Toyota Corolla Review
The Toyota Corolla is the most popular and globally recognised car on the planet so when it was replaced by the Auris in Europe 12 years ago, it created quite a stir throughout the industry. But now it’s back and it’s better than ever.
- Available in three body styles – hatchback, saloon and estate
- Powered, in the main, by efficient hybrid engines
- Four well-equipped trim levels to choose from
- Quite pricey with the range-topper costing £30k-plus
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (although Toyota aims to introduce it later this year)
- CVT gearbox can be a little noisy under hard acceleration
It’s been 12 long years since the Toyota Corolla was sold here in the UK. While the name remained unchanged predominantly around the world, the European market received the Auris in its place. But now, Toyota has ditched the Auris name and launched the 12th generation Corolla, which is once again available in the UK.
There are three body styles to choose from and they each have their own individual appeal. For example, the Corolla Hatchback is the dynamically-styled version with athletic lines, a rising waistline, a contrast colour roof option and a rear spoiler.
The Sedan or saloon, which is only expected to account for five per cent of sales, is more elegantly crafted appealing to its own niche market with traditional four-door styling and a ‘proper’ boot.
Finally, the Touring Sports introduces all the practicality required from an estate car with a boot that can swallow 1,606 litres of kit. Toyota informs us that’s big enough to accommodate a 29-inch mountain bike without removing the saddle.
On the Road
Toyota is a company that has been developing hybrid technology for more than two decades now and is viewed as an expert in the field. With that in mind, the latest Corolla is available powered by two hybrid engines or one conventional petrol.
There is an upgraded version of the 1.8-litre self-charging hybrid system developing 120bhp, plus a new 178bhp 2.0-litre self-charging hybrid system. Customers can also opt for a 1.2-litre 114bhp petrol engine. The hybrids work in tandem with a CVT gearbox while the petrol engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
Toyota predicts the hatchback version will be most popular in the UK so we tested that model powered by the all-new 2.0-litre hybrid engine in the glorious sunshine and on the silky-smooth roads of Majorca. This is the fastest of the line-up and can sprint from 0-62mph in a very respectable 7.9 seconds, topping out at 112mph. According to more stringent WLTP figures, it can deliver up to 60mpg with CO2 of 106g/km.
The handling of this car perfectly matches its dynamic styling with sharp acceleration and plenty of power on tap at all times. Motorway driving was effortless and then out on the faster country lanes, the Corolla was agile and confident through tight bends. The steering is perfectly weighted with ample driver feedback and the driver can shift through driving modes called Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport with the latter setting proving the most fun. In addition, an EV drive cruising mode works up to speeds of about 70mph.
The 2019 Corolla is built on Toyota’s TNGA GA-C platform which is already being used for the latest C-HR and Prius models. It allows plenty of scope for fine-tuning and the car boasts a centre of gravity that’s been lowered by 10mm, a multi-link rear suspension set-up as standard and a 60 per cent more rigid body shell – all these factors result in better handling and stability without compromising the ride and comfort.
The Corolla is fitted with a CVT gearbox which can be a bit like marmite – you either love them or loathe them. I have to say the unit in the Corolla feels a lot more sophisticated than some rival versions and the acceleration is smooth without causing the system to screech in protest at being driven ‘enthusiastically’. The car feels nicely composed and relaxed on motorways where it effortlessly maintains maximum national speeds. It’s also worth pointing out that the new Corolla has shed some weight which is beneficial when it comes to performance and fuel efficiency.
Admittedly, if you are looking for a thrill-seeking experience out on the winding B roads then the Corolla may not be the car for you. But it’s a beautifully composed vehicle that goes about its business in a relaxed manner without any fuss and commotion.
The all-new Corolla is on sale in the UK in four well-equipped trim levels called Icon, Icon Tech, Design and Excel, and buyers can expect a high level of cabin quality and kit especially on the higher grades. The interior has certainly taken a step upmarket with lots of soft-touch and padded surfaces, neat contrast stitching, a tablet-style infotainment touchscreen and plenty of on-board technology to explore.
With an asking price of £21,300, the entry-level Icon is only expected to account for five per cent of sales and features Toyota Touch 2 with eight-inch multimedia touchscreen, heated front seats, automatic LED headlights, DAB radio, eCall system and a reversing camera.
Icon Tech, priced from £22,350, is expected to attract 45 per cent of sales and offers Toyota Touch 2 with Go navigation, a seven-inch TFT multi-information display and parking sensors with intelligent park assist.
Design models cost from £23,375 and will claim 20 per cent of sales. This grade adds rain sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, LED front fog lights and an optional panoramic sunroof.
Finally, Excel costing from £27,345 and likely to account for the remaining 30 per cent of sales, introduces part-leather upholstery, sports front seats, bi-tone paint (on the hatchback model that we drove), an optional eight-speaker JBL sound system and plenty more besides.
Out on the open road, the cabin within the hatchback is well insulated against any road surface or wind noise and the new suspension set-up does a very effective job of ironing out the uneven roads.
