ALL DRESSED UP: New 2014 Corolla looks extroverted, but underneath it’s still unassertive

Don’t be deceived by the aggressive new styling.

Toyota’s long-popular world car, the Corolla, may be all new for 2014, but it remains the workaday transportation appliance millions have come to depend on over 11 model generations.

It certainly looks sportier that its wallflower predecessor. It’s also larger in most dimensions, providing a bit more presence as well as increased interior space, most noticeably in rear legroom.

Despite its newfound extroverted looks, Corolla carries on with its easy-to-drive approach. There’s no learning curve involved in climbing aboard and heading up the street. Every switch, knob, button and control is exactly where you’d expect to find it in any number of Japanese vehicles.

One letdown is the unimaginative design of the dash. Although capped with a soft-touch layer, there’s an overload of hard plastics of various grains and finishes that don’t add up to a very inviting design. In our top-line S Premium tester, there was a certain drabness about the whole cabin, especially compared with the current crop of competitors, particularly new models from South Koreans Kia and Hyundai.

Beyond appearances, though, the Corolla delivers the sort of driving dynamics that have endeared it to owners for decades. All Corolla models are powered by a stalwart 1.8-liter, twin-cam four-cylinder that puts out adequate horsepower.

Coupled with a new-for-Corolla continuously variable automatic transmission, this drivetrain boosts fuel economy over the last version’s archaic four-speed automatic.

2014_Toyota_Corolla_S_013(1)Welcome additions are steering-wheel-mounted paddles and a Sport mode that upgrades steering and transmission response, offering just a tad more driver involvement in what is otherwise a rather lackadaisical proposition.

Handling is certainly competent enough for this class of car. On less-than-smooth road surfaces, though, the suspension tends to transmit bumps and jolts into the cabin.

None of this detracts from the inherent goodness in this new Corolla. It’s likely to continue its long tradition of bulletproof reliability, fuel economy and low-cost maintenance.

It’ll just look a lot better doing it.