2013 Toyota Corolla First Drive

Tony O'Kane | 30 Comments


Vehicle style: Small five-door hatch
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol inline four. | Power: 103kW/173Nm
Fuel use claimed: 7.1 l/00km man, 6.6 CVT | tested: 6.8l/100km CVT

The Toyota Corolla, the most popular car on the planet, has been renewed.

Now in its eleventh generation, the new Corolla hatch is a big improvement over its predecessor, with substantial gains in driveability and comfort.

Its edgy exterior styling commands attention - it looks sharp in the metal - but, under the skin, the new Corolla is more about steady evolution than boundary-pushing innovation.

And don't go looking for breakthrough technologies, a constantly-variable transmission (CVT) is the most apparent of the engineering uogrades.

The 1.8 litre engine is a mild development of the old 1.8, and although it’s got a few more kilowatts it produces slightly less torque. The platform is also the same, as is the general suspension layout.

But it’s more generously equipped than before, and the price has fallen: the entry-level Corolla Ascent now sneaks in under the $20,000 barrier.

The new model will do well; it is what it needed to be - an improved, better, classier Corolla.


There are big changes inside. Gone is the previous Corolla hatch’s flying buttress-style centre console, replaced by a more conventional centre console and an upright dashboard.

The soft-touch materials on the dash and door trims have a quality look and feel; there is a sense of durability and robustness to the cabin accommodation and - typically Toyota - fit and finish is of a high standard.

We do, however, miss the last generation Corolla’s double-decker glovebox. The way the gearshift was perched up high in the older model was also an endearing feature.

Toyota says the front seating position has been lowered by 40mm, but we still felt like we were perched a little too high. That might be because the roof height has also been lowered by some 55mm, leading to an overall reduction in headroom.

Otherwise, front seat comfort is good (even more so in the thickly-bolstered seats in the Levin models), and the layout of the primary controls is excellent.

There’s plenty of legroom in the back too (more than the last-gen Corolla, and plenty more than the Corolla’s chief rival, the Mazda3), but headroom can be tight for tall occupants and the rear bench could do with a little more under-thigh support.

We’ve got a couple of gripes about the interior though.

While the instrument cluster on the high-grade models gets a premium-looking dot-matrix trip computer screen and 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen display, the seven-segment LCD clock and climate control display jar a little.

Some consistency in the presentation of these parts would be appreciated.

Another thing we’d like to see is the dumping of the cruise control stalk. It looks cheap, and there’s plenty of room on the steering wheel for cruise control buttons.

Standard equipment is good though. All models get power windows, power mirrors, Bluetooth integration, cruise control, stability control and seven airbags.

Move up the range to the Levin SX ($23,990) and features like sat-nav, a reversing camera and 17-inch alloys are standard.

The range-topping Levin ZR goes even further, with leather trim, LED daytime running lamps, dual-zone climate control, a push-button starter and bi-xenon headlamps finding their way onto the spec sheet. Not bad for $28,490.

In-cabin storage is decent, with a fair-sized glovebox and a lidded centre console bin, plus storage pockets in each door and map pockets behind each front seat.

The rear seatbacks feature a 60/40 split, and luggage capacity ranges from 280 litres with the rear seats up to 1120 litres with them folded down.

That’s measurably smaller than many other small hatches, which typically have between 300-350 litres of seats-up storage.


With just 103kW and 173Nm, the Corolla’s 1.8 litre petrol inline four is no firecracker.

It’s at its best once the tachometer swings past 3500rpm and despite the torque band being wider than before, it doesn’t have as much low-down grunt as cars like the VW Golf 90TSI or Ford Focus Trend.

The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, which is largely a carry-over but now has an improved gearset with better shift feel.

It doesn’t like to be hurried through its gate though, and the gaps between ratios are quite wide for a six-speeder. Even when shifting at redline, the revs will fall well below the engine’s torque peak.

A much better option and a more suitable match for the 1.8 is the optional CVT automatic, which adds $2000 to the purchase price but delivers big gains in driveability.

By constantly adjusting its single ratio, the CVT always has the perfect gear for whichever situation, although the tradeoff is a monotonous engine note instead of a linear ascent through the rev range during acceleration.

It’s good as CVTs go, with little belt noise and good off-idle response (both of which are typical CVT issues).

Toyota has also provided the CVT with both a sport and manual shift mode, each of which introduce seven fixed-ratios for a sportier driving experience.

