The Toyota Corolla is a great-looking family car with efficient hybrid engines. However, it can’t match alternatives on practicality.
If you think the Toyota Corolla name is synonymous with boring, this latest model is anything but. Starting with the way it looks, you’d struggle not to notice it going down the street and that’s a big change from Corollas of old which seemed to blend into the city scape better than a chameleon in a jungle. As a result, the latest Corolla looks a lot more interesting than the latest VW Golf.
This continues inside. The Corolla has one of the plushest interiors in class. Of course, the higher up the model range you go the better it gets – high spec models get a leather-wrapped dashboard that feels great to the touch. Even if you get the most affordable model, the overall design of the cabin is much more interesting than before – it’s now closer to a plush Lexus effort than ever.
Standard on all models is an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but sat nav isn’t standard and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available yet. The graphics are a tad outdated, but what’s helpful when you’re driving are the physical shortcut buttons next to the screen. If you do go for the model with sat nav, you’ll like the responsiveness of the screen when typing in an address or navigating the map, but what will annoy you is that the auto-zoom of the map is too slow to react.
Using the levers on the side of the seat you can get easily comfortable in the Toyota Corolla and you can optionally get lumbar support which takes the strain off your back on a long journey. All in all the front seats are very comfortable and if you go for the top spec you get sport seats upholstered in leather that are not only very supportive, but also look cool with their polished metal inserts.
Space in the back, though, is considerably less than in the front, so two six foot adults will fit but it won’t be comfortable for long and the narrow door opening will make maneuvering a child seat inside quite tricky. However, there are also estate and saloon versions of the Corolla which will serve you better if you plan on regularly having back-seat passengers.
The boot size of the Corolla is pretty good and will be more than enough to cope with the weekly shop or a short trip away. However, compared with alternatives, the Corolla’s boot is shallow and doesn’t have as many practical features as you’d find in a Skoda Octavia’s boot, for example. It gets worse if you go for a hybrid model because most of the underfloor storage is occupied by the car’s battery, which normally sits in the engine bay.
The Corolla finally looks exciting which, paired with its comfy interior and the promise of legendary reliability, makes it a good buy
On the topic of hybrids, there’s now the choice of two – the fairly well-known 1.8-litre petrol hybrid that’s already fitted to Toyota’s Prius and a brand-new 2.0-litre petrol. Both engines have low emissions making them cheap to run and also great company cars. However, both engines are fitted with a CVT automatic which makes them feel slower than the numbers suggest when accelerating hard, and when you do go for an overtake they make a droning noise as the ‘box keeps the rev high. If that’s not your thing, there’s also a conventional 1.2-litre petrol that’s available with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Sadly, the CVT automatic feels years behind alternatives fitted with DSG automatics which is a shame, because the Corolla feels years ahead many alternatives when it comes to how it drives. It manages to be fun to drive, but also comfortable thanks to accurate steering that gives you confidence and the sort of sound deadening that you expect from more expensive cars.
Optionally, you can have adaptive dampers that can either stiffen the suspension to sharpen how the car feels or relax it, depending on your mood. But it’s worth pointing out that even on standard suspension, the Corolla irons out bumps better than a lot of alternatives, making it a great long-distance car.
So, you might think that the biggest thing about the new Corolla is the updated looks, but the striking body hides a new interior that’s better than ever and a driving experience that you probably never expected from something that has a Toyota badge. But, if rear space is your top priority there are better-suited alternatives such as the Ford Focus.