Toyota has a bullet proof reputation in the automotive world and has a finger in every segment of the automotive pie. Leading the charge, as it has done for decades, is the Corolla. Nowadays only available in sedan and hatch, Toyota recently released the updated sedan, some time after the hatch. There’s a lot to like in the SX sedan and A Wheel Thing checks out the (big) pocket sized car for a week.
It’s a 1.8L four under the aggressively styled bonnet, pumping out 103kW and 173 torques. There’s a CVT bolted onto the engine, programmed with seven electronic gearstops. With peak torque at 4000 revs, the two combine to deliver a near seamless and relatively quiet acceleration. The manual mode is effective but the overall package is intuitive enough to discount the need to use it. The CVT is a combination of old school (revs static as acceleration increases) and new tech (the aforementioned preprogrammed gears) and with a smart computer on board, it learns your driving habits and adjusts accordingly.
“Every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.” Well, that’s what ZZ Top said back in the mid ’80s. It certainly is a sharp look for the sedan, with a raked and angular nose running through to a slimline and angled rear, an evolved refinement of the previous and somewhat more curvier model. There’s a subtle double crease line under the rear window line in profile. LED taillights and driving lights bring the Corolla sedan up to date and into line with its hatchbacked sibling. The test car came clad with metallic grey paint, a shade that highlighted nicely the subtle sharpness of the new exterior. The rear door has a kick up, drawing the eye into the second crease line and adding a small visual fillip before running down into possibly the only rounded line of the car, in the bumper. Back to the front and the Corolla has a double headlight cluster, sweeping up and around into the front fenders. It’s a edgy, handsome car and larger than it looks, at 4620mm long (just a foot shorter than a Land Cruiser!), 1776mm wide and 1460mm high. Exterior safety is highlighted by parking sensors all round (showing up on a small display inside) and a reverse camera of high clarity.
On The Inside.
It’s an interesting mix, again of old and new. The air vents in the dash, for example, reminded me of the vents from the 1970s, complete with a vertical, somewhat slabby plastic look. The centre vents sit atop the radio touchscreen, itself surrounded by piano black plastic. The dials below, for the aircon, are simple to read although still have a sense of the past about the look; for all that, a clean and ergonomic layout pays dividends when it comes to using them. Dash dials are the same, simple yet functional, highlighted by a blue backlight.The tiller is the same, adjustable for reach and rake, it features simple looking yet simple to use button dials for audio and Bluetooth, with the wheel itself somewhat dull and uninspiring to look at but ok to hold. Cruise controls are mounted on a stalk to the bottom right, with Toyota, perhaps, being seen as old school here, with most other makers including cruise as an integrated button setup on the spokes. Also, on the SX, there’s no auto headlights, a surpriding oversight at this level. Door trims are a mix of soft touch at the top, hard plastic and a semi brushed aluminuim look to the rest of the door.
There’s airbags aplenty, with knee and curtain ‘bags adding their support to the front and side, plus the now commonplace safety systems in the drivetrain and brakes. Of note is the contrast between the assertive exterior and the rather squawky horn, plus the somewhat insipid noises emitted by beeper when Reverse is selected.
The rear seat section folds flat, adding even more cargo space to the already capacious 470L boot, with access from outside via the remote keyless start fob. The load lip is a usable height, allowing easy access for shopping items. The seats themselves, front and rear, are cloth covered, manually operated (driver’s seat) and supportive enough, if not outstanding, in their comfort, with a long squab providing under thigh support nicely. Ahead of the driver is a simple, monochrome, almost dot matrix display, offering up a range of information screens, accessible via a small button the right hand spoke of the tiller. Room, overall, is well enough for a family of four and possibly five, although the rear seat may be a bit cozy.
On The Road.
Suspension wise, it’s a tried and tested combination of MacPherson struts at the front, semi trailing arm rear, with well sorted dampers absorbing most irregularities and reducing the bigger ones to a momentary bumpthump. On the freeway, the SX lopes along, rarely troubled by any undulations, sitting taut and flat, with the same characteristics exhibited in long, sweeping curves. Even loaded up with shopping, handling was neutral and predictable. Acceleration is not swift nor is it leisurely, with the tacho swinging around to around 4000 revs, right where peak torque resides, as the speedo moves easily around to 80, 100. There’s little discernable engine noise to intrude into the cabin, however there is a measure, not much, but some, of road noise, noticeable from the 205/55/16 tyres. Feedback from the front driven wheels is not huge, with numbness on centre and a feeling of loading up in weight, left and right of centre. In crosswinds, such as that experienced in mid August, there was some movement sideways, but moreso when the wind was quite strong laterally.
Economy is very good, as you’d expect from such a car weighing just under 1290kg, helped by an undertray that combines with the swoopy exterior to provide a drag coefficient of 0.3. From a tank of 55L, the SX has been sipping in the mid 6L/100km range, on a largely suburban drive cycle. Toyota quotes that on its combined cycle, with 8.6L urban and 5.4L highway, using 91RON.
The SX is a great buy, at $25240 for the auto, plus ORC and metallic paint. Against competitors like the Ford Focus, Holden Cruze and, notably, the giant killing Mazda 3, it’s doing something right. With well over a million sold in Australia and over forty million world wide since it (the nameplate) was released, it’s built upon the previous model each time, in trim, fit and build quality plus offers great value. With a warranty of three years/100,000 km, service intervals of six months/10,000 km and service costs of up to 6 standard scheduled services at $130 each for the first 3 years or 60,000km (whichever occurs first). The Corolla is creeping up in size yet clever exterior design still has it looking pocket sized, plus more assertive than previous models and with a user friendly, economic drivetrain plus a competent handling package, the SX stacks up nicely as a driveway contender. For more info, head straight to www.toyota.com.au/corolla and follow the links for specifics.
Car: Toyota Corolla SX. (Ascent and ZR also available).
Engine: 1.8L, four cylinder, EFI.
Fuel: 91RON unleaded.
Transmission: CVT (Constant Variable Transmission), seven point preprogrammed.
Economy: 5.4L/100km Highway, 6.6L/100km Combined, 8.6L/100km Urban.
Size: 4620mm x 1776mm x 1460mm (L x W x H).
Weight: 1285kg dry.
Cargo: 460L (seats up).
Price: $22990 + ORCs (manual), $25240 + ORCs (auto).