TOYOTA COROLLA LEVIN REVIEW
What’s hot: Beautifully weighted precise electric steering
What’s not: Somewhat limited rear vision; no diesel option
X Factor: Toyota reliability and comfort in a generous value-for-money package.
Vehicle style: Five-door hatch
Engine: 1.8 litre in-line four
Transmission: ‘Seven-speed’ continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Power/Torque: 103kW @ 6400rpm / 173Nm @ 4000rpm.
Fuel economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km (91RON unleaded) | tested: 7.6 l/100km.
When a new version of the biggest-selling car from the world’s biggest-selling car company is released, it’s big motoring news. Especially when it plays in a segment that is expected to see around 250,000 total sales in Australia this year.
Such is the case with the new 2013 Toyota Corolla. Four versions are on offer: the Ascent, Ascent Sport, Levin SX and Levin ZR.
For this test, the Levin SX was chosen. Because of its spec levels and an $1100 price cut, it is, on a prima facie judgment, the pick of the new Corolla pack for value.
Quality: The first thing you notice about the Levin SX is the heavily bolstered front sports seats. They’re great; lower the posterior into them and you immediately feel at one with the car.
You also sit a tad lower than in the previous Corolla and that adds to this perception.
There is nice soft plastic for the dash top and the top of the door trims and carbon-fibre-look dash trim adds a touch of class to interior.
While the Levin SX doesn’t get the leather trim of the top-spec ZR, its contrasting fabric trim with contrasting stitching is fine and perfectly comfortable.
The big round chrome-ringed speedo and tacho look glassy with their clear white numbers on a black background.
While not as bad as on the Ascent versions, the bottom section of the SX’s LED information read-out that sits between the two round dials can be obscured by horn section of the steering wheel.
Comfort: No problems here: the front seats are great and the rear ones aren’t bad either. There’s also more rear-seat room, plenty of headroom (even for a 185cm sod of my acquaintance) and the drop-down centre arm rest (with two cupholders) adds to the comfort.
If anything, the new Levin SX’s suspension settings are – on some road surfaces – a tad firm and this detracts from the rear-seat comfort levels.
Equipment: The well-equipped Levin SX comes with the whole bowl of fruit as standard.
Buyers can look forward to fabric-trimmed sports seats, 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 215/45R17 rubber, sat-nav, front fog lights, sports instruments, air conditioning, a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel.
Also standard is carbon-fibre-look dash trim, paddle shifters, front-and-rear power windows, power exterior mirrors with turn indicators, and reversing camera.
Storage: With the rear seats occupied there is 280 litres of luggage space behind the fifth door. Drop the rear-seat backs and this rises to 1120 litres. A 60:40 split for the rear-seat backs adds to the cargo space and flexibility.
There is also a deep glove box, sunglasses holder, bottle-friendly front-door pockets, map pockets behind the front-seat backs, deep console bin, small tray beneath the centre stack, rear door-pockets, front-and-rear cup holders.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Because the leather-clad steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach, dialling-up the perfect driving position is a breeze.
While not one of the world’s finest, the Levin’s 103kW 1.8 litre engine will satisfy most.
Toyota engineers have tweaked it so there is slightly more power than the outgoing model, and maximum torque (a reasonable 173Nm) arrives lower down in the rev range.
On the road, it’s quite quick enough: zippy around town and with enough in reserve for overtaking or slotting into a hole in the traffic.
Helping things along is the ‘seven-speed’ CVT.
While we’re not the world’s greatest CVT fans, the new unit is one of the better choices, with seven pre-set ratios and paddle shifters (for a nice sporty feel when accelerating or changing down).
That said, it still has a hint of ‘flaring’ and that annoying noise that sounds like a slipping clutch.
The electric power steering on the other hand is one of the new Corolla’s strong points.
It has just the right weighting, makes parking nice and easy and delivers precise and predictable turn-in when you push things along through the corners.
Refinement: Out on the road, the Levin SX – and, for that matter, the other new Corollas – are markedly quieter than their predecessors.
This is the result of a great deal of work by Toyota engineers on minimising cabin noise.
Suspension: At the front is a MacPherson-strut/coil-spring arrangement with gas-filled dampers and stabiliser bar. The rear uses a torsion-beam set-up with toe-correcting bushes, coil springs and gas-filled dampers.
Braking: Braking performance is good: up front 275mm ventilated discs do the work, with 259mm solids at the rear.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: The new Corolla employs plenty of ultra-high-strength steel to maximise impact protection.
There are seven airbags, including driver’s knee airbag, whiplash-lessening front seats, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control and vehicle stability control. The new CVT transmission also has a hill-start-assist system.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year/100,000km vehicle warranty (whichever occurs first)
Servicing: A big win for the new Corolla range is Toyota’s $130 capped-price servicing, available for three years or 60,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
Mazda3 Maxx Sport - $26,490 (auto): Australia’s best-selling car; how can you go wrong? It’s not the standout it was, because everyone else has improved their game.
It’s a tight call between the stolid Corolla and the youthful Mazda. You’ll need to look at both. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Ford Focus Sport - $25,890 (manual): The new Focus is a very good car – nicely styled, well-built, and a very enjoyable steer. Quite possibly the best in the segment in a nose-to-nose shootout. (see Focus reviews)
Holden Cruze SRi - $27,290 (auto): It’s a better car than many realise. The interior is not as crisp or modern as the new Corolla, but the 1.4 litre engine is a beauty.
Corolla has a price advantage, but there’s otherwise little to split them – your choice may come down to secondary issues like cost of ownership and trade-in values. (see Cruze reviews)
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With its sharp European-look styling, the new Corolla shrugs off the blandness that has typified Toyota’s products over the past few years.
Overall, the Levin SX is a fun-to-drive economical hatch with good comfort, lots of standard features and strong value-for-money credentials.
While all the steering and chassis tuning for the car was done in Europe, Toyota Australia engineers were involved in signing off on the program, and they should be well-satisfied with the outcome.
Toyota understands better than most what its customers value. We have no doubt that the new Corolla range will resume its Toyota tradition of being a sales tour-de-force here and around the world.
News and Reviews:
The 2013 Toyota Corolla range is on sale now, with pricing as follows:
- Toyota Corolla Ascent - $19,990
- Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport - $20,990
- Toyota Corolla Levin SX - $23,990
- Toyota Corolla Levin ZR -28,490
Note: Prices shown are Manufacturer’s List Price, and do not include on-road costs and charges.