The Toyota Corolla name has returned to replace the Auris in the brand's line-up, and is available with one petrol and two hybrid options
The latest Toyota Corolla represents a massive improvement over the outgoing Toyota Auris and is a great way for the famous model name to return to the UK market.
The Corolla is a massive return to form for Toyota in the family car segment, holding up well against its nearest rivals in every area that’s important. The British-built hatch offers great refinement, a pliant ride, fantastic build quality and handling that’s precise and controlled if not the last word in entertainment. There’s very little to dislike – its hybrid powertrains offer a good combination of performance and economy, even if its CVT gearbox can feel a little ponderous.
3 Jun, 2019 3.8
Toyota has given the Corolla a distinctive, sharp look that takes cues from the larger Toyota Camry saloon and C-HR SUV. Like the latter, the Corolla is based on Toyota’s TNGA platform that is designed with electrification in mind, along with rigidity and lightness. MacPherson strut suspension at the front and a multi-link rear axle mean the Corolla keeps pace with the best-in-class in mechanical terms.
Inside, the Corolla boasts a similarly modern design that’s clearly laid out and generally very well made, although some materials used fall below the standards set by the Volkswagen Golf. The dashboard is dominated by an eight-inch touchscreen, while a second multi-information display sits in the instrument panel. Standard ambient lighting lends an upmarket feel, while fabric, part-leather and full quilted leather upholstery options are offered.
There are no fewer than nine alloy wheel designs across the range, from 16 to 18 inches. Other styling choices include black and chrome trim packs. Solid ‘Pure White’ is standard, while a range of metallic and pearlescent paints are available for around £545 to £795. Excel models get the option of a two-tone paint job for £1,015.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Corolla’s infotainment system is called Toyota Touch 2 with Go, and has an eight-inch screen that matches the VW Golf’s unit for size. It features sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth and voice activation, but misses out on Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. That’s why we’d recommend a trim level with built-in navigation.
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Sadly, it’s one of the weakest systems in the class. The graphics look old-fashioned and it misses out on functionality present in its rivals’ set-ups. Similarly, the digital dash is less configurable than you’ll find on a Volkswagen Golf’s optional Active Info Display, and doesn’t look as modern, either.
The screen and interface are as responsive to the touch as the set-up in a Peugeot 308, which is to say a little behind that in a Golf, while the Corolla’s menu layout could be more logical and intuitive to speed up what should be simple processes.
An eight-speaker JBL Premium Sound System is available for £450, but it’s not as good as the similarly branded system in higher-spec Kia Ceed models, for example.
The Corolla is best enjoyed with either of its ‘self-charging’ conventional hybrid powertrains. At low speed, silent EV mode makes relaxing progress easy – refinement is such that when the petrol engine does kick in, it’s fairly unobtrusive when trundling around town. If you spent the majority of your time on congested streets, any Corolla Hybrid will prove very easy to live with.
Out on faster A-roads and motorways, the relaxation theme continues; you remain insulated from the worst of the noise of either 1.8 and 2.0-litre hybrid engines provided you don’t mash the throttle. Due to the nature of the CVT gearbox, big throttle inputs cause a flare of revs that may come as a surprise if you’re used to conventional automatics. However, of all the CVT gearboxes we’ve sampled, the Corolla’s is the best.
Both hybrid units are remarkably punchy despite their eco-friendly credentials. We tested the hatchback in 120bhp 1.8 Hybrid guise and clocked its 0-60mph sprint at a decent 11.4 seconds, this is still over two seconds slower than a non-hybrid Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI. We tested the Corolla Touring Sports separately, fitted with a 178bhp 2.0-litre Hybrid; performance is actually pretty impressive, with a claimed 8.1-second 0-62mph time.
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The Corolla’s chassis is far more impressive than that of Toyota’s last family offering, the Auris. There’s a great balance between ride comfort and body control – it’s a good enough to be considered alongside the class-leading Volkswagen Golf.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
There are three engines available for the Toyota Corolla: a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol with 116hp, a 1.8-litre petrol hybrid with 122hp and a 2.0-litre petrol hybrid with 180hp.
The 1.2 petrol is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox and is offered solely on Icon and Icon Tech versions of the Corolla hatchback. The 1.8-litre ‘self-charging’ hybrid is available on all three bodystyles and in all trim levels, while the most powerful 2.0-litre hybrid is offered on hatchback and Touring Sports models in Design trim and above. Saloons are only available with the 1.8-litre hybrid.
The entry-level 1.2-litre engine produces 114bhp and manages the 0-62mph sprint in 10.1 seconds in the hatchback or 10.2 seconds in the heavier Sports Tourer estate. Most will be best served by the 120bhp 1.8-litre hybrid, however; 0-62mph takes 10.9, 11 and 11.1 seconds in the hatch, Saloon and Touring Sports respectively, with much improved economy over the non-hybrid.
The best performance is provided by the surprisingly punchy 2.0-litre hybrid, which boasts 177bhp. Choose this powertrain in the hatchback and you’ll manage 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, with the heavier Touring Sports a couple of tenths behind with a 8.1-second time.
Traditionally, one of the best reasons to buy a Toyota has been reliability – and while the Corolla is still a little too new to tell for sure, signs are that it shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. The Corolla hasn’t featured in a Driver Power customer satisfaction survey yet, but the closely related Toyota C-HR SUV managed an impressive 14th-place finish in the 2018 survey. The evergreen Toyota Prius is powered by similar technology and came 4th overall. These results bode very well indeed for trouble-free Corolla ownership.
