Toyota extended the life of the previous-generation Corolla by offering the Corolla Quest as a budget-oriented compact sedan range in South Africa. As a result, the Prospecton-based firm now dominates the C-segment of the new-vehicle market. We spent an afternoon with the new version, which is based on the 11th-generation model, to find out how much it has improved.
What is it?
The Corolla Quest is a slick effort from Toyota SA. When the production cycle of the current-generation Corolla ends, the sedan lives on in the shape of the new Corolla Quest. Instead of discontinuing its production line (as most manufacturers would), Toyota effectively extends the superseded Corolla's life by bolting on a Quest badge, incorporating some parts shared with the IMV vehicles (Hilux and Fortuner, which are also built in Durban), finding local suppliers for parts and reducing production cost, to the benefit of customers. Okay, that’s a very basic summary, but Toyota isn’t the only firm that does this: Volkswagen does the same when it turns the Polo into the Polo Vivo every 7 years or so.
The bottom slats in the bumper is the easiest way to spot on the new Corolla Quest.
The chassis of the Corolla Quest is updated to that of the venerable 11th-generation Corolla, which means it’s of a much more modern design compared with its predecessor's. The 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine has been replaced with a more powerful (yet more fuel-efficient) 1.8-litre petrol. Customers can choose between a 6-speed manual 'box and an automatic transmission (the previous 4-speed auto has finally been replaced with a CVT).
The new Corolla Quest is most easily recognisable by its front grille, which is something of a local design that’s been made to give it an updated look. The treatment of the upper segment of the grille also denotes the trim level of your car (Standard and Prestige versions get a matte-black section, while the top-spec Exclusive model gets colour coded treatment). For the details on the Corolla Quest trim grades, take a look at our Specs & Price article.
As for the newcomer's interior, more parts are now shared with the Hilux and Fortuner and the seat materials have been sourced locally, which has helped to bring down the unit prices of the various derivatives.
Is it better than before?
Now with a 1.8-litre engine, which replaces the 1.6-litre petrol unit.
Yes, very much so. The on-road refinement (especially in terms of sound suppression) is excellent, for example, and the ride and suspension setup delivers a comfortable driving experience. The 1.8-litre naturally aspirated engine bucks the downsizing trend, but its implementation was a no-brainer considering it’s more powerful (13 kW more) at 103 kW and 173 Nm of torque and more efficient (7.0 L/100 km for the manual and 6.3 L/100 km for the CVT).
We drove manual- and automatic derivatives over the course of the 200-km launch evaluation route. The manual version has a light action to its shift, but there’s a bit of an annoying rise in the revs when you depress the clutch on the way up the 'box, which can make changes less than slick to execute. The CVT proves a boon in congested traffic and when being driven in a calm/measured manner, but once you plant the accelerator pedal, it drones on and feels less eager to execute overtaking manoeuvres than its manual-shift equivalent. For this sort of vehicle though, I would recommend the CVT as the fuel savings are worth the (largely perceived) dropoff in performance.
What’s it like inside?
The Exclusive trim level represents a major step up from the previous Quest.
We only got to sample the top-spec Exclusive derivative, which is jam-packed with all the spec that the Corolla Quest range has to offer. The overall quality of the cabin is a huge improvement on that of the outgoing model with plenty of soft-touch materials and some quite nice silver-coloured plastic inlays here and there. There are admittedly a few easy-to-spot cases of cost-saving, particularly the plastics on the steering wheel, which feel hard and scratchy.
The infotainment system is pulled from the Hilux/Fortuner, but disappointingly, it's the one that doesn’t have a manual volume knob – you have to stab the touchscreen or the utilise the steering wheel-mounted control to quickly turn the sound down (or up). Also, no Apple Carplay or Android Auto compatibility is available on the Corolla Quest. There is, however, a USB port up front for charging devices, as well as integral Bluetooth connectivity.
The space inside is ample; both front and rear passengers are afforded plenty of legroom, headroom and shoulder space. The boot is big too (a carry-over from the normal Corolla) and a full-size spare wheel is standard.
Is it safer?
Vehicle stability control is standard across the range.
As a car that's expected to transport a multitude of passengers (yes, Corolla Quests are indeed popular with Uber drivers), the safety upgrades incorporated in the new model are commendable. For a start, the biggest reducer of accidents, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) is standard across the range. Driver-, front passenger- and a driver knee bags are standard, as are ABS with EBD, ISOfix child-seat anchor points and hill-start assist.
The Prestige derivative also features a reverse-view camera and rain-sensing lights and wipers (although the wipers screeched when trying to rid the 'screen of a Highveld thunderstorm's deluge... and not only in one of the launch cars).
Is it priced well?
Compared with the outgoing Corolla Quest, the base version is around R14k more expensive than before. You are getting a lot more car for your money, however, with a lot more standard specification and a notable safety upgrade. At the top of the range, what was basically a R370k Corolla flagship is now a R307 400 Corolla Quest that doesn’t actually feel like it has undergone a huge drop in quality...
The new Corolla Quest pushes the vehicle much further upmarket, but without a hefty price increase.
Toyota is wise to continue the local production of the Corolla Quest. It would be dead simple to take a Corolla, toss out all the expensive bits and safety equipment and then drop the price, but Toyota's avoided that. The safety spec across the range is good (VSC stands out as real life-saver) and the interior appears well-built with upmarket materials. Yes, there’s the odd bit of plastic that’s scratchy, but at this price point, it’s not unreasonable, nor worthy of harsh criticism.
The new Corolla Quest is reasonably satisfying to drive with adequate oomph thanks to the more powerful engine, plus the introduction of the CVT is certainly an upgrade from the previous 4-speed auto. The range's asking prices are still competitive and while many buyers with families are making a beeline for compact family cars, there’s still a lot of value to be found in a more spacious sedan such as this Corolla Quest, especially at a comparable price point.
Pricing and warranty
All Corolla Quests are sold with a 3-services/45 000 km service plan. A 3-year/100 000 km warranty is included.
1.8 Quest R249 900
1.8 Quest CVT R270 400
1.8 Quest Prestige R286 500
1.8 Quest Prestige CVT R296 800
1.8 Quest Exclusive R307 400
1.8 Quest Exclusive CVT R317 700