Monday 20th May 2019
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First drive: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.

First drive: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
Toyota goes back to the Corolla name for the 12th generation of the best-selling car of all time.

 



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Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

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After two generations and 13 years in production, Toyota decides to drop the Auris badge from its C-segment challenger and goes back to the name used on the greatest-selling car in history. Thus, the Corolla is reborn, as a hatchback, as a saloon (minority interest here in the UK) and as this attractive Touring Sports estate. The best news is, though, that the Corolla Mk12 fully lives up to the hopes of Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, who has ordered the company to make 'no more boring cars.' The Corolla is superb.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 2.0 Hybrid Excel
Pricing: Touring Sports from 22,570, 2.0 Hybrid Excel from 30,340
Hybrid system: 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol with synchronous permanent magnet electric motor
Transmission: front-wheel drive, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 92g/km* (VED Band 91-100 for alternative fuel vehicles: 115 first 12 months, then 130 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: c.55.5mpg**
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 8.1 seconds
Power: maximum system output 180hp at 6,000rpm (petrol engine plus 80kW [107hp] electric motor)
Torque: petrol 190Nm at 4,400-5,200rpm, electric motor 202Nm from 0rpm, no system maximum torque output quoted
Boot space: 581-1,589 litres
* figure quoted in WLTP
** figure quoted as average of NEDC-correlated figures from WLTP testing

What's this?

A Toyota Corolla that looks interesting. Doesn't it? This is a most, er... interesting development, because the Corolla has always been somewhat synonymous with the word 'dull'. So much so that, in 2006, Toyota decided to call its mid-sized hatchback the Auris in certain world markets, including our own, in an effort to give the vehicle a little more showroom gravitas. However, in other countries, the Corolla soldiered on and - after two generations of Auris spread across 12 years - the best-selling nameplate in car history is once more back on our shores.

It will grace three body styles: the hatchback, the Touring Sports (as tested here) and even a saloon model, which effectively replaces the Avensis saloon, but which is expected to take no more than ten per cent of sales here; probably more like five per cent. The saloon also feels like it stands alone from the rest of the Corolla range, because it will only be offered with one of the three drivetrain choices that the hatch and Touring Sports get to play with - that solitary powertrain for the four-door Corolla being the 1.8-litre Hybrid - and it's even built in a separate plant in Turkey. The other two Corollas will be made right here, at Burnaston in Derbyshire.

The poor old saloon also gets slightly different front-end styling, which is a pity because the Touring Sports (and, by extension, the Corolla hatch) looks superb. It's a really bold piece of design that manages to look cohesive, rather than merely going for maximum shock value, and it can pull off sombre shades with smaller alloys almost as well as it does top-spec, big-rims grandiosity, as on our test car. Better still is the cabin, which might not be as flashy as the one found in the C-HR, but which nevertheless is shot through with quality. It's nicely laid out, there's an attractive seven-inch digital instrument cluster screen (model spec depending - it's 4.2 inches on the base cars) and space is good on board, mainly because the Touring Sports (like the saloon) sits on a 60mm longer take of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) chassis than the hatch, giving it slightly more room for rear passengers.

Four generously equipped (especially in the safety department) trim levels will be offered on the Corolla Touring Sports in the UK, running Icon, Icon Tech, Design and then Excel, with - as previously mentioned - three drivetrains. None of them are diesel and two are hybrids, which is (here comes that word again) interesting. There's a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol, making 116hp and mated to a six-speed i-MT manual, this being a powertrain familiar from the C-HR. Then there's the ubiquitous 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol-electric Hybrid, which has been seen in the Prius and the Lexus CT, among others. For the Corolla, it has been mildly tweaked but runs the same 122hp overall state of tune as in the Prius. And then there's this all-new 2.0-litre Hybrid, which is a sportier petrol-electric derivative with 180hp. Prices for the Touring Sports start at 22,570 for a 1.2 Icon and run to 30,340 for a fully loaded 2.0 Hybrid Excel like our test car.

How does it drive?

The new Corolla Touring Sports drives very sweetly, especially as the 2.0 Hybrid. The TNGA chassis is something of a gem in all its installations and that's carried over to the Corolla. The steering is light but accurate, the body control impressive without the ride becoming all harsh and the general grip-and-go of the Toyota is most pleasing. It's perhaps not the most thrilling thing in the world to drive on a sweeping back road, but it's better than many of its rivals and the chassis shows real promise for a potentially hotter variant - lacking for hybrid power - somewhere further down the line.

More importantly, the Corolla is beautifully smooth and quiet and comfortable for day-to-day driving, as tyre and wind noise are noticeable only by their absence, while the drivetrain seems to be pretty good. There are caveats to this, which we shall come onto, but when the throttle is being nothing more than lightly tickled, the engine is hushed and torquey, the transmission (yes, it's a CVT...) is even more seamless than the very best dual-clutch gearboxes and the whole car is a delight to travel in.

We're not about to become hybrid-plus-CVT converts, though; not quite yet. There's no doubting this 2.0-litre powertrain is the best four-cylinder Toyota part-electric unit so far and the performance of the Corolla Touring Sports with it fitted is rather meaningful. It's 1.5 seconds quicker to 62mph from rest than the 1.2-litre model and fully three seconds faster for the same sprint than the rather lacklustre 1.8 Hybrid, an on-paper stat that more relevantly translates into the 2.0-litre model coming across as much better for roll-on acceleration than its stablemates. It certainly feels suitably swift in operation, although we wouldn't say it's a genuinely sporty set-up. It's just notably faster than the other offerings in the family.

But while Toyota makes noises about changing the behaviour of the CVT to better suit our European tastes (read: you shouldn't get constant-redline-screeching from it), it's still a long way from perfect. Beyond 5,000rpm, the engine does become a little coarser in note. And the slovenly throttle response remains to make exiting a corner an often-frustrating experience. And the paddle shifts on the steering column do nothing to enliven the driving manners. And the sensation of forward momentum doesn't always quite tally with the figures racking up on the digital display... yet we don't dislike this drivetrain, either. It's pretty good on fuel in the real world and the mechanical isolation of the 2.0-litre lump up front is first-rate, which means we think this is one of our favourite Toyota hybrids yet. If not our out-and-out favourite.

Verdict

There will be more to come from the sharp-suited Toyota Corolla family in the months and years ahead, but on this first showing, this is a deeply impressive effort from the Japanese company. Gone is the staidness that used to afflict its everyday and hybrid models like this, with the Corolla Touring Sports featuring neat aesthetics, a very good interior, plenty of practicality and a wonderful chassis coupled to first-rate refinement levels. It even has a decent hybrid drivetrain, as this 2.0-litre model, although we would still prefer a different gearbox and a more cultured engine. Nevertheless, the excellent Corolla Mk12 is clearly anything but a 'boring car'. Akio-san will be most pleased.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 25 Feb 2019









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2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.

2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports. Image by Toyota.








 

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