The ever-popular Toyota Corolla has made a comeback in the UK replacing the outgoing Auris – a car that replaced the Corolla back in 2006. Available as a hatchback, saloon or estate the 2019 Corolla looks fabulous, is packed with technology and boasts efficient punchy hybrid engines.
The goodHybrid technology at its very best. Great looks and excellent handling.
The badThe price of the world's most recognised car has certainly crept up.
Toyota Corolla – first drive (2019)
When Toyota pulled the plug on the Corolla for European markets and replaced it with the Auris 12 years ago it was a move that was met with gasps of disbelief throughout the industry.
Yes, the Auris was a worthy model in its own right, but ditch the Corolla – Really? After all, it was the world’s most popular and most globally recognised car.
But, now it’s back and the all-new 12th generation Corolla is better than ever. Customers can choose from three body styles – Hatchback, Sedan (saloon) and Touring Sports (estate) along with four generously equipped trim levels called Icon, Icon Tech, Design and Excel.
And when it comes to powertrains, Toyota has thrown all its hybrid development and know-how at the Corolla with an improved 1.8-litre self-charging hybrid system developing 120bhp along with a new 178bhp 2.0-litre self-charging hybrid system. There is just one conventional engine option which is a 1.2-litre 114bhp petrol unit.
New Corolla is built on Toyota’s TNGA GA-C platform which is already being used for the C-HR and Prius models and it allows plenty of scope for fine-tuning. In addition, there has been a reduction in weight and height, along with improved aerodynamics, so the Corolla looks more appealing and delivers better fuel efficiency along the way.
Each version is distinctively designed and will have its own individual appeal to customers. For example, the Corolla Hatchback is the most dynamic in its styling with sporty curves, a sweeping roofline, rising waistline, contrast colour roof and a rear spoiler. The saloon is more sophisticated and elegantly crafted appealing to its own niche market with traditional four-door styling. And finally, the Touring Sports introduces all the estate-car practicality required for any active family with a boot that can swallow 1,606 litres of kit – that’s big enough for a 29-inch mountain bike to fit in without removing the saddle.
Move inside and the interior of each Corolla model is clutter-free but well equipped with an intuitive touchscreen, along with Toyota Touch 2 with Go navigation system as standard on all but the entry-level Icon model. There are heated seats (along with heated rear seats in the saloon), Bluetooth, DAB, automatic dual-zone air conditioning and lots more besides. At present, there is no facility for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto but Toyota has confirmed this will be addressed later in the year.
The spacious interior has ample room for four or five adults to travel in comfort and the surroundings also impress with plenty of soft-touch surfaces, piano black and chrome trim, powered lumbar support, plus part leather upholstery on the Excel cars.
The Corolla is competitively priced with the entry-level Icon models, which are expected to account for just five per cent of sales, costing from £21,300. The Icon Tech is likely to be the most popular with Toyota predicting it will notch up 45 per cent of sales – this model costs from £22,350. The Design (20 per cent of sales) costs from £23,375 and the range-topping Excel (30 per cent of sales) starts from £27,345. The most expensive Corolla is the Touring Sports 2.0 Hybrid in Excel trim priced at £30,340.
We had the opportunity to test out the new Corolla in all three body styles in the glorious sunshine and on the fabulously smooth roads of Majorca. And it’s only when you drive each Corolla back-to-back that you realise how very different they all are. It was also the ideal opportunity to sample the latest hybrid technology from Toyota and, as is generally the case, it proved most impressive.
First up was the Corolla Hatchback powered by the new 2.0-litre hybrid engine. This car could reach 62mph from a standing start in a very respectable 7.9 seconds, maxing out at 112mph. According to more stringent WLTP figures, it can deliver up to 60mpg with CO2 of 106g/km.
Out on the faster twisting country lanes, the Corolla Hatchback was dynamic in its handling and a thrill to drive with instant power at your disposal to make light work of overtaking. Motorway driving was effortless and the car was well insulated against any engine, road surface or wind noise. There are driving modes called Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport with the latter setting livening up the handling even further. It’s also worth mentioning how smooth the CVT on this car is with only a slight sign of whining noise if driven with a very heavy right foot.
Next up was the Sedan or as it will commonly be referred to on UK shores, the saloon. This car was powered by the upgraded 1.8-litre hybrid engine and could complete the 0-62mph sprint in 11.0 seconds, maxing out at 112mph. It could achieve up to 65mpg with carbon emissions of 100g/km (WLTP).
This seemed the most grown up member of the Corolla family and delivered a very smooth and refined driving experience. It can be pushed hard into bends with confidence and the road holding is assured. Once again, the cabin was beautifully hushed against any noise intrusion and just like the hatchback, all the controls and dials are easy to use and adjust on the move. Although Toyota believes the saloon model will only account for about five per cent of sales, it will have its own appeal to customers wanting the sleek four-door design and a ‘proper’ boot.
Finally, the Touring Sports was put through its paces and this car featured the 2.0-litre hybrid unit. It could reach from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and had a maximum speed of 112mph, delivering combined fuel economy up to 60mpg with CO2 figures of 106g/km (WLTP).
Despite its larger dimensions, the estate version of the Corolla performed admirably and brings plenty of practicality to the mix. Toyota engineers have worked tirelessly to increase the insulation as estate models are renowned for being noisier due to their size. It would seem they have achieved their goal as the cabin remains beautifully hushed unless the car is driven at maximum motorway speeds and even then you need to listen out for any echoing sounds.
The general handling of the estate car really impressed and the all-round visibility is excellent, as it was on all three models.
The Corolla also boasts a whole host of safety features including pre-collision system, lane departure alert, automatic high beam, sway warning, lane keep assist, a new night-time pedestrian detection system, a new day-time cyclist detection system and plenty more besides making it the complete package.
The Corolla started out in life way back in 1966 and since then more than 46 million cars have been sold globally. Now, it’s back in the UK again to replace the outgoing Auris and it’s guaranteed to continue making an impact across the hatch, saloon and estate sectors.