Gareth Butterfield tests the Toyota Corolla, Toyota’s new British-built stunner
THE Toyota Corolla bears the best-selling badge in the world. We might not have seen a new one pootling around the UK for a long time, but this genuinely is a car that’s mobilised nations for more than 50 years. And nearly 50 million have been sold.
Re-entering a market that’s fallen flat on its face since the crossover and SUV boom quietly crept in is a bold step, even for such a former success story but the new Corolla is entering the fray like a peacock displaying to a female. In my opinion at least, it’s an absolutely gorgeous thing.
From the sharp front end to the contrasting-black roof, it’s very much a feast for the eyes. Toyota is becoming known for its daring angles of late and they’ve certainly not held back with the Corolla. Although I’d argue this is by far the best outcome of their bold new design language by far.
The interior is far less controversial, but still quite attractive.
The seats are supportive and feel quite low-slung and a new seven-inch instrument display bundled in on most versions and all models get an eight inch central touch screen that’s by far the best I’ve seen on a Toyota. Especially considering many of the functions can still be carried out with proper, physical buttons.
In the hatchback version I tested space in the front is good, less so in the back, visibility isn’t a strong suit either and the boot space is perfectly acceptable on paper with 361 litres to go at, but it does have quite a shallow floor to it.
Predictably, there’s no diesel engine in the new Corolla’s line-up. Even more predictably, there are two hybrid versions, or there’s a conventional 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine kicking off the range.
The hybrids come with a 120bhp 1.8-litre engine, or a 178bhp 2.0-litre engine bundled in and there’s no plug-in version yet, just Toyota’s tried and tested self-charging technology.
Both cars use a CVT transmission which is never a great thing from a keen driver’s point of view, but it does help fuel economy. There’s no reason why a sensibly driven hybrid Corolla won’t return 60mpg, and even the most powerful engine only emits 106g/km of CO2.
The Corolla’s platform is based on the excellent CH-R, and that means its handling is pretty sharp. However a dull steering response and that joy-sapping CVT gearbox means progress is best enjoyed in a slow and steady fashion, rather than with a keen right foot.
So there’s a lot to like in the new Corolla. If it wasn’t for the encroachment of SUV-lovers Toyota would be on to another absolute winner.
It should still do well, though, and the best bit of all is that it’s built here in Derbyshire. Get ready to see a lot of them around.