Corolla remains a record-breaking beauty
It’s a little misleading to say it is the world’s most popular car but there have been more vehicles sold with the name Corolla attached than any other. It overtook the Beetle a little while ago.
It is arguable that other popular model names such as Escort or Sierra might have been more popular if they hadn’t changed but nonetheless Corolla is a success.
It is beloved by taxi drivers, especially, which gives you an indication that this is a solid, relatively spacious and dependable machine, but the name Toyota probably indicated that already.
In a nutshell, this is the 12th generation vehicle. Toyota is a big fan of the self-charging hybrid electric powertrain system with 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre systems.
It creates hatchback and Touring Sports (estate) body styles, both built in the UK. That’s right, Corolla is arguably more British than many rivals which are considered British cars.
Toyota claim with some justification that Corollas are stylish and meet all the requirements of both daily commutes and weekend leisure, combining driving enjoyment in all road conditions with the peace of mind and low running costs.
It is built at the Burnaston factory, in Derbyshire, which is the European centre for production of the Corolla Hatchback and Touring Sports, with hybrid engines (1.8-litre) supplied by the TMUK factory in Deeside, North Wales.
For me, it was a surprisingly good car.
I’m not sure how many people would have Corolla on their radar when they are looking for a compact hatch or estate but this seemed to tick all the boxes in terms of price, space and quality. But the surprising feature for me was how well it drove. It has a real sense of sportiness which not many compact estates can offer.
The platform guarantees a more rewarding experience, thanks to a centre of gravity that’s lowered by 10mm, multilink rear suspension as standard across the range, and a 60 per cent more rigid body shell, achieved through the use of
high-strength steel reinforcement in key areas. All these elements contribute to better handling and stability without compromising ride and comfort, as well as reducing high-frequency vibration, increasing the overall sense of quality.
An interesting feature is the lack of rattles. Corolla builds on the inherent quietness of Toyota’s self-charging hybrid technology with numerous measures to minimise noise, vibration and harshness, known in the trade as NVH.
The engine installation has been designed to cut vibration at start-up and idling speeds. It comes in two trim levels – Icon and Design. Tested here is the 2.0 litre Design model, the flagship of the range. It is smooth yet sporty and has a quick turn of pace, yet returns decent economy. It makes sense to be a hybrid these days if you don’t want a limited range electric vehicle.
The cabin is glorious – simple yet stylish. Corolla’s multimedia system was upgraded to Toyota Smart Connect Plus for the 2022 model year, using a new platform that provides much faster response and provides new functions. Provided as standard or an option on all versions except Icon grade, the new platform has more powerful processing capacity (CPU) that operates 2.4 times faster than the previous system.
It gives instant access to a series of smart connected services, including cloud-based navigation with continuous, “always on” traffic information, 3D city mapping, road signs and fixed traffic camera locations
The estate – or Touring Sports as Toyota terms it – is exclusive to Europe and was styled at Toyota’s design centre in Zaventem, Belgium. Although it shares front styling and a 25mm height reduction with the Hatchback, every panel rear of the centre pillar is exclusive to the model. The result is an estate car with a sweeping roofline and an elegant yet robust look.
Although the front and rear overhangs have been reduced, the Touring Sports is 58mm longer than the model it replaces.
More significantly, it has a 100mm longer wheelbase which helps to give best-in-class rear passenger legroom and the boot is a decently sized 581 litres.
Even the entry-level Corolla is well specified but the test version is the better-equipped Design. It has 17in alloy wheels, heated and folding door mirrors, privacy glass and a huge panoramic sunroof.
As a versatile estate car with a sporty yet comfortable ride, it’s hard to fault the Corolla.
Toyota Corolla Sports Tourer Design
Price: £31,005 on the road
Engine: A 2.0 litre 184bhp petrol engine and electric motor
Performance: Top speed 112 and 0 to 60mph in 8.1 seconds
Costs: 50.4mpg combined
Insurance: Group 18E
Warranty: Five years, 100,000 miles