The Corolla is a return to form for Toyota in the family car segment, holding up well against its nearest rivals in every area that’s important. The British-built hatch offers great refinement, a pliant ride, fantastic build quality and handling that’s precise and controlled if not the last word in entertainment.
There’s very little to dislike – its hybrid powertrains offer a good combination of performance and economy, even if its CVT gearbox can feel a little ponderous. The on-board entertainment system lags a little behind the best rivals, but Corolla buyers typically put greater store in more practical attributes like affordability and Toyota’s peerless reliability record.
About the Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla has been around in its various generations since 1966, and although it was more recently replaced by the Auris here in the UK, that unbroken production run has helped make it the world’s best-selling car.
But you don’t get a sales smash just by turning up, and the Corolla’s global success is a testament to Toyota’s ability to pinpoint the needs of generations of drivers and deliver the right product to meet them.
The Toyota Corolla that’s on sale here today is a case in point, having been designed primarily for the European market and built – like its predecessor the Auris hybrid – at Toyota’s UK plant near Derby.
The latest Corolla is a hybrid too, and shares much of its technology with Toyota’s larger Prius and the C-HR SUV. Indeed it’s built on the same platform as its stablemates, so you get the same 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre hybrid engine choices, and a standard CVT automatic gearbox. Unlike the Prius there’s no Corolla plug-in hybrid option, but the Corolla does benefit from the same light and rigid platform that contributes to the pleasing driving characteristics.
You can choose a Corolla in a trio of body styles, namely the five-door hatch, the four-door saloon or the Touring Sports estate model.
The hatch comes in one of five trim levels – Icon, Icon Tech, Design, the recently added GR Sport and Excel. The saloon is available with Icon, Icon Tech and Design trim, while the estate comes in Icon, Icon Tech, Design, Trek, GR Sport and Excel versions.
There’s no doubt the Corolla faces a tough battle in a very competitive market segment, but then again it always has – and arguably never before with such a well-rounded and desirable . Family-favourite hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia are tough acts to follow, while excellent hybrid offerings like the Kia Niro, Hyundai Ioniq and Toyota’s own Prius all offer a great blend of practicality, comfort and economy.
Engines, performance and drive
The Corolla is best enjoyed with either of its ‘self-charging’ conventional hybrid powertrains. At low speed, silent EV mode makes for relaxing progress – refinement is such that when the petrol engine does kick in, it’s fairly unobtrusive when trundling around town. If you spent the majority of your time on congested streets, any Corolla Hybrid will prove very easy to live with.
Out on faster A-roads and motorways, the relaxation theme continues; you remain insulated from the worst of the noise of either the 1.8 or 2.0-litre hybrid engines, provided you don’t mash the throttle. Due to the nature of the CVT gearbox, big throttle inputs cause a flare of revs that may come as a surprise if you’re used to conventional automatics. However, of all the CVT gearboxes we’ve sampled, the Corolla’s is the best.
Both hybrid units are remarkably punchy despite their eco-friendly credentials. We tested the hatchback in 1.8 (120bhp) Hybrid guise and clocked its 0-60mph sprint at a decent 11.4 seconds, but this is still over two seconds slower than a non-hybrid Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI. We tested the Corolla Touring Sports separately, fitted with a 181bhp 2.0-litre Hybrid; performance is actually pretty impressive, with a claimed 8.1-second 0-62mph time.
The Corolla’s chassis is far more impressive than that of Toyota’s last family offering, the Auris. There’s a great balance between ride comfort and body control – it’s good enough to be considered alongside the class-leading Volkswagen Golf.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
There are two petrol-hybrid engines available for the Toyota Corolla: a 1.8-litre with 120bhp and a 2.0-litre unit delivering 181bhp. Both engines are available with all hatchback trim levels, while saloons are only offered with the 1.8-litre hybrid and a reduced trim line-up. The estate model comes with a choice of both power units across its trim range.
Most will be best served by the 120bhp 1.8-litre hybrid, however; 0-62mph takes 10.9, 11 and 11.1 seconds in the hatch, Saloon and Touring Sports respectively. The best performance is provided by the surprisingly punchy 2.0-litre hybrid, which boasts 181bhp. Choose this powertrain in the hatchback and you’ll manage 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, with the heavier Touring Sports a couple of tenths behind with a 8.1-second time.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Corolla sets itself apart from its conventionally powered competition with its hybrid powertrains, the main appeal of which is the promise of low running costs.
The 1.8-litre hybrid returns a claimed maximum of 62.7mpg in the hatchback and Saloon, with 57.6mpg claimed in the Touring Sports. All figures are measured using the latest WLTP regulations, so these figures should be pretty attainable in real-world driving.
With a larger petrol engine making up part of its powertrain, the 2.0-litre hybrid takes a slight dent in economy – but not by much. The hatch is the most efficient, returning 57.6mpg, while the Touring Sports manages 53.2mpg on average
Emissions – and therefore initial road tax and company car tax rates – are low. The 1.8-litre hybrid hatchback is the cleanest option with 101g/km of CO2. The Benefit in Kind rate for company car users comes in at 25%.
The 2.0-litre model also produces a respectable figure of 111g/km of CO2, and so falls into the 27% tax band.
The Toyota Corolla should be relatively cheap to insure when compared to its family car rivals. All body styles sit in groups 15 to 21.
Our experts predict that the Toyota Corolla hatchback will retain around 47 to 51% of its value after 3 years and 36,000 miles come trade-in time. The saloon should hold onto around 49%, while the Touring Sports estate keeps about 51% of its original list price over the same period.
Interior, design and technology
Toyota has given the Corolla a distinctive, sharp look that takes cues from the larger Toyota Camry saloon and C-HR SUV. Like the latter, the Corolla is based on Toyota’s TNGA platform that is designed with electrification in mind, along with rigidity and lightness. MacPherson strut suspension at the front and a multi-link rear axle mean the Corolla keeps pace with the best-in-class in mechanical terms.
