Toyota recently introduced minor changes to the Corolla and we got behind the wheel to see what it’s like... Is the Corolla still an icon, or should you be shopping elsewhere?
The Toyota Corolla is a mainstay of the South African new vehicle market and the latest incarnation is another solid offering. We rather enjoyed the 1.4-litre turbodiesel version — the D-4D motor ably propelled the comfortable compact sedan while consuming relatively little fuel. Now factor in the Corolla's capacious boot, generous rear legroom and notable build quality, and its not difficult to understand why the sedan is perennially popular.
So, what’s new?
Bluetooth phone compatibility and daytime-running lights are standard across the entire Corolla range and the touchscreen infotainment system is now stock fitment in the Sprinter model, as tested here. The Sprinter nomenclature is associated with sportier addenda, but the test unit's exterior execution is relatively demure... The only way to distinguish the model from its brethren is by a tiny bootspoiler, handsome 16-inch alloy wheels and a Sprinter badge.
Engine and drive
Unfortunately, the engine is the weak link in this package. While the 1,6-litre engine performs willingly, it cannot match the poke and responsiveness of its newer, turbocharged rivals. You need to rev the motor hard to get the best out of it, which is, of course, detrimental to fuel economy. Power is rated at 90kW and maximum torque: 154Nm. While those numbers prove sufficient to help the Sprinter keep up with traffic, the torque peak is achieved only towards the top of the rev range. Unlike its turbocharged rivals, which offer plenty grunt from the get go, the Corolla Sprinter does need to be driven hard and you’re going to need to change gears often if you’re want to get anywhere in a hurry.
That said, the six-speed manual gearbox is pleasant to use and its action is light and precise. When you drive the Sprinter in a relaxed manner, it will return a quite reasonable fuel consumption figure. While Toyota claims 6.6L/100km is achievable on the combined fuel cycle, you’re more likely to see a return of 7.5L/100km, which is fair.
As far as the driving experience is concerned, we were impressed with the ride quality and handling abilities of the Sprinter. It’s a comfortable cruiser and clocks up the miles with ease when the terrain is flat. However when there are hills involved, you’ll find yourself working that transmission hard to maintain momentum. Lack of outright power aside, you’ll find the Corolla relaxing to drive — a trait that Toyota has mastered well through the years.
Features and comfort
Toyota has specified the Sprinter as well as can be expected on a mid-range offering. The touchscreen infotainment system (with reverse camera) and climate control are the highlights, but standard specification also includes electric windows, half-leather seats, front fog lights, daytime running lights. Over and above seven airbags, ABS, electronic stability control and for those with children, ISOFIX childseat mounts, complete the safety package.
The cabin feels like a pretty generic space, but while the facia, instruments and seats may not be the prettiest nor most cutting-edge in the class, the cabin exudes solidity and reliability. The interior simply feels well-built and built to last.
Furthermore, the boot is one of the most spacious that we’ve ever experienced during a test of a compact sedan. Rear legroom must be commended too: full-sized adults should be able to sit in the back quite comfortably.
Summary and conclusion
The Toyota Corolla is a well-proven product. Thanks to its excellent space utilisation, remarkable build quality and reputation for reliability, it should be high on your shortlist when considering a family sedan. The engine, however, is the chink in the armour. The 1.6-litre is adequate and nothing more. If you want the best performance, then opt for the 1.4-turbodiesel engine which is, not insignificantly, lighter on fuel than any other model in the Corolla range.
Toyota Corolla Sprinter price in South Africa
The Toyota Corolla Sprinter retails for a R268 800 and you get a three-year/100,000km warranty. It also comes with a standard five-year/90 000 km service plan with service intervals are set at 15 000 km.
We like: build quality, features, reliability, mammoth space, ride quality
We don’t like: underpowered engine
Also consider: Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Suzuki Ciaz