2018 Toyota Corolla - All New at 52

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Words: Kyle Cassidy
7 Sep 2018

Toyota sells a lot of cars around the world, and plenty of them are Corollas. Since it was introduced in 1966, 44.1 million have be sold, and one is retailed every 15 seconds around the planet. Now in its 12th generation, the ‘humble’ Corolla has undergone what the company reckons is its biggest generational change.

While the small car segment is in decline, Corolla makes up 24 per cent of Toyota NZ’s overall sales and its numbers are up 66 per cent over the past eight years thanks to TNZ’s rental strategy. According to Toyota data, Corolla holds its own amongst other small cars in terms of sales to private, Government and fleet customers, though rentals still make up the bulk of the volume.

As TNZ puts it they are ‘key feed stock for driving the used car operation’. It’s an enviable business model and helps explain why Toyota makes up 25 per cent of the overall car park here. TNZ says there are some 900,000 Toyotas on our roads and of those 154,793 are Corollas. It has sold 263,000 of them since it debuted locally in 1969.

The new line-up starts with the GX 2.0 petrol at $29,990, while the mid-grade SX 2.0 is $32,490. A GX hybrid is $32,990 and the high-spec ZR can be had for $37,490 with the 2.0 petrol or there’s the $38,490 ZR hybrid. Those are the Toyota Drive Away prices; no haggling, on the road with floor mats and a tank of gas. Service costs are $195, due every 12 months/15,000km and those who complete the service programme get their new car warranty extended to five years.

Unique for the segment, all Corolla models feature a full array of active safety technology. Utilising radar and camera systems, it gains all-speed radar cruise and AEB with pedestrian detection that functions at night. Lane departure warning is now called Lane Tracing Assist which comprises an audible warning along with a steering input to nudge you back into the lane. When radar cruise is active, there’s a function that keeps you in the centre of your lane. It can also recognise the side of the road; in other words it doesn’t always need two visible lines to mark a lane.

But wait, there’s more, including road sign assist to detect the speed limit, and when radar cruise is active your set speed can be adjusted to the new limit with a push of the appropriate cruise button. Corolla is a five-star car under the latest ANCAP testing regime. Additional specification includes standard-fit sat nav, and a wireless charge pad on SX and ZR, while the latter also gets a head-up display.

The new look should appeal to more buyers, Corolla now longer, wider and lower overall, while all the design elements are styled to emphasise width and impart a grounded stance. The interior treatment is similarly energetic, though dominated by the colour grey. A large central screen has a few hard buttons to ease navigation and there are a lot more soft surfaces about. The instrument panel has a 4.2-inch multi-info display panel in the GX and SX while the ZR has a seven-inch configurable layout.

It also gains racy front seats, with plenty of bolstering and padding and leather and suede trim (red inserts an option for the extrovert).

So it’s all hunky-dory up front but in the back, legs have lost some room to stretch, and the entry is restricted with the lower roofline. The hatch space is small too, with less room than the previous model. It’s short on length and there’s an oddly high-set floor. Space is quoted at just 208L under the tonneau cover, and 294L piled to the roof.

We’re not sure how all those tourists are going fit their luggage in this. A sedan is coming which will have a bigger boot, and we’ll get a wagon too, though it’s not likely to be the sleek looking Tourer recently revealed for the European market.

Corolla finally gets a new chassis with the adoption of the firm’s common platform, or the GA-C version that debuted on Prius and is used by CH-R. Improvements include a lower centre of gravity, and better weight balance while torsion rigidity is up 60 per cent. Mac struts take care of the front but the rear gets a new independent trailing wishbone set-up to replace the old torsion beam.

Also retired is the decades-old 1.8-litre four with a new 2.0-litre ‘Dynamic Force’ engine. With both direct and port injection, better valve control and added compression, power is up 22 to 125kW and torque up 27 units to 200Nm. Consumption, measured to the old Aussie ADR standard is quoted at 6.0L/100km. The petrol Corolla gets a new direct-shift CVT which adds a mechanical gear to improve the initial take off and extract optimum efficiency. The hybrid gets the powertrain from the latest Prius which produces 90kW and is rated at 4.2L/100km.

As you’d hope, Corolla drives a whole heap better now. It gains accurate, responsive and consistently assisted steering while the chassis feels better balanced and more resolved over bumpy roads. The ZR generates some tyre noise and the 18s feel some of the sharp bumps, but it hangs on well in turns. Its new CVT does launch nicely, and transitions smoothly to CVT mode once past about 30km/h.

It responds better on the go too, particularly in Sport mode, as it holds the ratio to keep the engine hovering around the 3500rpm mark, so when you step back on the gas out of bends, everything is primed to go again quickly. Even the hybrid goes okay out on winding country roads. Stay tuned for a full road test soon.

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