Toyota takes its world beater to a new level

Here’s a car we've waited patiently to test — the Corolla that finally pushes Toyota’s mainline passenger cars into the new millennium. To be blunt, Toyota has sucked the hind teat for far too long when it came to engine tech — SA’s biggest carmaker kept churning out old school naturally aspirated models that could not hold a candle to European rivals with their force-fed downsized engines that deliver far better performance, economy and drivability. 

Add 1500m of Jozi altitude and that ancient N/A lumps disadvantage is doubled and considering that’s where 70% of you live, it was a big problem. Toyota simply could not compete with a growing number of high tech rivals, well in engine tech anyway. Perhaps it was that the East has less of a carbon concern than that say of Europe or California, but the result of that lack of efficient turbo action had Toyota on the back foot.

Happily, that is all now a thing of the past with the arrival of this all-new Corolla hatchback — also the first five-door to carry that world best seller tag since the Tazz took over twenty years ago and it runs far deeper than just a re-badged Auris too. Corolla hatch not only gets a latest tech new flexible and efficient little 1.2-litre turbo, but it is also a really good looking hatch from Toyota and you can add excellent ride quality, handling and spaciousness thanks to its TNGA platform chassis,  as well as a host of active and passive safety features to shove Toyota right back to the top of the hatchback pile.

What really impresses is the strides forward Corolla takes in terms of quality and fit — it's a giant leap, not just in materials and finish, but in style and tech too, with some really cool infotainment touches. The real gains however come under the bonnet, where the new 85kW 1.2-litre four-pot turbo petrol engine delivers 185Nm all the way from 1500 to 4000rpm and driving the front wheels through a 6-speed manual in this case, while Toyota claims a top speed of 200km/h top end at a thrifty 6.1 litres per 100km for both variants.

Shared with the C-HR, this little lump saw Corolla to 100km/h in a most impressive 8.9 seconds, crush the 400m in 16.1 seconds at 139km/h and pull from 80 to 120km/h in 6.39 sec in our road tests. Now that's not only quicker by a bit than Toyota’s own claims, but it bares a most interesting comparison to the car we see at its arch rival — Volkswagen’s 81kW 200Nm (albeit over a far narrower band) 999cc petrol turbo triple 6-speed manual FWD Golf 1.0 TSI Comfortline.

At a couple of grand dearer at R240K, VW says it sips 4.8l/100km, which in VW’s fourth or fifth incarnation of a pint-sized Golf, indeed undercuts Toyota’s first real downsized attempt, but the Corolla comes back better than strong in performance, which delivered a significantly slower 10.39 second 0-100, 400m in 17.0 seconds at 13km/h and pulled from 80 to 120km/h in 7.29 seconds armed with the self-same VBox down the precise stretch of tarmac almost exactly two years ago…

Which means that not only has Toyota taken on the best at what it does best, but it beats it too - so take that, Corolla beats Golf! When was the last time you heard that one!

Anyway, there are several factors that conspire to deliver those results, while at the same time ensuring far better dynamics that what you’d have expected from, say an Auris - not least a stiffer and lighter new TNGA platform, a new shock absorber valve design for the new multilink rear suspension to also up load space front and rear for a smoother and more comfortable ride too.

In fact there is not very much at all to moan about in new Corolla, bar perhaps silly e-handbrake logic and deafening and overbearing chimes including one I think, if you fart, but by the same token, those aspects contribute to a host of active and passive safety features.

So it seems our anticipation was well rewarded — this new Corolla hatchback delivers and then some — so much so that we now no longer think that the VW Golf has something formidable to concern itself about, we know so... -- Michele Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota Corolla hatch 1.2T XS
Engine: 85kW 185Nm 1298cc turbo petrol I4                 
Drive: 6-speed manual FWD
0-60km/h:              3.77 sec
0-100km/h:            8.91 sec                      
0-160km/h:            22.93 sec       
400m:                     16.1 sec @ 137km/h            
80-120km/h:          6.39 sec
120-160km/h:        11.07 sec          
VMax:                      200km/h                               
Fuel:                         6.1 l/100km                         
CO2:                         141 g/km
Warranty/Service:  3y 100K/6 Service 90Kkm 
LIST PRICE:              R336K           
RATED:                     86%