Inside, the Corolla boasts a similarly modern design that’s clearly laid out and generally very well made, although some materials used fall below the standards set by the Volkswagen Golf. The dashboard is dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen, while a second multi-information display sits in the instrument panel. Standard ambient lighting lends an upmarket feel, while fabric, part-leather and full quilted leather upholstery options are offered.
There are various alloy wheel designs across the range, from 16- to 18-inches. Other styling choices include black and chrome trim packs. Solid ‘Pure White’ is standard, while a range of metallic and pearlescent paints are available for around £600 to £900. Excel models get the option of a two-tone paint job for £1,120.
The GR Sport version has been added to the range to rival the Ford Focus ST-Line, along with the Ford Focus Active-rivaling Trek model being introduced to the Corolla Touring Sports estate line-up. The GR Sport includes a different front bumper, a wide mesh patterned grille, black 18-inch alloy wheels with machined-edge tips to the spokes and red-edged centre caps and black surrounds for Toyota badges front and rear.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Corolla’s infotainment system is called Toyota Touch 2 with Go, and has an eight-inch screen that matches the VW Golf’s unit for size. It features sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth, voice activation, along with Android Auto and AppleCarPlay for all trim versions.
Sadly, it’s one of the weakest systems in the class. The graphics look old-fashioned and it misses out on functionality present in its rivals’ set-ups. Similarly, the digital dash is less configurable than you’ll find on a Volkswagen Golf’s optional Active Info Display, and doesn’t look as modern, either.
The screen and interface are as responsive to the touch as the set-up in a Peugeot 308, which is to say a little behind that in a Golf, while the Corolla’s menu layout could be more logical and intuitive to speed up what should be simple processes.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
There’s a Corolla model to suit just about every family car buyer. All have five-seats and varying levels of boot space, but the hatchback, saloon and estate models all remain practical cars. Boot space is average for the class, while the cabin boasts good-sized door bins and a large glovebox.
All round visibility in the hatchback and estate is good; with the large glasshouse and relatively high-set driver’s seat making for a good view out. The view out of the rear of the saloon isn’t quite as good, but still fine for a car of this type.
All Corolla models are the same height (1,435mm), with the saloon just 10mm narrower than the hatch and estate, at 1,780mm. There are obviously variances in length – the hatch is 4,370mm long, the saloon 4,630mm and the Sports Tourer estate is the longest at 4,653mm. Volkswagen Golf models are marginally wider by comparison at 1,799mm; the hatch is marginally shorter than its Corolla counterpart, as is the estate.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s generous head, leg and elbow room up front; the Corolla feels airier than some rivals inside and is a comfortable place to sit as a result. Rear seat space is good across the board too, but taller passengers may struggle slightly with headroom. Those looking for the last word in rear passenger space in this class will be better served by the Skoda Octavia, but the Corolla is more or less on par with the Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus in this area.
There are ISOFIX points on the outer rear seats and there’s decent access to the rear seats in all models.
The hatchback has a 361-litre boot in the 1.8-litre forms, but this shrinks to 313 litres in the 2.0-litre version thanks to a larger battery for its hybrid system encroaching on the boot floor. For comparison, the Volkswagen Golf hatch boasts a 380-litre boot (1,270 litres with the seats folded) and the Ford Focus gets 375 litres with a total of 1,354 seat-down litres. The Skoda Octavia hatch is still one of the best in class with its 590 litres, or 1,580 with the seats folded.
The Corolla saloon gets closer to the Octavia hatch in terms of space with 470 litres, but the rear seats don’t fold. By contrast, the Audi A3 Saloon has 425 litres, while the BMW 3 Series saloon has 380 litres.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those looking for the most space available in the Corolla range are best served by the estate: its 581 or 598 litres (depending on engine) come in just shy of the Ford Focus Estate’s 608 litres. The load area itself is nice and square and boasts a low load lip – a practical choice for heavy luggage or pets. The rear seats fold down via a pull-handles in the boot.
Both the 1.8- and 2.0-litre models manage 750kg of braked weight or 450kg unbraked. Towing packs cost from £550 to £650, but aren’t available on the hatchback.
Reliability and safety
Traditionally, one of the best reasons to buy a Toyota has been reliability – and customers who voted in our 2021 Driver Power satisfaction survey seemed to agree. The Japanese manufacturer finished in 5th place out of 29 car makers in the Best brands poll, while the Corolla placed 32nd out of 75 cars.
The Toyota Corolla received a five-star Euro NCAP rating in 2019, with strong scores for adult and child occupant safety (95 and 84%, respectively). Pedestrian safety also fared well with a mark of 86%. There’s an impressive list of on-board safety equipment as standard, including automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, lane departure warning and Toyota’s lane trace system, plus a driver attention alert system.
Toyota now offers its ‘Relax’ programme which means every new and used Toyota is able to be covered by up to 10 years’ manufacturer warranty. This is provided via a standard three-year manufacturer warranty (from the vehicle’s first registration date), which can then be extended every year following annual servicing at a Toyota dealer.
Hybrid models are subject to a five-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty that can be renewed to cover an extra year or 10,000 miles. This can be continuously renewed up to the 15th anniversary of the car’s registration provided a Hybrid Electric Service is carried out at a main dealer Toyota Hybrid Electric Specialist.
Toyota provides tailored servicing plans to help manage scheduled maintenance. You can buy an individual plan based on annual mileage and spread the cost over monthly payments.
- Comfortable ride
- Precise handling
- Solid build quality
- Bad infotainment
- Average boot space
- Hybrid won’t suit all
Source: ADI News
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