The small wagon sector isn’t what it used to be, but then neither is the market.
Buyer preferences change and so now there aren’t many little load luggers to choose from, fewer still with Holden’s recent axing of the Astra. But a wagon has been part of the local Corolla range for as long as we can remember. NZ was one of the few markets outside Japan to get a wagon as part of the previous Corolla line-up. It was designed primarily for the domestic market, having little in common with the rest of the range.
That model was memorable for all the wrong reasons, a real tool of trade, and literally nothing more. But that’s not the case with the new generation although it is again aimed at fleet use; Corolla wagon is only available in base model trim to get the price to $29,990, drive away, everything included, no deals given (unless you intend to buy a fleet of them).
However, base models aren’t awful these days at least in terms of specification. You’ll get a decent touchscreen for the infotainment, and the Corolla wagon is the first Toyota available here with both Android and Apple hook-up, making up for the lack of sat nav. Climate control air con makes the grade but so does a generous helping of hard cabin plastics and a manual handbrake.
There’s no charge pad but it has two USB charge ports, a smart key and a reversing camera. And while you grip a urethane steering wheel, the spokes house the controls for Toyota’s Safety Sense package, giving it a better fit-out than some entry-level BMW and Mercedes-Benz models. AEB is present, complete with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as active cruise control, although this isn’t the all-speed version, inoperative below 30km/h in traffic.
There’s a lane departure warning system but no blind spot monitoring. So ensure you adjust the mirrors to provide a wide side view as there is a hint of a blind spot if you don’t.
Fittingly, it’s the most practical of the Corollas. We got the three kids in the back without too many dramas, stacking the boot with beach paraphernalia, even managing to take the surfboard along too. If you’re reading this in 2025, wondering if the wagon is a good second-hand family car, it does have the space to cope, and is the pick of the range for those with kids. There are those must-have safety features and the car seats fit okay with two Isofix points in the rear.
However, there isn’t as much rear seat legroom as in the sedan we tested last month, which sits on a longer wheelbase, and so knees brush up against the back of the front seats. It’s not the biggest little load hauler ever, being only 100mm longer than the hatch. And while the boot floor is wide and deep, the rakish tailgate does impact on the overall load space if you’re packing it in above the windowline. There is split folding via easily accessible levers, presenting a flat load space.
What about that 1.8 and CVT combination? As one person commented after a short drive, it’s surprisingly alright. The 1.8 is off by about 20kW and 30Nm compared with the 2.0-litre in the hatch, but it actually gets on with business well. It gets off the mark smartly and the CVT then sets to trimming engine speeds whenever it can, the 1.8 turning at 1800rpm at 100km/h, 1500rpm at 50km/h.
And yet the trans responds promptly to a tickling of the throttle, the ratio shortening to send the engine toward 4000rpm where the torque curve peaks. It’ll spin out to 6000rpm, where the CVT does those funny faux upshifts. But there’s plenty enough below 3000rpm for general commuting.
The trip computer displays your average for each journey, rather than an overall, and we found short, round town journeys (10-20km) averaged in the mid-6L/100km range, or mid-8s if we were running late. On a cruise to the beach, it registered in the low fives. This wagon has a pleasant ride, well tuned steering and a good turning circle, making for easy conveyance.
Given a hurry along, there’s more squish and roll on the turn than desirable, while the treads don’t offer much resistance in the bends. Prodding the Sport mode shortens up the CVT, keeping the engine spinning around 3000rpm to help improve response. But there’s enough go between 2000 and 4000rpm for highway running, and four and above for overtaking.
As motoring journalists, we are mandated to like wagons, and this one deserves more than just a base spec offering, but the market ‘is what it is’, as they say on reality TV programmes. And so the GX grade keeps the price right, making it good value for businesses. And in five years hence, it’ll be a sound, practical second-hand family car.
|Model||Toyota Corolla GX wagon||Price||$29,990|
|Engine||1798cc, IL4, EFI, 104kW/171Nm||Drivetrain||CVT, FWD|
|Fuel Use||6.8L/100km||C02 Output||159g/km|