Talk about a double-edged sword… The Toyota Corolla with its legendary image of quality and reliability has become as much a blessing as a curse. Sure… while there are still a big number of car buyers out there looking for its trademark attributes, it has also become clear that those shopping for a C-segment sedan want a more complete package – something also boasting a modicum of design appeal and driving pizzazz. Unfortunately for Toyota, its efforts to prove to consumers that quality and reliability need not equal boredom have thus far not been successful – the Toyota Corolla is still seen as a “safe” choice, rather than a desirable one. This all-new model is the Japanese company’s latest attempt to change this perception.
Smooth looks for Toyota CorollaIn terms of aesthetics, the new model is a significant departure from the past. The latest Toyota Corolla looks a lot bigger than the model it replaces, far sleeker and more upmarket. In fact, one senses that Toyota’s premium Lexus division had some input in the design phase. The neatly sculptured flanks and bulging tail lamps catch the eye while the subtly stylish 16-inch alloy wheels and full colour-coding of this Advanced model round off a surprisingly attractive package. Overall, it’s a design that is unlikely to date very fast.
The interior design benefits from a similar step up, boasting excellent fit and finish as well as a particularly neatly executed instrument panel – the latter features a sporty “double-bubble” cowl and a cleverly integrated trip computer. The centre part of the facia is finished in shiny silver, which helps lift the somewhat sombre ambience of the otherwise predominantly black and grey cabin. Compared with the solid, but (hard) plasticky cabin of the previous model, the tactile nature of most of the newcomer’s cabin surfaces elevates the Toyota Corolla out of the econo-box roots it had come from.
Although the Toyota Corolla is ultimately not the most spacious offering in its segment – the Jetta bests it in most dimensions – its designers have made good use of the space there is. There is a double glove compartment, for example, in addition to large door pockets, a handy lidded storage box between the seats and a boot that is claimed to accommodate a handy 450 litres of luggage while still featuring a full-size spare wheel under its floor. The rear seat is split 60:40 and can fold to accommodate bigger objects.
Comfort- and safety boosting featuresWith this new model Toyota has certainly thrown down the safety gauntlet to its rivals. Boasting no fewer than seven airbags (including a novel knee airbag), the Toyota Corolla sets a new class benchmark in C-segment standard safety features. Of course, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist also feature, as do Isofix child seat anchorages at the rear. Perhaps the only black mark against the Toyota Corolla – which has achieved a five-star EuroNCAP crash rating – is the lack of an electronic stability system or even traction control to round off its newfound high-tech status.
Advanced specification brings a solid number of comfort and entertainment features to the party – the steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach, the driver’s seat for height and the usual electric windows/mirrors, power steering, air-conditioning , remote audio controls, radio/CD system with MP3 playback are accounted for. There aren’t any surprise-and-delight items, for sure, but you’re unlikely to ever find yourself uncomfortable while driving this particular Toyota Corolla.
No fireworks under the bonnetUnder the bonnet of this substantially larger new-generation Corolla is Toyota’s 91 kW/157 Nm 1,6-litre petrol engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission that provides entirely uneventful, if slightly rubbery, gear-shifting. There is nothing much wrong with this engine’s power figures, and it certainly contributes to a car that can pick up its skirt and run quite fast (0-100 km/h in 10,4 seconds), but it needs revs. The maximum torque figure is only available at 5 200 rpm, contributing to the somewhat sluggish feel when pulling away, at least at altitude, in any event, and when compared with bigger-engined rivals from Honda and Hyundai. In the Toyota’s defence, however, it is economical, with Toyota claiming a consumption figure of 6,9 litres/100 km that is not very realistic – expect closer to 8 litres/100 km, which still beats most of the competition and means the Corolla’s performance/economy balance treads a careful middle ground.
It’s much the same story with its on-road behaviour – the Corolla’s suspension tuning has certainly been done with a strong comfort bias in mind, which is entirely expected and suited to the target market. Consequently, the car absorbs bumps very well, and is a comfortable cruiser. Some rivals – the Honda Civic in particular – is however superior in the dynamic balance they manage to find, offering both cosseting ride quality but without the Corolla’s pronounced roll in corners and overly light and vague steering.
Toyota Corolla - VerdictWhile those waiting for a Toyota Corolla that delivers fun, agile dynamics will be disappointed, this new model is both a significant step up from the previous iteration, and also a strong rival for current segment leaders. Toyota’s knows this market, and it understands that comfort and economy are far more important than sprint times and edgy handling. Its decision to rather concentrate on making the new model aesthetically more appealing and sophisticated inside and out, is therefore entirely understandable. It’s not a breakthrough model by any means, but it didn’t need to be. The new Toyota Corolla promises all the virtues of quality and reliability it has become revered for, but wrapped in a more attractive design. It can’t fail.
- Potential resale value
- Standard safety spec
- Dull dynamics
Engine: 1,6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 91 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 157 Nm @ 5 200 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
Top speed: 195 km/h
0-100 km/h: 10,4 seconds
Fuel economy: 6,9 litres/100 km
- Honda Civic 1,8 EXi: The Honda’s futuristic looks (outside and inside) are not universally appreciated, but they hide an excellent family sedan. With its bigger engine the Honda outperforms the Toyota Corolla by a significant margin, but at a slight fuel consumption cost. Also boasts an excellent ride/handling balance, but the boot is smaller than the Toyota’s.
- Volkswagen Jetta 1,6 Trendline: A typically stylish Volkswagen offering that boasts a degree of status appeal beyond the Toyota’s reach. That said, it is significantly less powerful and lacks the Toyota’s comprehensive standard specification, too. Massively spacious and superbly comfortable, though.
- Mazda3 1,6 Active: A sportier offering that puts the emphasis on agility and sharpness over comfort and refinement. It’s a well-specced offering, for sure, but lacks the Toyota’s power as well as safety features.