TOYOTA HAS just unveiled a new Corolla especially designed for Europe. To be built at Toyota's factory near Derby from next year, the new European Corolla has a number of visual and mechanical changes compared with new Corolla models to be sold elsewhere. It's part of Toyota's drive to differentiate its models in world markets.

The new European Corollas, which go on sale this summer, feature unusual "insect eye" oval headlights and different grilles depending on the trim level, including a honeycomb design. Toyota reckons this helps give the European Corolla "more of a face" and more of a personality. In Europe, the Corolla has long been criticised for its styling dullness and lack of visual character. Cars such as the latest Fiat Bravo/Brava and Renault Megane have shown it up.

Mechanical changes include the availability of a six-speed gearbox. In most other ways, the car uses upgraded current Corolla components. Three- and five-door hatchback, four-door sedan and estate versions are all planned.

The design was actually done in Japan, although Toyota's European operations were said to be consulted regularly. Initially, the car will be imported from Japan, like all European Corollas in the past, but late next year Toyota's factory near Derby will take over production of the five-door hatchback - likely to be the big seller.

Next year Toyota hopes to sell 160,000 Corollas in Europe, up from 118,000 last year. This compares with likely sales of 600,000 this year for the best-selling European car in the class, the VW Golf.

Gavin Green

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