greenhouse and rear end show strong Camry influences, while the grille looks like it could echo the theme on the new Avalon, with a "wide-mouth" lower grille. But even more importantly that the styling, the Corolla's traditional strength of low-cost operation is about to get a boost with a major enhancement to its powertrain with the main focus being on fuel economy.
The Corolla's current EPA ratings of 27 city and 34 highway with the four-speed automatic are near the bottom of the class, especially the highway figure. With some of the better entrants in the compact class approaching or meeting the magic 40 mpg highway figure, expect an overall improvement of fuel efficiency of at least 10 percent. Power output from the 1.8-liter four cylinder isn't expected to dramatically increase from its current rating of 132 hp and 128 lb-ft, but efficiency may be enhanced through fine-tuning to engine management, independently-variable cam timing and other refinements. Further enhancing efficiency is an expected change from the Corolla's dated four-speed automatic to a continuously-variable automatic.