First Drive

First Drive: Toyota Corolla

The story:
You could argue the Toyota Corolla is more embedded in the motoring world than cars such as the VW Golf and Ford Focus. With this the 12th generation, Toyota has returned to its original naming after a brief dalliance with the Auris badge and it’s now available with not one hybrid engine, but two to give buyers a choice of ultimate efficiency or efficiency plus a bit more go.
Category:Family car
Key rival:Ford Focus
Toyota Corolla hatchback Design 1.8 Hybrid CVT
Price:£25,825
MPG:65.9mpg
Emissions:76g/km
On sale:Now

Just a year ago a petrol car with a CO2 figure of just 76g/km would have been in the 17% company car tax band – and been one of the cleanest cars available. Come April, that same car will be in the 22% band. However, it will still be one of the lowest CO2 cars you don’t need to plug-in.

That car is the new Toyota Corolla. The name returns to the UK and European market after Toyota dropped the Auris badge for this, the 12th generation of the brand’s family hatchback.

Aimed squarely at rivals such as the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf, the Corolla will be offered in five-door hatchback, four-door saloon and estate forms. In the UK the hatch will take around 60% of registrations with the estate taking 35% and the
saloon the remaining 5%.

Toyota is majoring on its hybrid history and is offering the Corolla with two different hybrid powertrains plus one conventional petrol engine.

The biggest seller, in both the company car and retail markets, is expected to be the 120hp 1.8-litre hybrid which, with the smaller 16-inch wheels, gives that impressively low CO2 figure of 76g/km.

The second hybrid is a 178hp 2.0-litre petrol which still has an impressive CO2 figure of 89g/km, but is significantly quicker to accelerate; the 1.8-litre version has a 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds while the 2.0-litre model comes in at 7.9 seconds. There’s a similar story with the official fuel figures with the 1.8 at 65.9mpg and the 2.0 at 60.6mpg.

First Drives-March 2019-Toyota Corolla-Image 3The only conventional engine is a 114hp 1.2-litre petrol which is both worse for fuel economy and CO2 than either hybrid and is only marginally quicker than the 1.8 hybrid. But it is £1000 cheaper than the 1.8, which itself is £1725 below the 2.0 version.

Inside, Toyota has redesigned the look and feel. There has been a huge simplification of the layout, adopting the industry trend of offering an infotainment screen to control most functions within the car. It works because Toyota hasn’t stripped out all of the buttons and there are just enough remaining to allow easy access to the frequently used controls.

On the higher-specification models there’s also a digital instrument display which is cluttered and offers too much information at the expense of clarity.First Drives-March 2019-Toyota Corolla-Image 1

On the road, all versions are remarkably refined in terms of wind and road noise. The engines are also very quiet at a steady cruise. However, the hybrids, which use a CVT automatic gearbox, are intrusively noisy under even light acceleration.

Fortunately, this aspect is the only real down-side to the way the Corolla drives. The ride comfort, like many other aspects of the car, has a premium feel thanks to quiet suspension that doesn’t thump or bang over potholes and bumps. And the body control is also good, with little in the way of excessive roll in the corners.

However, neither of the hybrid engines makes the car feel sporty in any situation and perhaps that’s for the best because it means there will be less transmission and engine noise if you drive more efficiently. That’s really why you’d buy the Corolla
– for the tax and efficiency gains.

 

 

 

Tristan Young

The verdict

One of the most refined cars in the class at a steady cruise. The 1.8 hybrid offers class-leading tax figures, too.