TOYOTA COROLLA SEDAN REVIEW
What’s Hot: Refined and with surprising roominess for passengers and luggage.
What’s Not: Over-enthusiastic stability control; no digital speedo.
X-FACTOR: A small sedan that just keeps getting better, and, despite around $2000 of extra features, it’s $250 cheaper.
Vehicle style: Small sedan
Price: $22,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 103kW/173Nm 1.8litre petrol four | 7-speed CVT
Fuel consumption claimed: 6.6 l/100km (91RON) | tested: 7.5 l/100km.
In the 48 years since the first-generation Toyota Corolla, a remarkable 40 million Corollas have been sold in 150 countries.
A global success? That’s an understatement.
We Australians have put 1.25 million sedans and hatches in our garages. In fact, one-in-five of Toyota vehicles sold in this market has been a Corolla.
And, in 2013, Corolla was Australia’s biggest-selling car.
At 4620mm in overall length, the new sedan is 75mm longer than its predecessor and 365mm longer than the hatch. The wheelbase is also stretched, up by 100mm, and the wheels pushed further into the corners of the car.
Importantly for Australian buyers, the new Corolla’s chassis and electric power steering were tuned for local conditions.
The new sedan is not simply a Corolla hatch with a boot.
It’s a separately engineered car that has been given a softer, more comfortable ride that is more in tune with the older, more conservative drivers who opt for sedans rather than hatches.
Quality: It’s hard to argue with the quality of the Corolla’s interior fit and finish. Certainly, in general terms, this entry-level model has its share of standard goodies.
While overall, the feeling isn’t quite as classy as say the new Mazda3 or Volkswagen Golf, the surfaces and blend of plastics works well and the charcoal fabric is fine.
The sweeping dashboard uses nice soft-touch plastic and the piano-black treatment of the centre console works well.
Blue illumination for the controls adds to the quality feel.
Comfort: The front seats are supportive and comfortable and there is more adjustment than in the previous model.
Because of the longer wheelbase and overall length, rear-seat passengers are blessed with a lot more legroom (helped by changing the design of the front-seat backs).
There is also a wider rear seat that can accommodate three adults, ample foot room under the front seats and an almost-flat rear floor.
While wider-opening doors make getting in and out of the car a tad easier, but taller rear-seat passengers need to watch their heads during the process.
Equipment | Standard features include:
- Cruise control and air-conditioning
- Height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel
- Reversing camera, reverse parking sensors
- 6.1-inch screen display, Bluetooth phone and media, USB/iPhone/aux-in
- Six-speaker AM/FM/single-CD audio system
- 60/40 split-folding rear seat
- Cloth trim
Storage: At 470litres with the rear seats occupied, the new Corolla sedan’s boot is 20 litres bigger that its predecessor’s.
The 60/40 split folding for the rear-seat backs add to the cargo flexibility.
There is also a roof-mounted sun-glasses holder, a good-sized glovebox, map holders behind the front-seat backs, four bottle-friendly door pockets, a cubby hole at the base of the centre stack and an under-armrest storage bin in the centre console.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The stand-out feature is the new Corolla’s excellent seven-ratio continuously variable transmission. It’s one of the best in motoring land.
Unlike most CVTs, it is mated with a torque converter and the result is a smooth, responsive drive without the annoying ‘hunting’ and slippage that plagues some systems.
Combined with peak torque that kicks in lower down in the rev range, the new car is much happier in traffic and certainly more responsive. On the highway, there is no sense you’ll be left high and dry when overtaking.
Unlike the previous automatic where peak torque arrived at 4400rpm, it is now on tap from 4000rpm.
Refinement: Small cars may not traditionally have been renowned for their refinement, but this has certainly changed in recent years.
Better suspension settings, slipperier aerodynamics and better cabin noise-suppression combine to make the best of today’s small cars remarkably refined.
Certainly the new Corolla falls into this category.
In the case of the entry-level Ascent tested here, the 15-inch wheels and 65 profile tyres help. The lack of wind and road noise transmitted into the cabin is a pleasant surprise.
Ride and handling: Despite being set up for a softer, less-sporty ride, the new sedan is an excellent road performer with precise handling and predictable steering feel.
The steering ratio is in fact down from 17.3 to 16.1, and, with just 3.17 turns lock-to-lock, it’s a significant improvement.
The car turns in predictably and the overall steering feel is nice and precise. The stability control intervenes a bit early however.
Braking: Stopping power in the new Corolla is excellent. The pedal feels just right and the job is managed by 275mm ventilated discs at the front and 259mm solid discs at the rear.
ANCAP: Not yet tested but the car has been designed to achieve 5-Stars.
Safety features: Seven airbags including full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbag, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, traction and stability control, high-tensile steel body structure and whiplash-mitigating front seats.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Service costs: Toyota’s capped-price servicing program, $130/every six months.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mazda3 Neo ($22,490) - The new Corolla’s fiercest rival and with its two-litre 114kW/200Nm engine, the entry-level Mazda3 Neo automatic has more power and torque than its Toyota rival.
Its 5.7 l/100km fuel figure is also better than the Corolla’s 6.6 l/100km. The Toyota’s 470 litres of boot space trumps the Mazda’s 408 litres however. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Hyundai Elantra Elite ($26,790) - The Hyundai’s 1.9 litre engine, with 110kW and 178Nm, also has a tad more grunt than the Toyota.
It lacks some of the Toyota’s refinement and, at 7.1 l/100km, the Hyundai is not as fuel efficient at the new Corolla. Its 420litres of luggage space is smaller. (see Elantra reviews)
Note all prices are Manufacturers’ List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Toyota designers and engineers have done a fine job with this Corolla Sedan.
It is surprisingly spaciousness and the sense of refinement, and chassis and steering tuning, is very good for a small and relatively inexpensive car.
While there are more frugal cars on the market in terms of their fuel consumption, a claimed 6.6 l/100km is impressive and will minimise visits to the fuel pump.
However, although Toyota vehicles are famous for their reliability - and the Corolla is no exception - a three-year warranty does not cut the mustard with the five years offered by the Korean cousins, Hyundai and Kia, or that offered by Mitsubishi.
That aside, the new Corolla Sedan is a highly capable car and very good buying.
It may lack the “wow” factor that comes with the new Mazda3, but we’ve got no doubt that the 2014 sales race will be as fierce as it will be fascinating.
Let the battle begin.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Ascent - $20,740 (auto adds $2250)
- SX - $22,990 (auto adds $2250)
- ZR - $30,990 (auto only)