IAIN ROBERTSON 

Toyota Corolla TREK

Toyota Corolla TREK

Toyota is clearly having a whale of a time with its recently introduced new Corolla model, which Iain Robertson believes will whisk the brand to fresh peaks over coming months and the good news is that its new Trek model will be built in the UK.

Despite all the shenanigans surrounding the UK’s purported departure from the European Union, the semblance of Toyota’s loyalty to the UK market extends, fortunately, beyond the politicking that upsets the rest of us. It is a loyalty that is eminently honourable, in that inescapably endearing Japanese way. Mind you, it ought to be, considering how much effort former local Derby MP, Edwina Currie, invested in the nurturing exercise not just to attract Toyota to its present greenfield location but also to ensure that it remained at Burnaston.

Part of the deal struck with the, then, Tory government in 1989 was a sister engine plant opening on Deeside, North Wales. The total investment thus far has been in excess of £2.75bn, supported by our government in several pertinent ways and employing over 3,000 personnel across the two extensive factories. The Burnaston plant is located adjacent to the A38 Lichfield-Derby road and even has its own dedicated slip-roads off the A50 bypass.

Toyota Corolla TREK

Toyota Corolla TREK

While the first model to roll off its production lines was the Carina E in 1992, it was followed by three generations of the Avensis mid-size model (the 1,936,572nd example of which ended production in July 2019). In 2007, the high-volume Auris model was produced for several markets, which equated to a high percentage of exports, with hybrid versions of Auris and its estate car (Touring Sport) becoming the factory’s main thrust, now renamed as Corolla for a new generation.

Ever since Toyota announced that the Corolla model name was returning to its popular Focus-sized line-up, interest levels have been ramping up. Providing the petrol-hybrid drivetrain and most of the estate car bodywork for Suzuki and its, as yet, unnamed replacement for the Baleno model (due in March-April time 2020), also being produced at the Burnaston, Derby factory, Toyota has given the Trek handle to its forthcoming soft-roader.

Following the customary pattern of underbody skid panels front and rear, the ride height of the regular wagon has been increased by 20mm, which is not enough to upset the Corolla’s inherently sound handling envelope but does allow the car to be driven (with care) onto rougher surfaces. Naturally, it is only front-wheel drive at this stage, although Toyota is very adept at making some of its new cars four-wheel drive (as it has just done for the Prius model), which means that a more capable alternative might be on the cards in the future, which would please Suzuki a lot. The front grille has been revised from the stock Corolla slit, to a honeycomb pattern but the alloy wheels are now of 17.0-inches diameter, while rear privacy glazing, front foglamps and LED headlamps form the standard offering for the Trek, which is a strictly estate car model (as will be Suzuki’s variant in the New Year).

Toyota Corolla TREK

Toyota Corolla TREK

Intriguingly for Toyota, the car has arisen from an association with bicycle manufacturer, Trek, and a fleet of 16 examples will accompany the Trek-Segafredo World Cycling Team on its future adventures. Its key rivals come from Ford and Kia, both of which have produced hiked-up ‘off-roadery’ types of cars that do not necessarily have the off-road capabilities of their respective SUV models but still offer the space, practicality and convenience of a power rear door, with hands-free operation, giving access to a long and accommodating boot area.

While the Trek legend features on the exterior of the rear door, it is also present on the door sill strips and the cabin benefits from a tough, wool-like new fabric for its seat covers and door cards. As the new Corolla is purely petrol-electric hybrid driven, there exists a choice between the normal and familiar 1.8-litre version that started life in the Prius model, with the much punchier 2.0-litre alternative for buyers demanding the extra verve. In both cases, well over 50mpg should be achievable in normal motoring conditions, along with a reduced tax penalty arising from the hybrid status. It is worth noting that Toyota’s unique drivetrain flicks, without driver intervention, between electric and petrol power, or a combination of both, as driving conditions dictate.

Naturally, using the centre of dashboard touchscreen, the driver can monitor the power distribution and also produce additional pages related to the hybrid battery status, frugality levels and range, although, as a self-charging hybrid, range anxiety is not an issue. Yet, while the standard rate of car tax will apply to either versions of Trek, as their CO2 emissions are not at the significantly lower EV levels, the other benefits are present in abundance.

Toyota Corolla TREK

Toyota Corolla TREK

It is interesting that the lightly enhanced versions of regular models should prove to be so popular among new car buyers. Increasing the equipment tally is just part of the package that consumers seem to prefer, because they are not forced to trawl through the options’, or extra-cost accessories’ catalogue, when making their choices. That the Trek package arrives ‘fully-formed’ is much to its credit, which makes signing the order form significantly easier.

The Corolla model name is renowned for being THE most popular in the world, more so that the original and long-time record-holder, the Ford Model T. Quite why Toyota should have deemed that the previous Auris line-up was more suitable for some markets has never been explained clearly by Toyota, despite the fact that the Oriental giant continued to badge the car as Corolla for several other markets.

Conclusion:      Toyota continues to pull intriguing new models from its corporate hat and many of them carry the name Corolla. Prices for the new Trek variant will be announced nearer to the January 1st 2020 launch date and the order book opens on 1st November 2019, if you are interested, of course.

Toyota Corolla TREK

Toyota Corolla TREK