Posted by: Jerry Garrett | August 27, 2013

2014 Toyota Corolla Gets 42 MPG? Read The Fine Print

This is the 2014 Toyota Corolla, but not the one that gets 42 m.p.g. (Toyota)


The 2014 Toyota Corolla is supposedly an all new, 11th-generation version of the model first introduced in 1967. Toyota said at the car’s media introduction here that the big news is estimated highway fuel economy for the Corolla has been improved from 34 m.p.g. in the 2013 model to as much as 42 m.p.g.

But there are caveats. That is not for every model in the new Corolla line. In fact, you may be hard-pressed to find the model that gets 42 m.p.g. Even if you could find one, you might not want it. Why?

The only Corolla model that is EPA-rated at 30 city, 42 highway (35 combined) is the new LE Eco Grade. What does that mean?

For starters, expect a sticker price of at least $19,500. (That’s a base price of $18,700, plus $800-something for “destination” charges.)

You do get the “highest horsepower” engine Toyota offers in the Corolla. That sounds like good news, but the highest horsepower engine is a naturally aspirated 1.8-liter four that only puts out 140 horsepower.

The re-designed 2014 Corolla (Jerry Garrett)

The re-designed 2014 Corolla (Jerry Garrett)

“Highest horsepower” is not exactly the same thing as “most powerful.” That 140-hoesepower engine makes 126 pounds-feet of torque, compared to 128 for the old, carryover 132-horsepower 1.8 four Toyota offers in other Corolla models such as the L, LE and S. The 140-horsepower engine costs about $300 more, but unfortunately you can’t get it in anything but the LE Eco.

(No, there’s no turbocharged version; neither is there a hybrid version – yet.)

The new engine also gets “Valvematic” valve train control, which is supposed to help improve fuel economy “in internal testing by 5.3%.” For some reason, in the real world, the observed gain is somewhat less than that.

Another key consideration: The LE Eco model gets a CVT. This transmission is so numbing to drive, Toyota figured Americans probably wouldn’t buy it; so for the U.S. market (only), they added fake gear change hesitations – seven of them! – to make it seem like the transmission is shifting (when it isn’t) and apparently to make you believe you bought a car with a state-of-the-art seven-speed automatic (you didn’t).

You can get a regular automatic transmission – an antediluvian four-speed is standard in the L. An optional, new six-speed manual is offered in the L and S. But you won’t get anywhere near 42 m.p.g. in these other offerings. (Actually, even the CVT in the S model gets the same 37 m.p.g. highway as the six-speed.)

The LE Eco, rather incredibly, also is equipped with rear drum brakes – a link to the past, as they were also offered on the original 1968 Corolla. The march of technology seems inexorable, except when it comes to the Corolla, apparently.

To get the advertised 42 m.p.g., you need to do at least two other things you probably aren’t going to want to do:

Note differences in wheels, tires.

Note differences in wheels, tires.

First, drive around in ECO mode, which is going to make that 140-horsepower motor seem like even more of an underachiever.

Second, you must order the 15-inch wheel and tire package. This is what we call the “rental car” or “fleet” combo with plastic covers over steel wheels. This is not an upscale look, to say the least.

But the P195/65R15 91S tires are apparently the key to the whole 42 m.p.g. thing. They are “low rolling resistance” tires.

If you don’t want them, because you don’t want to look like you bought a rental car, or you don’t want your car to handle brusquely, you can opt instead for 16-inch aluminum wheels and P205/55R16 89H tires. These are a visual improvement, but your m.p.g. just got whacked down to 40.

If you want the smart-looking 17-inch aluminum wheels and P215/45R17 87W tires – these are the ones Toyota will show in its Corolla advertising right next to the asterisk telling you “42 MPG model not shown” – your mileage will sink to a rather uncompetitive 36 m.p.g.

And remember, the 17-inch wheels and tires are only available on the expensive S model – with an MSRP of nearly $20,000 – that only gets the tired 132-horsepower engine.

The LE Eco's wheel & tire package. (JG Photo)

The LE Eco’s wheel & tire package. (JG Photo)

The S does offer four-wheel disc brakes, and a sport-tuned suspension – although it has the same “Stone Age” twist-beam rear axle setup as on other Corollas.

