Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Toyota is continuing to break the styling mould as it reinvents its portfolio. In recent times, the brand has shown considerably more flair on the sketch pad which has successfully made it to production models.
The newfound sense of style is helping Toyota break free of the criticisms that label the marque as bland. The C-HR and new Camry are the models that have benefitted the most from Toyota’s bolder design language.
Now it’s not just a case of style, Toyota is now producing cars with considerably more dynamic punch.
Which brings us neatly to the 2019 Toyota Corolla, a model promising to blend style and performance with a substantial injection of safety technology.
Our test car is the SX Hybrid variant priced from $28,370 plus on-road costs, this is the mid-range Corolla and the model that offers the best value in the metal for money equation.
Every new Corolla comes well equipped, all variants get LED headlights with automatic high beam, heated electric exterior mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, a 4.2-inch driver information display in the instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, electronic park brake, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, speed sign recognition and a rear-view camera.
Stepping up to the SX Hybrid adds front fog lamps, privacy glass, a premium steering wheel, blind spot monitoring, dual zone climate control, wireless smartphone charging, DAB+ digital radio, satellite navigation, keyless entry and push-button start.
When analysing the exterior, it’s hard to say anything other than this is a great looking car, easily the most striking Corolla ever. Toyota says it’s down to the new TNGA platform which allows the designers freedom to incorporate more emotional elements into the exterior.
Compared to its predecessor, the new Corolla is 40mm lower, 30mm wider and 45mm longer, with a 40mm longer wheelbase. The change in proportion helps the car to look more athletic than any of the eleven generations that came before it.
It’s not just the exterior of the new Corolla, the rule book has been rewritten for the inside as well. The cabin is pleasingly modern with a great layout and high-quality materials. Nothing in here points to the Corolla’s ancestry, everything is fresh.
Up front plenty of attention has been paid to the details. Every control offers a precise, positive action with Toyota’s familiar level of fit and finish.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen looks impressive from its position at the top of the dash. The infotainment system is easy to navigate with plug and play functionality. Some buyers will lament the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto however.
From the driver’s seat, the highlight of the interior is the premium steering wheel, it’s lovely to hold and provides a luxury vibe.
It’s not all good news however, despite the longer wheelbase it’s incredibly tight in the back seat. With fully grown adults in the front seats, the rear bench is only suitable for young children. Those wanting extra backseat room will need to wait for the sedan.
While in the back, there are no proper air vents which is fast becoming unacceptable at this price point. During our time critiquing the back seat space, we did come across cupholders integrated into the door armrests, an excellent idea.
Unfortunately, the buzz of the cupholder discovery wore off when we arrived at the boot. It’s only 217 litres meaning the Corolla hatch is never going to be the last word in practicality.
When it comes to the driving experience, expectations were high. The TNGA underpinnings are said to be responsible for turning the Corolla into a more driver-focused car.
To provide the Corolla with some dynamic ability the centre of gravity is now 10mm lower and the torsional rigidity has been improved by 60 per cent. The changes have been implemented to provide greater handling stability, ride comfort and steering feel.
The result of starting from scratch is the Corolla can now legitimately offer an engaging drive.
Hybrid cars have long been linked to frugality, not sportiness. In this instance, buyers can have both. The car is lovely in the bends and the hybrid powertrain is responsive without placing a burden on consumption.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, around town where the Corolla is likely to spend the majority of its time, it’s comfortable and remarkably quiet. The compact proportions make it easy to live with and even easier to park. The one caveat is the bonnet, it sits 47mm lower at the cowl than the previous model which provides excellent forward visibility, but it’s difficult to determine where the car ends.
Out on the open road, the Corolla quickly casts aside the stereotypes of previous generations, the direct steering and chassis stability are uncharacteristic of the name. Body control at speed is something to behold.
It’s the suspension that steals the show, the front has been revised, while the rear is all-new. A MacPherson strut setup is used on the front, but the mountings, springs, dampers and geometry have been completely redesigned. Down the back, Toyota has switched to multi-link suspension. The hardware changes and local calibration strike the winning balance between comfort and sport.
So it rides and handles in a way that will have you questioning if it really is a Corolla. Some kudos must go to the propulsion system, the age of the sporty hybrid is here. Toyota claims the powertrain produces 90kW which doesn’t sound like much in isolation, but it’s never short of breath. Also worth mentioning is the latest CVT automatic which was exempt from many of the unlikable noises that afflicted early designs.
The Corolla proved so enjoyable to drive we covered 1123 kilometres that included a blast up the Great Ocean Road (yes, we liked it that much), for a combined consumption figure of 4.4L/100km, making 900 to 1000km possible on a single tank on the highway. The remarkably low fuel usage shows how far hybrid technology has come. The economy also justifies the very reasonable $1500 premium to opt for the hybrid over the straight petrol model.
From an ownership perspective, the Corolla needs to be serviced every 12 months or 15,000km, whatever comes first. The first four services are capped at $175 each.
Toyota bolstered its warranty package in January, now offering five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty coverage. This can be extended to seven years for the engine and transmission if cars undergo scheduled log-book servicing.
Potential buyers will also be pleased to know, the warranty for hybrid batteries can be extended to 10 years/unlimited kilometres with an annual hybrid health inspection carried out as part of normal 12-monthly servicing from the fifth year.
What Toyota has done here is bring to market a compelling balance between driving engagement and economy which is always hard to do.
On top of the quality drive and economy is the Corolla’s brilliant styling which is certain to appeal to a wider range of buyers. The shackles have been broken and Toyota is changing its image, all the old jokes about Toyota only making white goods on wheels are surely now confined to generations past.
2019 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid Specifications
Price from $28,370 plus on-road costs Engine 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid Power 90kW Torque 163Nm Transmission CVT automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 4.2L/100km Tank Capacity 43L Length 4375mm Width 1790mm Height 1435mm Wheelbase 2640mm Kerb Weight 1400kg Turning Circle 11m Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty five year/unlimited kilometre
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