2013 toyota corolla australian launch 03

Suspension-wise, the 2013 Corolla rides better than its predecessor.

A lower centre-of-gravity plus a stiffer bodyshell allows the suspension to work better, and although it uses a relatively unsophisticated MacPherson Strut front and torsion beam rear layout, the Corolla handles itself well in a corner.

The faster steering-rack gives better turn-in response, although the wheel feels light and uncommunicative.

Grip is good on the standard Yokohama tyres; pushing the Corolla too hard results in predictable understeer.

It’s far from sporty though, and the sharp-handling Focus and very capable Golf won’t be challenged by the Corolla’s dynamics.


Okay, so Toyota hasn’t been quite as adventurous with the eleventh-gen Corolla as we’d hoped.

While its competitors have moved on to direct injection, start-stop, turbocharging and twin-clutch transmissions, the Corolla sticks to a proven path.

With good style, a long feature list and solid pricing, Toyota's new Corolla is a well-finished, competent and appealing small hatch with a lot to tempt younger buyers.

On value alone, the Corolla has a lot to recommend it. Things like Toyota’s promise of a $130 cap on scheduled servicing is another reason why it deserves a close look.

It’s not especially exciting, but it’s not meant to be.

The Corolla is meant to be dependable, easy to drive and good value. It’s a known quantity, and in that respect the 2013 Corolla hits the mark.

Stay tuned for full reviews of the 2013 Toyota Corolla range.

News and Reviews:


  • Toyota Corolla Ascent - $19,990
  • Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport - $20,990
  • Toyota Corolla Levin SX - $23,990
  • Toyota Corolla Levin ZR -28,490

Follow Tony O'Kane on Google+

Filed under: Featured, review, Toyota, petrol, corolla, Toyota Corolla, hatch, automatic, Manual, fwd, CVT, small, family, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 6m, 5seat, 25-30k, 15-20k, 20-25k, 2013my, top news october 2012

Leave a comment:
Enter comment here.
  • Chest Rockjaw says,
    3 years ago
    Why is the boot only 280 litres? This is a major mistake Toyota! The dash looks ugly, slab like and the el-cheapo clock and MFD are a joke. The other worry is how reliable will the CVT be? All up great value but under whelming in typical Toyota fashion. I just hope it make other manufacturers sharpen thier pencil on pricing.
    • FrugalOne says,
      3 years ago
      So every time you go shopping you fill it to the brim?

      It gauls me that peple go on and on about "the boot is to small" yet they never fill it right up, NOT NEVER

      Anyway, fold the back seat, do 2x trips etc

    • FrugalOne says,
      3 years ago
      This is simply THE BEST BUY in its group


      I said best buy, NOT best vehicle

      Resale, value, reliable, cheap to own, bulletproof etc

      Its the benchmark
      • Dave says,
        1 year ago
        Bulletproof? You need to get out more, seriously. This Toyota reputation built on old model Hilux and Landcruisers is nonsense and has long passed.
        I comanage a fleet of 3000+ vehicles and a big portion are Corollas/i30/Cerato etc, we had some instances in the previous models with pistons flying through the sidewall of th block....no Hyundai or Kia has failed that badly, hopefully our new fleet wont have these failings. It wasnt a huge number, but a serious issue none the less.
        • jack says,
          1 year ago
          what aload of crap,pistons flying through the block.ive been a motor mechanic for 40 years and the the most reliable vehicles are definitely Toyota.they are well engineered compared to Holden ,Ford, ect which all have around 5 different things allways going wrong.We have a runabout 1999 Toyota camry in the garage that has 357000 kms and still going strong.BULLITPROOF TOYOTA,S
      • Dave says,
        1 year ago
        Bulletproof? You need to get out more, seriously. This Toyota reputation built on old model Hilux and Landcruisers is nonsense and has long passed.
        I comanage a fleet of 3000+ vehicles and a big portion are Corollas/i30/Cerato etc, we had some instances in the previous models with pistons flying through the sidewall of th block....no Hyundai or Kia has failed that badly, hopefully our new fleet wont have these failings. It wasnt a huge number, but a serious issue none the less.
  • Martin says,
    3 years ago
    I don't even think it's styled that well. There's too many different elements going on like too many people added their little touch instead of working together toward a single image. Overall it looks very unrefined, not very cohesive and kind of rushed. For instance, the front looks alright and sporty (bit of a Koup knock off) but the sides are flat, boring and very generic. Then the rear is different again a bit over styled, the lights look dated with orange indicator lenses too. The badge looks like they forgot it and just stuck it where they could. Also note how the bumper sitcks out so far in relation to the actual body of the car. It's like they do that so the car looks as long as it's competitors on paper, when in reality, they save money in materials by making the body that little bit shorter.

