TOYOTA’s VW Golf-sized family hatchback is one of the best-selling cars ever made. Since it first appeared back in 1966, a whopping 46m Toyota Corollas (and Auris models, as it has otherwise been known) have made their way onto the world’s roads.
Which means this all-new car had some pretty big boots to fill when it launched this year.
Thankfully, it makes a very good first impression. Despite overwhelming sales numbers, previous generation Corollas were a bit dull to look at – not so with this latest car. All its sharp angles, strong creases and air-sucking intakes mean it looks far more aggressive than the likes of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf.
This theme continues inside, where the Toyota Corolla’s sweeping dashboard and eye-catching contrast stitching is a refreshing departure from the hatchback norm. And, besides a few annoyingly placed hard plastics – such as on the centre armrest and up by the air vents – it all feels nice and posh and all the switches and buttons operate with a pleasing solidity.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. As is the case in most other Toyotas, the Corolla’s buttons feel somewhat haphazardly placed and the infotainment system isn’t a patch on the slick unit you can get in the latest Golf (or even the previous model).
Thankfully, the Corolla is one of the first Toyotas to come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can circumvent its slightly sluggish menus and load up your preferred navigation and music-streaming apps directly through the touchscreen instead. Phew.
There’s a decent number of handy storage bins dotted about the place, too, and the front seats have plenty of adjustment to help you find a comfortable driving position. But, climb into the back and you’ll find things get much cosier.
The doors don’t open particularly wide and there isn’t as much legroom or headroom as you get in a Golf. Anyone approaching six-foot tall will have a pretty poor view out thanks to the Corolla’s sloping roofline, too.
The Corolla can’t muster up quite as much boot space as a VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra or Honda Civic, either, and the large load lip and deep rear bumper make it tricky to lift in heavy luggage. There’s even less space if you go for the most powerful 2-litre hybrid model because these have their battery located beneath the boot floor rather than under the bonnet.
On the subject of engines, the pick of the Corolla range is the 1.8-litre hybrid. Sure, it isn’t as spritely as the 2-litre version, but it’s cheaper to buy and it’ll return close to 60mpg in normal driving conditions. It’s dead easy to drive in town because you can cruise around using just the power from its near-silent electric motor and, when the petrol engine chimes in to lend a hand, it has enough poke to overtake slow-moving traffic on country roads.
Anytime you give it the beans, however, the hybrid Corolla’s standard CVT automatic gearbox causes its petrol engine to rev loudly and hold these revs for long periods. This is a shame because the Corolla’s quiet cabin and supple suspension would otherwise make it a very relaxing car to travel in for long periods.
Most hybrids, while economical and easy to drive, aren’t designed to put a great big grin on your face when you find yourself on an empty country road. Not so the Toyota Corolla. You get a better sense of how much grip the tyres have through the steering wheel than in most economy-focussed hybrids and the Corolla doesn’t lean a great deal as you carve from one corner to another, which makes it feel surprisingly agile for a hybrid family hatchback.
Once you’ve finished having fun, you can rest easy knowing the Toyota Corolla comes with an impressive suite of safety systems designed to take the sting out of long stints behind the wheel and help prevent avoidable collisions.
Unfortunately, all this extra kit contributes to the Toyota Corolla being quite a bit more expensive than the likes of a Ford Focus, VW Golf or Vauxhall Astra. For this reason, it remains a bit of a left-field choice, but if you’re looking for a sharply styled family hatchback that’s very cheap to run, the Toyota Corolla is well worth a look.
Toyota Corolla rivals
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