Toyota's Corolla has clocked up more than 40-million sales worldwide and now its 11th generation is from February 2014 available in South Africa. Since the 1970’s more than 970 000 units have been sold here.Toyota is so confident that its latest Corolla will be a success that it’s banked a R1-billion investment in local production.IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Toyota CorollaThe latest Corolla, the brand’s flagship, sports bold(ish) design changes, improved tech and quality as well as new engines and transmissions. What’s more, it’s the vanguard of a 30-model offensive for SA in 2014! Often derided by naysayers as “a driving appliance”, can the 2014 Corolla change local hearts and minds? Wheels24’s SERGIO DAVIDS finds out. ENGINESThe refreshed line-up features a new 1.4 D-4D turbodiesel and three Dual VVT-i petrol engines - 1.3, 1.6 and a 1.8 that replaces the former two-litre. Each is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox (replacing the five-speed) though the 1.6 and 1.8 offer a new Multidrive S auto option.The 1.3 is capable of 73kW/128Nm, 100km/h in 12.6sec and top speed of 180km/h. Fuel consumption is rated at six litres/100km with emissions of 139g/km.The 1.6 petrol is capable of 90kW/154Nm, 100km/h in 10.5sec (auto 11.1) and 195 (manual) and 185km/h (auto). Fuel consumption for the six-speed is listed as 6.6 litres/100 km with emissions of 157 g/km, the auto 6.3 and 150 g/km.The range-topping 1.8 petrol is capable of 103kW/173Nm, 100km/h in 10.2sec for the Multidrive S variant (manual spring time n/a) and 195km/h. Fuel consumption on the manual model is listed as seven litres/100/165 g/km, the auto 6.4/100km/152 g/km.The 66kW/205Nm 1.4 diesel reaches 100km/h in 12.5sec and runs on to 180. Fuel consumption is rated at 4.5/100km/119g/km.THAT’S THE DATA, NOW THE DRIVING...The Corolla, Toyota says, was “designed with easy driving in mind”; it’s an apt description. Most Corolla buyers will not be interested in sporty dynamics so this new Toyota will tick all the right boxes.Driving the Corolla can be summed up in one word and that’s “average”. Yet this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it means it’s made par for the comfortable driving course. Steering, suspension and handling are neither class-leading nor sub-par. In fact, bar its inherent mainstream nature, you’d be hard-pressed to fault it as a family car.It’s as comfortable as one can expect and its looks, while not awe-inspiring, don’t offend. It handles corners adequately but irregular surfaces and potholes are acutely felt. You’re not going to be blown away by its performance and even the 103kW 1.8 fails on the excitement front.The Corolla uses a revised version of the previous model's Macpherson struts front and torsion beam rear suspension. The result - a comfortable ride with predictable road-holding.What perhaps most critics will find vexing is that the Corolla is deliberately designed to be average, yet millions will buy it. With this middle-of-the road strategy, Toyota has delivered a vehicle that’s comfortable, practical and, provided you’re driving the diesel, frugal.If the brief was to build on its predecessor’s success while not producing anything too “adventurous” then Toyota has it nailed. DESIGNAs demonstrated on the current Yaris, Auris and Verso, Toyota is ready to take steps (albeit tentatively) out of its design shell. The new Corolla’s design is certainly striking against its predecessor though I still feel it’s restrained. I suppose when you’re planning to sell millions of units “mainstream” styling is essential - especially considering Toyota first-time and repeat purchasers.Toyota decided to avoid anything adventurous (think Hyundai’s side-panel folds, Ford’s Aston Martin-esque grilles or Mazda’s lines) and instead created a streamlined design manifested in a new face, lines and tail that’s not too unconventional... and that’s how Corolla buyers like it.The biggest problem the Corolla’s looks has to do with timing; it’s not as attention-grabbing as its Hyundai Elantra and Kia Cerato rivals (soon it will have to contend with the hot Mazda3) but it’s better-looking than Chevrolet’s Cruze and VW’s Jetta. The interior is a very different story but more on that shortly...IN THE CABINIt’s been years since the last Corolla update and one area I was eager to see was the Corolla’s cabin and tech improvements. I wasn't disappointed...Inside is where the Corolla's design truly