The Toyota Corolla started out as fairly humble transportation through the 1960s, becoming a freedom machine during the 1970s and showed promising signs of sporting flair in the 1980s. Needless to say, the Corolla has endured quite a journey over the decades.
Somehow, along the way this cheery little hatchback lost its way and slumped into anonymity, becoming just another small car in a sea of sameness. With its latest-generation, first introduced in 2015, Toyota aimed to address that with sharper looks and an almost sporty style.
The 2017 Corolla picks up extra safety equipment (standard on ZR and optional on other models), including features like forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning, keeping it as up to date as many of its competitors.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $30,020 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 103kW/173Nm 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.7 l/100km | Tested: 8.6 l/100km
The Corolla hatch range offers four variants - topped by the Corolla ZR tested here - all of which are powered by the same modest 103kW 1.8-litre petrol engine, and in the case of all but the base model, paired with a CVT automatic.
Priced from $30,020 plus on road costs, the Corolla ZR just surpasses the magical $30k mark but still packs in a decent haul of standard equipment including leather appointed seats, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, and LED headlights.
The ZR, and slightly cheaper SX model, also offer slightly different styling when compared with the cheaper Ascent and Ascent Sport models, comprising unique front and rear bumpers, larger 17-inch alloy wheels and the availability (across the range) of some outrageously bright exterior colours.
That doesn’t seem very Toyota-like at all.
- Standard Equipment: Leather/imitation leather seat trim, sports front seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, colour instrument cluster display, dusk-sensing LED headlights, power-folding mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen display six-speaker audio
- Options Fitted: Panoramic fixed-glass roof with blind $1530
- Cargo Volume: 360 litres, expandable via 60:40 split-fold rear seats
Owners of previous model Corolla’s shouldn’t feel too alienated inside the latest generation. The dash is quite tall and upright, the layout is easy to understand, and the large 7.0-inch touchscreen offers easy access to navigation, entertainment, or can be paired via a smartphone app for extended functions.
The black-on-black colour scheme can seem a little drab, but with the optional panoramic fixed-glass roof of our test car there’s plenty of sunlight on tap, with the tinted glass offering impressive protection from the sun’s rays, while the opaque powered blind can cut out the sun completely (how I wish more manufacturers would use a real blind instead of mesh).
The front seats are just a little on the narrow side, and despite Toyota’s description as “sports seats” there’s nothing too sporty about them, as they’re not too deeply bolstered or grippy and go without features like moveable lumbar support or power adjustment of any kind.
In the rear, the large door apertures lead to a rear seat that provides a decent amount of leg and headroom, though three across the back will feel the squeeze two-up travel is fairly pleasant and the rear door cards are trimmed as nicely as the fronts (not something you’ll find in every small car) meaning no downgrade for back seat passengers.
The boot, though hardly gargantuan can easily cope with a weekly grocery shop, or a week’s worth of luggage for two adults but can prove tight for larger prams or a family-sized haul of luggage. There’s good cabin storage with bottle holders in each door, but the incredibly narrow centre console isn’t over-supplied with receptacles for odds and ends.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol, 103kw @6400rpm, 173Nm @4000rpm
- Transmission: Continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 275mm ventilated front rotors, 259mm solid rear rotors
- Steering: electric power steering
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 450kg unbraked
Just one engine powers the Corolla range, a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder that deals-out a maximum 103kW of power at 6400rpm and 173Nm of torque at 4000 rpm.
As some competitors make the move to small turbo engines the Corolla’s pedestrian performance stands out as uninspiring, and even just a handful more kilowatts and Newton metres would be enough to address the situation.
But on the road the engine and its CVT automatic are good enough to get the job done. In city driving scenarios the Corolla, whilst not a front-runner, has enough urge to scoot along with traffic, but if you really push for performance the wailing engine and CVT-related drone aren’t as enjoyable.
Toyota also made some small revisions to the Corolla’s chassis and suspension tuning as of the 2015 update, aimed at increased comfort, lowering noise, and improved handling, but the efforts are minimal at best. This is a conservative car at heart and still dives like one.
That conservatism is no bad thing though. Not every owner is searching for a car with punishing ride and knife-edge handling, so even though enthusiastic driver’s may not sing the Corolla’s praises, commuters will be happier with the compromise.
Noise levels on some sealed roads are a little higher than would otherwise be considered pleasant, and while the Corolla makes a fine effort as an urban runabout, over long miles on open roads the tyre noise, flat seats, and sometimes floppy ride make it less suited as a rural cruiser.
ANCAP Rating: 5/5 Stars - the Toyota Corolla hatch scored 35.25 out of 37 possible points When tested in 2016 based on data obtained by ANCAP in 2012.
Safety Features: Seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain, driver’s knee), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners, reversing camera.
New for 2017 the Corolla ZR also includes standard automatic high beam, collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure warning. Corolla Ascent, Ascent Sport and SX offer the package as an option for $750.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: The Toyota Service Advantage program offers capped price servicing with intervals set at six months/10,000km up to 36 months or 60,000km (whichever comes first). Each service is set at $140 for eligible customers with some terms, conditions, and exclusions applied.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
If the current Hyundai i30 tickles your fancy now is the time to strike as its replacement is just around the corner which means either a great deal on remaining runout stock, or a short wait for the all-new model, which from our first drive overseas is shaping up as a strong competitor.
Threats don’t come much bigger than the Mazda3. Both it and the Corolla tussle for the number one sales spot in Australia regularly, and with perky dynamics, not to mention some premium touched higher up in the range it’s not hard to see why.
Perhaps often overlooked due to its ‘Frenchness’ the Peugeot 308 offers a high-quality but minimalist interior, impressive refinement, and a sophisticated exterior that moves away from some of the more outlandish vehicles of Peugeot’s past.
Holden has revived the much loved Astra nameplate to much fanfare, including a European Car Of The Year award. Away from the brand’s tacky marketing message the car at the centre of the attention drives beautifully, and comes quite well featured in its upper models.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Corolla isn’t the newest car in the small hatch market - in fact there’s a very strong possibility that Toyota will show its replacement at the Tokyo Motor Show towards the end of this year - but it has weathered the years respectably although newer competitors are beginning to dull its shine.
While it may not be a dynamic drive, nor the most feature laden of its peers, the Corolla feels solid, safe, stable, and capable of acting as a perfectly acceptable commuter. Inoffensive, unobtrusive, and a fine accessory to the daily grind.
With newly added safety equipment the Corolla now provides a reassuring safety blanket for concerned customers, and in top-spec ZR trim adds a few of life’s little luxuries to ease the burden of the daily grind.
MORE: Toyota News and Reviews
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