Toyota Corolla
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Given the ubiquity of Toyota’s Corolla on the highways and byways, at least it’s much nicer to look at.

Base 1.8-liter four-cylinder; six-speed manual transmission and four-speed automatics remain; fuel-sipping CVT optional, but standard with LE Eco model.

In 48 years, Toyota has sold more than 40 million Corollas and currently operates 16 factories worldwide that ship them to 154 countries. The 11th-generation North American version, released for 2014, has much more style — especially from the windshield forward — than its broad base of customers are used to seeing. The car grew about four inches in overall length and in distance between the front and rear wheels. In addition a slightly wider cabin also contributes to more passenger space. Interior styling was also improved, but in a conservative way that differs from more daring competitors. Likewise, engine choices eschew anything performance-related. A 132-horsepower four-cylinder carries over from the previous generation and is connected to a six-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional for the base L, while a continuously variable unit (CVT) is optional for the LE and S, but standard for the LE Eco. To reduce that “rubber-band” sensation of varying engine speed that’s prevalent with many CVT applications, Toyota’s engineers added seven artificial shift points that function automatically (or can be controlled through available steering-column-mounted paddle shifters) to simulate the action of a regular automatic transmission. The LE Eco is also equipped with a 140-horsepower version of the 1.8 that’s rated at 30 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway, compared to the base 1.8’s 29/38 numbers (with the CVT). Aside from a more efficient engine with special variable valve timing, those figures are achieved with the help of underbody panels that improve the car’s aerodynamics (and reduce highway-speed fuel consumption). Entry-level Corollas come with air conditioning and basic comfort items, but likely more popular will be the LE that includes climate and cruise control touch-screen audio communications interface plus a backup camera. “S” versions add sport bucket seats, sport suspension plus 17-inch wheels (16-inch rims are standard). For 2015, all but the base L can be equipped with a new Premium trim, which adds a power moonroof, smart key, and the Entune display audio and navigation included. Of course a wide assortment of comfort, communications and crash-mitigating safety options are offered for each model.