2014 TOYOTA COROLLA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $22.990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 103kW/173Nm 1.8litre petrol four | 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.0 l/100km | tested: 7.7 l/100km
As a general rule, new car buyers can expect successive models to be larger than the one before it: "size-creep" it's called.
Like the new Toyota Corolla sedan, introduced in February this year. Not only is it larger than the model it replaces, but in every key measure it has grown beyond the dimensions of the first Aussie-built Camry.
While that may be so, according to VFACTS it is still a small car. This is also despite being longer and wider than the ‘small’ Corolla hatch with which it shares its name.
So, bigger than small, this is one for small car buyers who value space. It also comes with a few extra luxuries in the mid-range SX model tested here.
- Leather trimmed gear-knob and steering wheel.
- Cruise control, reverse camera and rear park-sensors (standard on all Corolla sedans).
- Six-speaker audio with 6.1-inch touchscreen, single CD, AM, FM, MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, plus ToyotaLink app connectivity on selected smart phones.
- Proximity key with push-button start
- Boot capacity: 470 litres and 60:40 split fold rear seats for extra capacity.
There’s a pretty good chance that you won’t be knocked for six by the interior design. It is a Corolla after all, so, while that means things are staid and conservative, it also means obvious quality.
Volkswagen and Mazda still have the Toyota beaten for soft-surfaces and tactile interaction, but everything inside the Corolla sedan is well fitted and robust, and should provide years of rattle and squeak-free service.
Most obvious is the added size. Thanks to a wheelbase that extends 100mm further than the Corolla hatch, the sedan boasts impressive rear legroom. Rear headroom is still a little pinched for anyone over the 180cm mark though.
Up front the seats are broad and flat, with firm foam. That might not sound too luxurious, but they do allow hours of ache-free motoring.
The Optitron gauges are easy to read, but the lack of a digital speedo, or any interim markings on the speedo face, mean you can be left guessing for an accurate indication of speed between the 40, 60, 80 and 100km/h markers.
Head to the boot and there’s 470 litres of storage, meaning the Corolla outclasses the Mazda3, Elantra, Cruze and Civic sedans. The rear seats also have a 60:40 split fold function to accommodate long items.
There’s the expected bottle holder in each door, front door pockets, dual front and rear cupholders, a storage space below the USB input - perfect for an MP3 player - plus a roomy glovebox and centre console.
ON THE ROAD
- 103kW/173Nm naturally aspirated 1.8 litre petrol four cylinder.
- Six-speed manual (tested) or optional seven-speed ‘multi-drive’ CVT ($2250 extra).
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension.
- Four-wheel disc brakes, vented front rotors.
- 16-inch alloy wheels.
- 7.0 l/100km claimed consumption
The meagre outputs of Toyota’s 1.8 litre 2ZR engine (the same engine as in the previous Corolla) are fast getting left behind by more modern opposition. With 103kW at 6100rpm and 173Nm at 4000rpm, it's nothing to write home about.
Handily though, the standard six-speed manual is the best way of harnessing the available power. It’s a bit of a shame maybe that most buyers will opt for the CVT automatic instead.
The engine feels willing enough around town - it’s certainly no flier, but it can hold its own.
You will need to feed in plenty of revs to keep it on the boil, but it's happy at work and doesn’t sound too strained if you don’t stray too far beyond the top of its mid-range.
The gearshift is light and easy to flick between gears. There’s a bit of an odd notch between fourth and fifth though that makes that shift less fluid than it should be.
On the open road the Corolla sedan is calm and composed and holds enough power in reserve for safe overtaking.
Road noise is acceptably hushed and there’s very little wind noise, but the engine will become vocal if you prod it too eagerly.
Over bumps and ruts, the Corolla offers plenty of suspension travel and has little trouble dealing with poorly maintained Aussie back-roads. A local tuning program by Toyota Australia is evident here and ensures suitable sure-footedness.
Being set up more for comfort and composure, there’s no real point in pushing the limits on road.
In aggressive cornering, the traction control (ESP) intervenes early and very noticeably. But that is as you'd expect in a car of this type; it is not designed for sports driving.
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).
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
When it comes to small sedans, there’s no shortage of options. Some are fresh, like the Mazda3 while others are getting long in the tooth, and packing added equipment to compensate, like the Mitsubishi Lancer.
Squaring off against the the Corolla you’ll find the toughest fight comes from the following:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While the new Corolla sedan might not lead the pack, its quality-feel, on-road composure and proven durability takes the game up to its class rivals.
For those not swayed by chintzy styling or sporting pretensions, the solid Corolla offers a sensible alternative. As an all-rounder, this latest Corolla sedan balances the ledger neatly.
With the added features of the SX model, it doesn't have the 'fleet' feel of the plan-wrapped Ascent.
Solid, if not stellar, the Corolla SX sedan promises years of satisfaction and good value at 'mid-twenties' buying.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Ascent - $20,740 (auto adds $2250)
- SX - $22,990 (auto adds $2250)
- ZR - $30,990 (auto only)