    Not necessarily a bad looking car, but very confused and doesn't flow very well in my opinion.
    • Chest Rockjaw says,
      3 years ago
      No argument from me... Looks like a committee designed it
  • Westie says,
    3 years ago
    What are Toyota going to do when their customers are all too old to drive? It can't be long now.
    Dull, unimaginative and outdated.
  • cyclone says,
    3 years ago
    I saw this today at the motor. And I liked it. From the front. Then hopped inside. Jesus Christ. I have never seen something so bad in my life. The dash is almost vertical, nothing facing the driver whatsoever. And the clock!!! It looked as though they sourced it from the parts bin of the 1983 model. The radio has just been thrown in. No design, or integration with anything else. Toyota really to go to Korea for some lessons. Sad but true
  • Rich says,
    3 years ago
    I had to eat my words when I saw this car in the flesh at the motor show ! When I first saw pictures of it on line I slated it as being the most boring car I'd ever seen ! However - it was THE surprise of the motor show for me - I felt it had real character - unusual in this day and age - it has a real retro feel inside (yes particularly with the green LED displays) like an old Golf GTi - and I think that's what Toyota are going for - and after having sat in everything from a Holden Cruze to a Landrover Freelander this little Toyota also oozed quality - and on that note it certainly didn't feel small - another surprise - it felt very "clasically sporty" at least the Levin that I was in - I wouldn't hesitate in buying one - can't wait for a test drive which in all reports are very positive. I have never even considered buying a Toyota up until now ;0)
  • BH says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    Caught a good look at one today in the red. Impressive. Very sharp looking vehicle. Is TRD around any more???
    • Balthazaaaaargh says,
      3 years ago
      Not in Australia.
  • gary says,
    3 years ago
    well i went for a test drive in this car today [the base model] and throught what an awesome driving experience it was. i mostly do urban and city driving and this car was excellent in this. managed to average 7.9 km/l while driving 50ks around town, but the interior seats cloth was bad, would upgrade to leather ... as for looks wow, looks better the the ford fiesta this might be my next car.
  • Ricky Ricardo says,
    3 years ago
    Two comments on this car. Toyota are following the trend of making there cars sit closer to the ground meaning that they become useless for rural roads.Second, the CVT transmission is a known accident waiting to happen and VERY expensive to repair. I keep my cars for 300,000 to 400,000 km and a good auto trannie serviced every 30,000 will last the distance.
    • FrugalOne says,
      2 years ago
      Two comments on this car. Toyota are following the trend of making there cars sit closer to the ground meaning that they become useless for rural roads.Second, the CVT transmission is a known accident waiting to happen and VERY expensive to repair. I keep my cars for 300,000 to 400,000 km and a good auto trannie serviced every 30,000 will last the distance.

      Simply NOT true [rumor spread by non CVT fitted brands]

      Mitsubishi warrant its CVT for 10 years/160,000km word around the traps they are bulletproof

  • gav says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    i just bought ascent sport 6 speed manual. the only thing i dont like about the car is electronic throttle body when shifting. 80% of time youll get an over rev. otherwise i love this car value for money is smack bang on the money.
    • BH says,
      3 years ago
      Gav.. what do you mean here?? Is there an auto blip of the throttle in-between shifts??
      • Cam says,
        3 years ago
        1 like
        Most new cars will do it under the right conditions! It's supposed to happen... read on smile