shines; it's a spacious expanse filled with elegant touches (yes, I know I just used the word elegant to describe a Corolla). It's not exciting but it's a cabin that shows Toyota has up-scaled the model’s interior into space with which you could be satisfied long-term.Soft touch leather, metallic finishes and, on the higher-specced models, a touchscreen is a welcome addition. Credit where credit is due - Toyota has done a great job with the interior. The driving position has been revised – seat-height adjustment has been extended by 15mm to 60mm and the slide adjustment range by 20mm to 260mm. The front seat hip point has been moved forward by 5mm.AND THE FEATURES...The new Corolla is available in a choice of four spec levels from the entry Esteem through Prestige (mid), Sprinter (sport) to the top-of-the-range Exclusive. Esteem, Prestige and Sprinter units have a three-gauge instrument cluster with the large central speedometer incorporating trip-data information. The Exclusive grade has a two-gauge layout with a central display. Prestige, Sprinter and Exclusive gauges are accented with chromed rings.All models except for the Esteem come with a new leather-skinned steering wheel (Exclusive models add cruise control).Standard kit on the Esteem includes power windows, remote-controlled central locking and radio/CD with USB and auxiliary plugs. The Prestige adds Bluetooth, audio touchscreen control (with DVD), reversing camera, leather upholstery, satellite steering-wheel controls and 16” alloy rims. Sprinter variants have leather/fabric seats, auto aircon, fog lights and spoiler.Exclusive models gain auto touchscreen (with DVD), cruise control, keyless entry and push-button start and automatic wipers.The touch-screen display incorporates radio, CD/DVD/MP3 and Bluetooth with a music streaming facility... In terms of safety, the model has driver, passenger and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction/stability control. A hill-start aid is fitted to vehicles equipped with vehicle stability control.AND THE RIVALS...The Corolla will have to contend with Ford’s Focus, Chevrolet’s Cruze, VW’s Jetta and the Korean duo - Hyundai’s Elantra and Kia’s Cerato. It’s certainly better-looking than the Cruze but nowhere near as bold as the Elantra or Cerato.OVERALLIts looks may not spark your engine but I believe its longer, wider and lower stance and redesigned exterior is an improvement over its predecessor and might appeal to younger buyers. Toyota predicts this Corolla will be another best-seller and having driven it I have no reason to doubt that.The 2014 model doesn't stray from the proven formula that will still appeal to the masses in that it gets the job (driving from A-B) done with no frills (or thrills); the car is comfortable and well-suited to the rigours of family life.It's not hard to find a Corolla owner professing “love” for his/her car but if you ask why the answers will probably boil down to “trouble-free driving”, “comfortable on the road” and “it's massive inside”.The Corolla caters for budget-conscious, brand-loyal, South Africans who equate some of the rigours of driving as a chore (read: traffic/petrol price) and will define a good car as one that minimises their pain. By that standard, the car will be a smash-hit.The new Corolla isn't going to get your pulse racing but Toyota has certainly improved on its predecessors and taken tentative steps towards exciting car design. Millennials are Toyota's target audience and its bold exterior and tech might be enough to convince younger buyers that the 11th-generation Corolla has built on its heritage.SA MARKET WOESHowever the Corolla makes its local debut amid troubling market conditions, plummeting rand and low consumer confidence.Toyota South Africa’s senior vice-president for sales and marketing, Calvyn Hamman, shared his insights into the local market with Wheels24. Click here to read more!2014 Toyota Corolla models and prices1.3 Esteem - R214 9001.3 Prestige - R232 9001.4 D Esteem - R237 9001.4 D Prestige - R249 9001.6 Esteem - R225 9001.6 Prestige - R241 9001.6 Prestige Multidrive S - R252 9001.6 Sprinter - R248 9001.8 Prestige - R251 9001.8 Exclusive - R272 9001.8 Exclusive Multidrive S - R283 900The 2014 Corolla will be delivered with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a five-year or 90 000km service plan. Service intervals 15 000km (including the 1.4 D). ToyotaCare entitles customers to 24-hour roadside assistance.