In the car
The overall length of the hatchback compared to the outgoing Auris model it replaces has been increased 40mm. The car also features a longer wheelbase and this in turn contributes to a better driving position. There is a slimmer dashboard design plus a wider and higher centre console. The touchscreen is angled slightly towards the driver and all controls, dials and readouts are well positioned for ease of use. We did notice a slight amount of glare on the touchscreen due to the bright Spanish sun, but it shouldn’t be too much of an issue over here.
The car has an upmarket feel to it with satin chrome plating and paint, piano black inserts and leather clad surfaces with neat stitching. In addition, the seats are both supportive and comfortable for lengthier trips. Getting an ideal driving position is a quick and simple process with ample seat and steering wheel adjustment and the all-round visibility is also good.
Our car was in range-topping Excel so included all the bells and whistles when it comes to technology, such as the Toyota Touch 2 Go system with eight-inch multimedia touchscreen, a seven-inch TFT multi-information display. There were steering wheel mounted controls for the music system, adaptive cruise control and Bluetooth set-up, plus the likes of automatic dual zone air conditioning, a DAB radio, simple intelligent park assist, a reversing camera and lots more.
Noticeable by its absence is the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although it is likely to be introduced to Corolla models later this year.
With three very different body styles, there will be a Corolla to suit all needs. Clearly, the saloon offers four-door styling with a standard boot that can swallow 471 litres of kit. The Corolla Hatchback is the most dynamically-styled model and offers the flexibility of a boot that ranges from 313 litres to 1,024 litres with the split-folding rear seats dropped flat. The capacity is lower on the 2.0-litre hybrid models because a 12v battery is positioned under the boot floor. (The standard capacity is 361 litres on the 1.8 hybrid and 1.2 petrol cars)
But for anyone looking for full estate-car practicality the Corolla Touring Sports is the body guise to check out. It has a boot that can accommodate 598 litres (581 on the 2.0 hybrid) and this capacity can be increased to a whopping 1,606 litres with the rear seats drooped flat.
There are plenty of convenient storage compartments scattered throughout the Corolla such as a glovebox, cup holders, central bin, door pockets and some handy trays.
The space within the cabin also depends on the model selected. For example, the Hatchback offers 1,795mm, the Saloon 1,890 mm and the Touring Sports 1,895mm. We had the opportunity to test drive all three variants and they all offered ample room in the rear seats for passengers to travel in comfort.
The entry level Corolla Icon is priced at £21,300 but for an additional £1,050 customers can opt for the Icon Tech which introduces a lot more equipment and creature comforts. It’s for this reason Toyota believes it will be the most popular. The company is also confident that hybrid technology will claim at least 90 per cent of UK sales and that the hatchback will be the most appealing design accounting for 60 per cent of purchases.
Toyota is launching the car with some attractive PCP offers with payments over 42 months. The Icon will cost £211 per month; the Icon Tech £219; the Design £229 and the Excel £244. It’s also worth noting that the Corolla has obtained very strong residual values of 49.5 per cent.
When it comes to running costs, the Corolla impresses thanks to its hybrid technology. Our Corolla Hatchback in range-topping Excel could deliver up to 60mpg with CO2 of 106g/km according to more stringent WLTP figures. That would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £135. This would increase to £140 the following year.
Insurance ratings for the new Corolla are yet to be announced but should be available shortly.
Toyota is a company that boasts an enviably reputation throughout the industry for developing reliable cars that enjoy a lengthy lifespan. It has been specialising in its hybrid technology for more than 20 years and is viewed by many as the expert in the field. In addition, the company frequently tops customer reliability surveys.
So, based on those facts, there is little reason to think the new Corolla would have any mechanical issues. In fact, since it began production back in 1966 more than 46 million Corolla cars have been sold globally which is testament to its popularity and success.
The interior of the Corolla is well designed and put together and all the switchgear feels sturdy enough. The seats are comfortable and have been created using durable materials. In addition, the soft-touch fabrics and neatly crafted trim inserts help give the car a sophisticated feel.
Toyota also offers one of the best warranty packages in the business of five years or 100,000-miles.
Both the Corolla Hatchback and Touring Sports models are built in the UK at TMUK in Derby. The 1.8 Hybrid engine is also UK built in Deeside.
With an aim to dramatically reduce the number of road accidents and make inroads towards the ultimate goal of zero road accident fatalities, Toyota introduced its Safety Sense system back in 2015 and, to date, more than 10 million new vehicles benefit from the technology.
All versions of the Corolla are equipped as standard with the latest Toyota Safety Sense system which has been improved by adopting a new, higher resolution single lens camera which works in tandem with a millimetre-wave radar to detect potential hazards. These upgraded systems now have a wider scope of detection.
Corolla has improved versions of the pre-collision system which now features pedestrian detection during the day and at night, plus cyclist detection during daylight hours. There are also improvements to the intelligent adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, road sign assist and automatic high beam. The Corolla also adopts a new lane trace assist function to help keep the vehicle positioned in the centre of its lane even when travelling through gentle bends.
Other safety features include brake assist, vehicle stability control and traction control, hill-start assist, ISOFIX child seat fixings on the outer rear seats and a full suite of airbags.