        I believe what he is referring to is the engines tendency to drop power slowly after lifting the accelerator pedal. If depressing the clutch at the exact moment of lifting the accelerator you can get a little spike in the revs as the load comes off the engine.
        Usually when revs fall off slowly, its the emissions system trying to lean out the mixture. If the throttle plate is closed, injections go back to idle settings, but there is not enough air in the plenum to get to the 14.7:1 desired for complete combustion at revs. Therefore hydrocarbons spike, and HC's are a no no to the EPA. So, they keep it cracked a little to let air in, but the side effect is slower falling revs.
        BTW, bought the ascent sport in crystal white today, loving it!
        • Sam says,
          3 years ago
          Hi Cam, Why did you choose corolla over Mazda 3 or Hyundai-i30. Reason for asking is that I am in the market for a new hatch. I have read a lot of mixed reviews about corolla. Your opinion would help me in making a decision. Thanks in Advance... smile
  • Mickster says,
    2 years ago
    We purchased a 2013 Corolla ascent sport 'auto' a few weeks ago.
    Originally was looking at the Mazda 3 wagon, but only wanted the SP25 model (the higher end model) but at around $34-36,000 we soon realized that for what you get, it was pretty over priced in my opinion, not to mention minimal leg room in the rear & awful squished dash design...+ the fact that next model is due for major redesign.
    Then out of curiosity we looked at the lower end of the Mazda 3 wagon range, and decided that when it comes to over all interior space (front & rear), fuel efficiency & features, it prob made more sense to venture towards the Toyota Corolla range. After weighing up the different Corolla Levin range, we settled for the Corolla ascent sport, dropped them down to around $23k ( remember auto is several $K more than the manual), after looking at the Levin range we realized the Levin's were starting to venture into that "not really worth what you pay " area, so for bang for your buck, we decided on the ascent sport and saved ourselves over $10,000 from our original plan over the SP25 Mazda Hatch or the viewed top Levin models
    (given the fact the Levin was sharing the very same engine as the ascent sport, minus a few extra features, the sport was the middle ground )and in my opinion was the best value of that whole Toyota range.
    Feels great to drive..precise steering, rigid handling, feels much bigger inside than what it looks from the outside.
    If there's any complaints about it's power on take off, well it's not to bad in this aspect it's the CVT that holds it back the the actual power of the engine. Many have expressed concerns about the CVT and indeed it was one of the biggest concernss to me as well, but then i thought, hey yeah it's newish experiment..but Toyota wouldn't just send them out willy nilly and risk all those warranties & reputation without major or long term testing..( there's my piece of mind ) lol , and surely if it last's good for first 3 solid years of driving then there's gonna be plenty of years ahead of it i'm thinking.
    Still don't know what the point of it is though, when taking off it's like revving the engine but the clutch slowly slipping out and engaging gradually... wouldn't that waste more fuel if it's doing that ??? - ok that's sounds pretty bad but it's not as bad as it prob comes across, but does aggravate me to a degree.
    Fuel consumption is currently at 8.2 ltr /100k using outer suburbs driving, i can get it lower easy enough, but 8.2 is what i would say is my usual habit of driving, light footed will certainly lower it in the 7 zone very easily.
    * We use auto all the time, never even bothered with that manual mode. Speaking of gears shift's.. that gear column is fairly awkward to play with i must say but you do get use to it.

    • Marcath says,
      2 years ago
      Hi Mickstar, thanks for your comment, I looked at this car today was originally wanting a mazda 3. Do you have any comment about the small rear window? probably my only concern.
  • John says,
    2 years ago
    Just bought a manual Corolla Ascent Sport. To our surprise there is no owner's manual. Apart from a complicated manual on the audio system there is nothing on the car. Can't even download one.
    • Don says,
      2 years ago
      how much did you pay for the corolla ascent sport manual? smile
  • Ellise Freeman says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    I just bought this car and I think it is awesome!!
    Great boot space, comfterble seats, decent power (for a small car), very fuel efficient and I think the interior looks very vintage/sleek.

    Couldn't find anything in or out of this car to pick on.

    I love my pearl white corolla. Best thing I have ever invested in!

    laugh laugh
  • Tina says,
    2 years ago
    Was a bit disappointed in the Toyota Corolla GX on getaway to join fast traffic from a side road. Reved up like mad and I did not know how to deal with that. First time automatic gearbox user and a bit hopelessdry
  • Gareth says,
    2 years ago
    A lot of criticism of the interior design, it was the one bug bear that kinda turned me off this car. It looked better in real life and now its one of the thiings i enjoy most about this car. it is jarring at first, then you just start to 'get' it. I will say i find the stereo a bit awkward, all the controls are on the left of the screen, which is a bit of a lean. ESPECIALLY the voice control function button. Seriously, it should have been on the steering wheel controls. I mean why reach for the button to do it by voice, when you can one-touch the screen for the same function, and it's closer to you lol. Overall I do love this car though, great handling etc.
  • Michelle says,
    1 year ago
    I just bought a corolla sport 2013 was wondering is there ant reversing sound I do have a camera but would like sound
  • Adam says,
    1 month ago
    How do you use voice command with mobile phone?? With the car stereo & bluetooth ?? Can you option the screen with satellite navigation?
Get the Latest

Get a deal on this car