2013 TOYOTA COROLLA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $28,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy listed: 7.1 l/100km | tested: 8.3 l/100km
It might just be a hatchback, but with the Corolla badge on the back, it’s kind of a big deal.
People expect a lot from that badge. After all, it’s sitting on the best-selling car of all time. And its reputation for dependability, driveability, comfort and value for money has driven its success in every corner of the globe.
The car tested here, the top-spec Corolla Levin ZR, adds a dash of luxury to the Corolla range. There’s leather inside, plenty of mod-cons and the option of an absolutely massive glass roof.
So, what’s it like to live with the most lavishly-equipped Corolla?
Quality: The presentation is a lot more up-scale than the previous-gen Corolla.
Features like a soft-touch dash pad, leather seats, stitched faux-leather dash trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear-shifter add a touch of class to the Corolla Levin ZR’s cabin.
Some of the plastics on the lower dash and centre console are a bit drab however, and the green glow from the clock and climate control display looks distinctly vintage. Both are at odds with what is otherwise a very nicely-presented interior.
Comfort: The leather-upholstered front seats are comfortable and give great lateral and lower back support, and on the Levin ZR are also heated.
The steering column adjusts for reach and rake to improve ergonomics, as does the nearly vertical centre stack (which, some commented, looks a tad imposing).
The back seats have a much higher hip point than the front seats, and due to intrusion from the panoramic glass roof there are some compromises in rear headroom for taller passengers.
The rear seat squab is also a bit flat and lacking under-thigh support, but knee and foot room are good.
There are no face-level rear air outlets though, which may be an issue in summer considering the Levin ZR’s expansive glass roof.
Equipment: The Levin ZR sits at the top of the range, and as such comes standard with a number of luxury features.
These features include keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, headlamps that point into corners, heated front seats, a reversing camera, satellite navigation, Bluetooth and a USB audio input.
Available as an option on the ZR is a panoramic glass roof, which stretches nearly all the way from the sunvisors to the tailgate hinges.
It’s an enormous piece of glass, but thankfully Toyota equips it with a power retractable blind to keep the summer sun off your noggin.
Storage: With 280 litres with the rear seats in place, the Corolla’s boot space is smaller than average.
The 60/40 split rear seatbacks can drop down to expand luggage capacity to 1120 litres, but the resultant load area isn’t flat, nor especially capacious compared to some of the Corolla’s competitors.
In-cabin storage is good, though, with a lidded centre console box, glovebox, door bins with bottle holders and seatback map pockets.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Corolla’s naturally-aspirated 1.8 litre petrol inline four is a fairly simple powerplant by modern standards, and produces 103kW and a modest 173Nm of torque.
It’s broadly similar to the last Corolla hatch’s engine, however Toyota claims to have extracted more fuel efficiency from it. The official claim is 7.1 l/100km, although our average figure of 8.3 l/100km was a little far from this.
Truth be told though, our tester spent the majority of its time puttering about the inner suburbs at indecently inefficient speeds. With that in mind, the Corolla delivered reasonable fuel economy.
It's quick enough on road, but hardly sporting - you'll need to use the gears if looking for a rapid burst of speed.
The standard six-speed manual is, on the whole, a good gearbox. The shift action is a tad rubbery and somewhat slow, but the clutch is light and the ratios match the engine’s power characteristics quite well.
Refinement: Wind noise is nicely suppressed, but there’s some tyre roar at highway speeds - although certainly better than most in its segment. The engine note is buzzy and harsh at high RPM, although this isn’t a concern when driven normally.
Suspension: The ride on the ZR’s 17-inch alloys can be a bit choppy over small imperfections, and it’s especially noticeable at high speed.
Handling though is otherwise good with ample grip from the Michelin Primacy HP tyres.
The electric power steering also deserves mention for its good feedback and smooth feel around dead-centre. A lot of other electric power steering systems have a notchy feel at light turning loads (such as on a highway), but not this one.
Braking: With discs at all four corners (ventilated front, solid rear), the Corolla’s stopping performance is acceptable - even with a few passengers aboard.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: Standard safety kit includes ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control.
Anti-whiplash front headrests are standard, and the front seats also get pretensioning seatbelts.
A total of seven airbags (front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain) protect occupants in a crash.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: Under Toyota’s Service Advantage fixed-price servicing scheme, scheduled services cost just $130 for the first three years of 60,000km of ownership.
Service intervals are set for every 12 months/60,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai i30 Premium ($29,990) - More expensive, but comes with an automatic as standard. Its spec-sheet mostly mirrors the Corolla, however there’s slightly more power and torque on offer from the Hyundai’s 1.8 litre four.
The i30 also has one of the most well-integrated infotainment systems in the small car class. (see i30 reviews)
Honda Civic VTi-LN hatch ($29,590) - Honda’s finely-finished Civic offers good all-round refinement and solid build quality.
The new VTi-LN variant also closely matches the Corolla Levin ZR for standard equipment, and justifies its $1.1k premium by including an automatic transmission as standard. (see Civic reviews)
Mazda3 SP20 hatch ($27,990) - Despite its age, the Mazda3 remains the most popular choice among private buyers in the small car segment.
The SP20 is a fine car and has the most power and torque here, but its spec sheet isn’t as fat as others in this list.
You have to pay an extra two grand extra to get it up to the same level of standard equipment and the interior is now dated and cramped. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Toyota Corolla has always been a safe choice. Dependable, comfortable, and easy to drive and own, it’s been a consistent best-seller in this country because it’s a known quantity.
This, the eleventh generation of the Corolla, continues that successful formula. It’s not the world’s most exciting hatchback, but it doesn’t put a foot wrong.
With handsome new lines externally and a premium-look to the interior, the new model puts the blandness of previous generations behind it.
The ZR is at the pricier end of the Corolla range but has no trouble matching its logical competitors for value. If you’re looking for a new hatchback for your daily drive, you can’t go wrong with a Corolla.
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.