The Toyota Corolla is yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but we’ve no reason to expect anything less than a five-star rating. There’s an impressive list of on-board safety equipment as standard, including automatic headlights, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, lane departure warning and Toyota’s lane trace system, plus a driver attention alert system.
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Like all Toyota models, the Corolla comes as standard with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty (with no mileage limit in the first year) that puts most of the three-year items offered by its rivals to shame. The Ford Focus comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, for example – cover that the Volkswagen Golf matches. None come close to the seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty offered on the Kia Ceed, however.
Hybrid models are subject to a five-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty that can be renewed to cover an extra year or 10,000 miles. This can be continuously renewed up to the 15th anniversary of the car’s registration provided a Hybrid Electric Service is carried out at a main dealer Toyota Hybrid Electric Specialist.
An intermediate service for the Corolla costs £190, with a full service priced at £340. Hybrid models are subject to extra checks at service time, but Toyota does not charge any more for this.
There’s a Corolla model to suit just about every family car buyer. All have five seats and varying levels of boot space, but the Hatchback, Saloon and Sports Tourer are all practical cars. Boot space is average for the class, while the cabin boasts good-sized door bins and a large glovebox.
All round visibility in the Hatch and Estate is good; large glasshouses and a relatively high-set driver’s seat make for a good view out. The view out of the rear of the saloon isn’t quite as good, but still fine for a car of this type.
All Corolla models are the same width (1780mm) and height (1435mm), but there are obviously variances in length depending on model. The hatch is 4370mm long, the saloon 4630mm and the Sports Tourer estate is the longest at 4650mm. Volkswagen Golf models are marginally wider by comparison at 1799mm; the hatch is marginally shorter than its Corolla counterpart, as is the estate.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s generous head, leg and elbow room up front; the Corolla feels airier than some rivals inside and is a comfortable place to sit as a result. Rear seat space is good across the board too, but taller passengers may struggle slightly with headroom. Those looking for the last word in rear passenger space in this class will be better served by the Skoda Octavia, but the Corolla is more or less on par with the Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus in this area.
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There are ISOfix points on the outer rear seats and there’s decent access to the rear seats in all models.
The hatchback has a 361-litre boot in the 1.2 and 1.8-litre forms, but this shrinks to 313 litres in the 2.0-litre version thanks to a larger battery for its hybrid system encroaching on the boot floor. For comparison, the Volkswagen Golf hatch boasts a 380-litre boot (1,270 litres with the seats folded) and the Ford Focus gets 375 litres with a total of 1,354 seat-down litres. The Skoda Octavia hatch is still one of the best in class with its 590 litres, or 1,580 with the seats folded.
The Corolla saloon gets closer to the Octavia hatch in terms of space with 470 litres, but the rear seats don’t fold. By contrast, the Audi A3 Saloon has 425 litres, while the BMW 3 Series saloon has 380 litres.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those looking for the most space available in the Corolla range are best served by the estate: its 581 or 598 litres (depending on engine) come in just shy of the Ford Focus Estate’s 608 litres. The load area itself is nice and square and boasts a low load lip – a practical choice for heavy luggage or pets. The rear seats fold down via a pull-handles in the boot.
The Corolla hatch boasts braked and unbraked towing capacities of 1,300kg and 450kg respectively in 1.2-litre form, but these figures reduce when a hybrid drivetrain is specified. Both the 1.8 and 2.0-litre models manage 750kg of braked weight or 450kg unbraked. All towing figures are consistent across all three body styles. Towing packs cost from £550 to £650, but aren’t available on the Hatchback.
The Corolla sets itself apart from its conventionally powered competition with its hybrid powertrains, the main appeal of which is the promise of low running costs.
The 1.8-litre hybrid returns a claimed 57.7mpg in the hatchback and almost exactly the same in the Saloon, with 56.5mpg claimed in the Touring Sports. All figures are measured using the latest WLTP regulations, so these figures should be pretty attainable in real-world driving.
With a larger petrol engine making up part of its powertrain, the 2.0-litre hybrid takes a slight dent in economy – but not by much. The hatch is the most efficient, returning 54.3mpg, while the Touring Sports manages 53.3mpg on average.
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Emissions – and therefore initial road tax and company car tax rates – are low. The 1.8-litre hybrid is the cleanest option; 83g/km of CO2 for all three body styles equates to a first year VED payment of just £100 (usually rolled into the on-the-road price), followed by the yearly £135 payment for alternative fuel vehicles. Benefit in Kind rate for company car users comes in at 21-22 per cent.
By contrast, the 1.2-litre engine emits 132g/km of CO2 in the hatchback and Touring Sports estate; £210 road tax in year one and a 30-31 per cent BiK rate is the result.
The Toyota Corolla should be relatively cheap to insure when compared to its family car rivals. All body styles sit in groups 15, 17 and 21 when fitted with the 1.8-litre, 1.2-litre and 2.0-litre engines respectively.
Our experts predict that the Toyota Corolla hatchback will retain around 42 to 49 per cent of its value after 36,000 miles or 3 years come trade-in time. The saloon should hold onto around 44 to 45 per cent of its value over that time, while the Touring Sports estate ranges from around 44 to 48 per cent.