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BBC Autos

Toyota readies a renewal of compact sedan dominance

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.

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When a car company has sold 40 million units of just one model, aesthetic progress can be marked by half measures.

There may be a revised headlight cluster here, a new character line there, but the company – and if we are talking 40 million units, there is just one company to talk about – usually plays it safe. Presuming the next Toyota Corolla retains the overall mien of the Corolla Furia Concept, unveiled at the Detroit auto show on 14 January, the automaker infamous for its conservatism will have commendably gone against type.

The Furia is a rakish, youthful vision for the Corolla, which, hemmed in by a revitalised Honda Civic as well as strong entries from Ford, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia and Mazda, is looking ever longer in the tooth. Despite that, the Corolla was the second best-selling compact sedan in the US in 2012 behind the Civic, and the second best-selling model within Toyota’s stable, behind the all-conquering Camry sedan.

“Young buyers are returning to the market,” said Bill Fay, group vice president of the Toyota brand, introducing the car on Monday. To punctuate that half-truth – young buyers have, until recently, been fleeing from US and European roads – a bass-heavy dubstep soundtrack marked the arrival of the Furia concept onstage, wearing 19-inch wheels, LEDs and a burnt-orange metallic paint job Fay called “fuego furioso”.

The Furia is more stylised than entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura ILX, let alone its lower-priced targets. To add a compelling body to the Corolla’s arsenal, which already includes quality and value, would all but guarantee the car’s return to segment dominance.

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