Toyota has discontinued the Auris nameplate and replaced it with a reborn Corolla Hatch that offers a thoroughly modern driving experience. We spent a day roaming the Western Cape to get a feel for the newcomer.
What is it?
Apart from the return of the Corolla name, the newcomer still plays in exactly the same segment as the Auris did. Sales in the C-segment hatch segment have dwindled over the last few years with the rise of compact SUVs, but it remains an important model to garner notable volume.
The rivals in the segment remain the top-selling Golf (soon to be replaced with the Golf 8), Ford Focus (new model coming in 2019 too) and the Mazda3 (also seeing a new model come, possibly this year). So for at least a few months, the Corolla Hatch will be the newest model on the market.
The Corolla hatch has a distinctive, sporty look. Chrome lip denotes CVT model.
The Hatch runs on the same platform (TNGA) as the C-HR and Prius – its wheelbase is 40 mm longer than that of the model it replaces, but its roofline is about 25 mm lower. As far as its looks go, the new design seems to work better than the Auris was ever able to accomplish. The shape and bodywork certainly show off a sporty demeanour and Toyota appears to be appeasing loyal fans with a GR Sport version and the possibility of a full-blown GRMN derivative further down the line.
What engine does it have?
There is just one engine available and it’s the same 1.2-litre turbopetrol that does duty in the C-HR. It’s good for 85 kW and 185 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption is claimed at 6.1 L/100 km. The choice of gearbox is either a 6-speed manual (in the base-spec Xs version) or a 10-step CVT (the latter in the Xs and high-spec Xr derivatives). As far as CVT gearboxes go, the Corolla Hatch’s isn’t too bad. Even when asking for full throttle, there isn’t that audible drone that CVTs are often plagued with, but you do still find yourself prodding the throttle on occasions to maintain acceleration.
The same engine as used in the C-HR is used in the Corolla Hatch.
On the plus side, the turbocharged engine is free-revving and gives the Corolla Hatch a bit more character than just a tool for getting from A to B. It has acceptable mid-range acceleration when overtaking at freeway speeds and offers decent punch when pulling away from a standstill. Zero to 100 kph is timed at 9.5 seconds for the manual and 10.4 seconds for the CVT.
What's it like to drive?
A very composed drive on smooth and bumpy surfaces.
The new Corolla Hatch rides particularly well. A new multi-link rear suspension adds some effective bump absorption, keeping the Corolla stable on bumpy roads. There’s an initial softness to the suspension that gives way to a firmer, more sporty ride once you lean on it and start pushing on. The engineers have cleverly made it comfortable when driving slowly and on bumpier surfaces, but then when you want to have a bit of fun, there is a sporty chassis lying beneath that comfort. It should do well when tasked with handling a bit more power for upcoming Gazoo Racing models.
Can it fit lots of things and people?
The additional wheelbase has created more room for rear passengers with ample legroom for a 1.8-metres-tall human being. Head- and shoulder room are more than adequate and the 60/40-split rear seatback can fold flat to free up utility space. The load bay is claimed to hold 503 litres, but that's before Toyota puts in the full-size spare wheel under the floor. After that, the boot measures just 294 litres, which is a bit on the small side.
The top spec Xr model has leather/Alcantara sports seats up front.
Up front, oddment space (for things like car keys and mobile phones) is a bit limited, with only a single storage bay right up front ahead of the gear lever. The USB port is located in the centre console, so you end up with a cable running the whole length of the transmission tunnel if you want to charge it. The other option is to have your smartphone rattle around in one of the two cupholders while it's charging.
Is it specced well?
Yes, the Corolla Hatch comes with a fair selection of standard kit. Dual zone climate control is standard, as is the centre-mounted touchscreen, LED lights, keyless entry, a reverse-view camera and cruise control. The top-spec Xr version sees the addition of heated seats, which are covered in leather and Alcantara trim, as well as a blind-spot monitoring system.
The only glaring omission from the specification list is Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility. Toyota SA did say that it is in the works, but that Japan is still developing it into the system; it could take some time before it’s available.
No Apple Caplay or Android Auto compatibility is a bit of a missed opportunity.
Is it safe?
As far as a family car goes, the Corolla Hatch has a full house of safety features. Stability control is standard across the range and there are 7 airbags available. The usual suite of ABS, EBD and brake assist are all standard and the Xr version additionally gets blind-spot monitoring.
The Corolla Hatch is a well-rounded product, with few faults.
The new Corolla ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to the C-segment hatch market. It’s spacious and rides comfortably with a capable turbocharged engine that delivers enough power without drinking much fuel. It’s well specced with safety features and priced competitively in a stylish package that might just be enough to tempt buyers away from the competition.
Pricing and warranty
The Corolla Hatch is priced competitively in the segment matching the equivalent Golf, but with a few more standard features on offer. It comes standard with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and 6-services/90 000 km service plan.
Corolla Hatch 1.2T Xs 6MT – R 336 800
Corolla Hatch 1.2T Xs CVT – R 347 400
Corolla Hatch 1.2T Xr CVT – R 367 100