Many smaller families may be quick to dismiss the Toyota Corolla as a viable option for carting around their crew, but a redesign for 2014 means big changes. The Corolla's wheelbase grew nearly 4 inches to 106.3 inches. What that means for families is a lot more legroom for growing tweens and visiting grandparents, and more generous quarters for rear-facing child-safety seats, too.
It's limiting to only consider crossovers and minivans as potential family haulers. A few years ago my husband and I were looking to reduce our car payment and fuel costs as well as comfortably transport our young daughter. We ended up letting go of our SUV and purchasing a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta, which at the time had the largest backseat in the compact sedan class. However, now that the all-new Corolla has arrived, that title goes to this new Toyota.
The Corolla offers a surprising 41.4 inches of rear legroom in the backseat, which is 3.3 inches more than the Jetta's 38.1 inches. It even dwarfs the rear legroom in some of its most popular competitors: The 2014 Honda Civic has 36.2 inches, and the 2014 Ford Focus sedan offers 33.2 inches.
The Corolla's roomier interior also pleased my front passengers, who could slide the front passenger seat all the way back without cramping my daughter and her car seat behind them.
That wasn't the case when I tested the previous-generation Corolla. My mother preferred sitting in the backseat rather than riding in the front of the 2012 model because she had to slide her seat all the way forward to accommodate my daughter's rear-facing car seat. At just 5 feet 4 inches tall, she felt like she was sitting on top of the dashboard. In the 2014 Corolla, front legroom has grown to 42.3 inches from 41.7 inches. My mom was comfortable in the front or backseat of the new version.
There's more good news for families considering the redesigned Corolla: The trunk has grown, too. It now has 13.0 cubic feet of space, an increase of 0.7 cubic feet. This small bump in size helped a lot when it came to stowing my stroller in the trunk. In the older model, the stroller took up most of the trunk, leaving little room for anything else. In the 2014 Corolla's trunk, I fit my stroller length-wise, which left the other half for whatever else I needed to carry. Even with the increase, the 2014 Corolla's trunk is smaller than the Jetta's 15.5 cubic feet, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra's 14.8 and the Focus' 13.2 cubic feet.
For families looking to reap the benefits of owning a compact sedan, it's good to know that the Corolla can provide a few perks without sacrificing basic comforts. My family is always looking for compact options, and the redesigned Corolla just might surprise your family as much as it did ours.
Cars.com photos by Carrie Kim