So when it comes to the Corolla’s fuel mileage, it is a matter of the more you pay, the less you get? Actually, no, that’s not entirely true; the base $17,500 L model gets comparatively unimpressive fuel mileage too.

Anyway, that’s why I say, even if you could find a $19,500 Corolla LE Eco, with a CVT, drum brakes, and rental car tires with plastic wheel covers, you might decide the trade-offs for getting 42 m.p.g. may not be worth the price.

Jerry Garrett

August 27, 2013


  1. Kind of a jerky analysis. The L I have runs great, smoothly, the tranny is good and solid, the car has the same good resale value.It has better outside esthetics, feels tight and it is quiet. It is easily as good as it’s competition, ALL things considered. Get rid of the lousy OEM tires and put on RT43 Generals and you will have a better running car, noticeably so. And, stop your whining, what do you expect for L prices anyway?

  2. I got lucky and found a 2014 Toyota Corolla LE with 3000 miles on it in April 2014. I paid $13,100 cash to a man who bought it at an insurance auction after a minor yet totaled wreck. I found a photo on line of the car with the front bumper, fenders and hood removed. All the parts with the exception of the headlights were replaced with OEM parts. The only added option is factory tinted side windows.

    The body was perfect with no frame damage. It now has 39,000 miles on it and it still looks and operates like new. The performance with its little 1.8 L motor and CVT is fantastik. It may only have 132 hp but the transmission with its variable ratio delivers power at the optimum rate.

    This car idles at 1,100 but I also travel at 55 mph at under 1,500 rpm while cruising and getting 50 to 60 + mpg. If you have to go fast to get on a busy hyway, this little high teck motor pushes 7,000 rpm through the cvt’s most optimum ratio to deliver performance that exceeds many muscle cars of the 60s.

    I use sythetic oil and pay for the best oil filter at a cost of $30.00 every 10,000 miles. I have done 3 changes. I have added about one pint at most between changes. The oil appears fairly clean when drained. My best full tank mpg is 51.2. My worst full tank mpg is more than 40mpg. I average 43 to 44 mpg.

    I am not in a big hurry most of the time and dont have to sit in traffic or do much inner city driving. I never hold up traffic but on the freeway I travel between 65 and 70 mph. If there is no traffic behind me, I let overpasses slow me down a little going up and I recover full speed + on the down side. I anticipate lights and turns and my brake pads probably look new. I often use the S and the B mode to slow the car. I keep the tires inflated 35 psi. Tire wear is moderate and even and at 39,000 I expect 70,000 or better and then I will replace with the same.

    This is an economy car. It is comfortable, has good hvac and good enough radio/cd player. You do feel the road. A new smooth road is quite and smooth but a rough road transfers through and is also loud. I have a half mile gravel road and I feel every stone. The back up camera is great and the computer display is awsome.The tires track perfectly, I have never needed an alignment. This car has been almost maintenance free.

    I have had two issues: first, mice made a nest on the interior air filter. The mama and babies were safely relocated, I had to buy a new filter. I found their entrance which was under the hood to the right of the hinge (passanger side). There was a plastic piece which flapped to make a two way swinging mouse door. I folded some window screen and blocked that mouse access. The stink went away with the old air filter. Second problem was a low beam headlight stopped working. To my surprise, there was no way to replace the bulb and Toyota claims that they are lifetime headlights. Since this car was “reconstructed” I thought it had no warranty. After finding out that the headlight would cost $800 with labor, I called Toyota headquarters. I explained that it was a reconstructed car and told the rep that I have no way of knowing whether or not the headlights were OEM or aftermarket. I asked if I could get some discount on the headlight. The rep asked my VIN. Then responded by saying, “As far as I can see, your warranty is still in effect.” He gave me a case number and told me to go to a local Toyota dealer and they would take care of me at no cost. The headlight that burned out was not Toyota OEM, it was an aftermarket brand, which could not be identified until it was removed, but still, no charge.

    I might be lucky and got a sweet cherry. There could be a lemon, I dont know about that. This car is the best that I have ever had and I also have the benefits or producing less polution while getting great economy. At current regular gas price of $2.50/gal my per mile oil and gas cost is 6 cents. That is 1000 miles for less than $60.00. It aint a Bentley but its 8 air bags and responsive control gives me security and mobility at a very low cost. Thank you Toyota

    • True story: All my kids own Toyotas. So do I.

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