After a 13 year hiatus, the Corolla name is back in the UK. To be fair to Toyota this is more than a change of badge, with the Corolla boasting a brand new platform, revised styling, and new hybrid technology. On paper the talk of a more driver focused chassis, improved quality, and more practicality sounds great, but can it deliver?
We will start with the styling, which we think strikes a very good balance of being distinctive, modern and good looking. Development work for the Corolla was led by European teams and the results can be literally seen with more emphasis on style than previous efforts. The good news continues inside where a step up in quality delivers a more premium feel.
Of course if you are interested in an estate you will probably want to know what will fit in the back. With the rear seats in place there is 598 litres of boot space which isn’t class leading but is respectable and is a useful increase from the 530 litres offered by the Auris. Your rear seat passengers will also complain a little less thanks to 100 mm increase in the wheelbase giving them a bit more leg room.
So the Corolla can do practical and stylish, but what about driving. Well the most efficient option is the tried and tested 1.8 litre petrol hybrid, but for the first time you can also specify a punchier 2.0 hybrid which adds performance and paddle shift ‘gears’ for a small deficit in load capacity (581 litres) and fuel economy. Both systems use the CVT transmission which remains the defining characteristic.
Driven efficiently the CVT system delivers great fuel consumption and refinement, but if you ask for more power the revs are sent skyrocketing breaking the illusion of a cut price limousine. The latest system is better in this regard but it remains an issue. The larger 2.0 engine reduces the effect further by liberating more torque from the electric motor and enabling electronic gear ratios, but ultimately can’t hide the inherent characteristics of the system.
The Corolla does move the game on for Toyota. It retains the ultimate efficiency of the hybrid system but adds more premium feel, sharper styling and more space. Multilink rear suspension delivers a compliant ride and the new platform does deliver a well sorted chassis. But, the Corolla still isn’t genuinely fun in the twisty stuff and the CVT continues to hamper enthusiasm. A good effort but not quiet the full package.