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2014 Toyota Corolla Sedan Review: Ascent Photo:
 
 
What's Hot
Comfy ride, long list of features.
What's Not
Rear headroom is a little tight, sensitive throttle.
X-Factor
Unexciting dynamics, but this Corolla is a nice drive with space for a small family.
Tony O'Kane | May, 11 2014 | 9 Comments

2014 TOYOTA COROLLA REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $22,990 (plus on-roads)

Engine/trans: 103kW/173Nm 1.8litre petrol four | 7-speed CVT
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 7.1 l/100km


 

OVERVIEW

The Toyota Corolla has long been the cornerstone of Toyota’s line-up, and the dominant player in the small car category.

The greater part of the sales volume however, has come from the more versatile hatch. So what of the new Corolla sedan?

The all-new generation (the eleventh) Corolla sedan launched in February this year. It made a good first impression then so we took the entry-level Ascent for a week-long spin to see if it still measures up.

 

THE INTERIOR

Quality: You wouldn't describe the Corolla’s interior as exciting. It's well-finished but we would prefer more soft-touch surfaces and a little more styling flair.

The hard urethane steering wheel and shift lever are unpleasant to hold, and there are the usual hard-plastics common to this end of the small car segment.

The armrests in each door are upholstered with soft fabric however, and build quality throughout is good. Aside from a slightly wobbly centre console, the Corolla’s interior seems pretty rugged.

Comfort: Front seats are supportive and comfortable enough for long drives, but rear seats lack under-thigh support and headroom is in surprisingly short supply.

There are no rear air-vents either, but backseaters do get a fold-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders (a pleasant surprise at the Ascent's sticker price).

Equipment: The standard equipment list includes power windows, power-folding wing mirrors, manual air-conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, fabric upholstery and 15-inch steel wheels.

Tunes are provided by a six-speaker single-CD stereo with AM/FM radio tuner, which also incorporates a USB audio input, iPod compatibility and Bluetooth phone/audio integration.

The Corolla sedan gains an advantage over most of its competitors by offering both reverse parking sensors AND a reversing camera as standard.

Storage: With the rear seats up, the Corolla sedan’s boot measures a generous 470 litres.

The 60/40 split rear seatbacks fold down to increase cargo capacity, but they don’t fold flush with the boot floor.

 

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: The Corolla sedan’s 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated four isn’t one of the most sparkling performers in the small car segment, with just 103kW at a very high 6100rpm and 173Nm at 4000rpm.

But when paired with the optional ($2250) CVT automatic, the Corolla’s power-pack has plenty of go for day-to-day driving.

The CVT quickly adjusts its ratios according to demand for power, and it is quick to kick-down when overtaking or accelerating for on-ramps.

There’s also a manu-matic mode should you need it - but odds are you never will.

The throttle can be a bit sensitive at times though, and you need to have a gentle right foot when moving in with slow-moving traffic.

Our average fuel consumption also came in at 7.1 l/100km, compared to Toyota’s claim of 6.6 l/100km. As most of our driving was steady-throttle highway driving, we think that figure we returned is a little high.

Refinement: Unlike some CVTs (we’re looking at you, Subaru Impreza), the Corolla’s transmission is free from chain-whine at high rpm.

The engine note does get a bit drony however when the CVT pegs it at a set rpm, but it’s not as bad as some.

Curiously, despite riding on taller-sidewalled tyres and 15-inch rolling stock, there’s noticeable road noise on coarse chip surfaces, though wind noise is nicely suppressed.

Ride and Handling: The electric power steering is a disappointment, especially when compared with the excellent EPS setup of the Toyota 86.

But, other than that, we have no real handling-related complaints. It lacks a little dynamism, but given the Corolla Ascent sees a lot of service in rental fleets as well as basic commuting duties, a lack of steering feel and feedback is not really a handicap.

Ride comfort on the Ascent’s 15-inch steel wheels is quite good, and the Bridgestone Turanza ER300 tyres provide reasonable grip in both wet and dry conditions.

Braking: The Corolla’s ventilated front and solid rear-discs perform as expected, with a progressive pedal and good stopping power.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 34.88 out of 37 possible points.

Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, reverse parking sensors, reversing camera.

Occupant protection is provided by three-point seatbelts (pre-tensioning and height adjustable at front) and seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain, driver’s knee).

 

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Service costs: Under Toyota’s Service Advantage scheme, the first six services are capped at $130. Service intervals for the Corolla are set for every 6 months or 10,000km.

 

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

Kia Cerato S sedan auto ($21,990) - The Kia Cerato performs well on the road and has a more spacious back seat than the Corolla, but misses out on a reversing camera.

However, the presence of frontal as well as rear parking-sensors on the standard equipment list could sway some buyers.(see Cerato reviews)

Mazda3 Neo sedan auto ($22,490) - The Mazda3’s 2.0 litre engine pumps out 114kW and a stout 200Nm, giving it substantially more pull than the Corolla.

It’s a more pleasurable car to drive, but a smallish rear seat and a slim spec sheet (no standard rear parking sensors or camera on the base Neo, pictured below) hurts its case. (see Mazda3 reviews)

Nissan Pulsar ST sedan CVT ($22,290) - One of the most affordable Japanese small sedans, and one with the most spacious back seat too.

However, an indecisive CVT doesn’t do much to enhance the weak 96kW/174Nm engine, and coupled with its inconsistent steering feel the Pulsar lags behind the competition when it comes to the drive. (see Pulsar reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Compared to its predecessor, the new Corolla is a big step up in refinement, equipment and handling.

Put it head-to-head with its key rivals (above), and it’s more than capable of holding its own.

Importantly, it does what it's supposed to do. It's priced well, has a good equipment list and is as easy on the highway as it is light and convenient around town.

Even in entry-level Ascent trim it’s not the cheapest option in the small sedan segment, but, in typical Toyota fashion it’s well-featured, well engineered, and delivers decent - if unexciting - performance on the road.

 

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

  • Ascent - $20,740 (auto adds $2250)
  • SX - $22,990 (auto adds $2250)
  • ZR - $30,990 (auto only)

 
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