Auto journalists have been kind of hard on what they see as faults of the upcoming 2014 Toyota Corolla. We said that Toyota screwed it up. Except they didn't. Toyota did everything right.
I should say that I haven't seen a new Corolla in person. I haven't driven a new Corolla. I'm indifferent about how the new Corolla looks and by all appearances it's the same as the old car under the skin, with outdated engine and transmission offerings and a platform that dates back nearly a decade.
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And none of that matters. At all.
The Toyota Corolla didn't become one of the world's best selling cars by being daringly styled with cutting edge tech and amazing driving dynamics. It got to its lofty position by playing it safe and being boring.
And the latest Corolla plays it safe. It uses a platform that has been tried and tested and engines that have proven to be rock solid over hundreds of thousands of miles of use in highway and city driving. It's still cheap, it has a slightly more daring exterior and what seems to be a massively improved interior.
Sure, it's boring as sin to drive, but that's kind of the point. The rest of the world isn't like us. They don't have an obsession with cars or driving. If they did, the Mazda3 would be the best selling car in its class by the widest margin possible. Most people just want to get from Point A to Point B, and occasionally on the weekends Point C.
They don't care how the car feels to get there. They don't care about nicely weighted steering and I'm willing to bet they don't even care about how their car looks. Understand these people I do not.
What they do care about is saving money and reliability. The Toyota Corolla has been helping people do both of those things since sometime before the Revolutionary War. It's a formula that works, which is why Toyota sells nearly 300,000 Corollas in the USA each year.
If you sold at least 230,000 of something a year each year for the last 13, would you want to make a wholesale change to it? Of course not. You'd be an idiot to totally transform your product. You know what sells. Stick with it. If people cared about the Corolla being outdated, they wouldn't have bought 290,000 of them last year. 2012 was the Corollas best year since 2009. It's proof that Corolla buyers just want wheels to get around and nothing more. They're the majority of people.
Car obsessed people like us are a minority. A tiny, vocal minority. We care that the Corolla hasn't changed, but we're the only ones. What matters is what the people who buy it think, and they don't seem to think about cars a lot.
People who don't know about cars that have a Corolla are probably telling friends who also know nothing about cars that "their Corolla is great." And you know what? They're right. It is great. It gets them where they need to go with no worries and it runs for ages. It's a small initial expense that is reliable for ages. It is "car." It isn't special, but appliances aren't special.
Why buy a Sub Zero fridge when a Frigidaire does the same thing for far less money without frills you don't need? If you drive a Bentley to the mall or a Toyota to the mall, you'll still be at the mall when you get out of the car.
Toyota once tried to make an exciting Corolla. It was called the XRS and had the running gear of the Celica. It failed. And that's because nobody cared. They just wanted a Corolla for day-to-day, they didn't need to have fun while getting there. It was an affirmation of the purpose of the Corolla: Motoring appliance.
Just because a car isn't an enthusiast car doesn't mean it's a bad car. By all accounts, the Corolla is perfectly average in every way and will get you where you need to go. That's all a car needs to do and the Corolla will do that. You don't need more.
Toyota knows exactly what they're doing. And while critics are laughing at them and saying they screwed this car up, they'll be laughing all the way to the bank when they sell another 300,000 of them next year.
Photo Credits: Raphael Orlove