Whizzy? The Corolla?

ROAD TEST Toyota Corolla

Get this. The new Toyota Corolla has, according to the blurb, "visual excitement and emotional appeal". There must be a mistake. Massive following though the world's best-selling nameplate enjoys, Toyota's ubiquitous Escort-basher is a head-before-heart car noted for its value, practicality and build quality. Independent customer-satisfaction surveys confirm user- friendliness and reliability, too. In a game of word association, however, "bland" and "boring" come to mind before "excitement" and "emotion".

Let's put the record straight. For a start, it's misleading to describe the Corolla as the world's best-selling car. True, more than 24 million have poured from plants around the globe since 1966. But the latest, eighth- generation front-drive models, soon to be made at Burnaston in Derbyshire, have nothing in common technically or aesthetically with the original rear-drive ones. There's no continuous lineage or shape - as with VW's Beetle, still being made in Mexico - to unite the theme variations genetically. The Corolla handle simply carries all Toyota's mainstream lightweights, whatever their orientation.

Not all previous Corollas have been dynamic duffers, either. At least one GTi variant was richly endowed with driver appeal. There's no hot- hatch in the new line-up - though there is a six-speed 1.3 called the G6, aimed at younger drivers - but Toyota says it has improved the Corolla's bland image by injecting more fizz and fun. In what's described as a "radical departure" from its world-car strategy, Japan's number-one car maker has developed three strains of Corolla: one for Asia, another for the US and a third for Europe, each pandering to local tastes. Differences focus on styling, cabin decor and suspension settings.

I rather like the Corolla's smiling face. Bug-eyed headlights flanking a simple cheese-grater grille do at least create a distinctive visage. Styling that's otherwise modern conformist - all sensuous curves and no chisel edges - embraces four body styles: saloon, estate and three- and five-door hatchbacks, ranging in price from pounds 10,995 to pounds 15,195. Engines come in three sizes: 1.3 and 1.6 petrols, and a 2.0 (non-turbo) diesel, though only the five-door hatch - "Liftback" in Toyota-speak - is available with all three. Trim and equipment packages start with the misleadingly named Sportif, followed by GS and CD.

The pounds 12,665 1.3 GS on test came across as a pleasant, easy-to-drive, quality compact, lacking in flair but high on value. As a typical Corolla, in fact, it comes complete with air-con, remote locking/alarm/immobiliser, twin airbags and decent stereo. A powered sunroof, too. Short in tail, the three-door is the least accommodating of the series, even though it has the same (unchanged) wheelbase as the rest. The longer Liftback provides more room for luggage but not long legs; all the new Corollas are a bit cramped in the back. Despite talk of "lively architecture and visually appealing trim", there's nothing innovative about the conventional cabin or two-tone dash: cover the badge on the steering wheel and you'd have no idea what make of car you were driving.

If still short on personality and pizzazz, the 1.3GS is reasonably nippy (power is up from 74 to 85bhp) and respectably secure on the corners. Although the springs have not been stiffened, the anti-sway bars have, so roll and lurch are kept in check. Steering is light and easy, if not especially precise, and the clutch and gearchange are as idiot-proof as they can be on a manual. It's the quality of the Corolla's ride, the smoothness with which it banishes bumps, that most impresses. Few class rivals feel as supple in the suspension department, though several handle more crisply.

A new sort of Corolla, then? Hmm, not really. I like the snazzy new label and the shape of the bottle, but the wine, palatable rather than memorable, has matured very little.



Price (1.3GS three-door): pounds 12,655. Engine: 1,332cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, 85bhp at 5,400rpm. Transmission: five-speed manual, fwd. Performance: top speed 105mph, 0-60mph in 12.2 sec, fuel consumption 40.9mpg combined.


Fiat Bravo 1.4SX, pounds 11,745. Cheaper, but lacks Corolla's reputation for dependability. Goes well, handles nicely.

Ford Escort 1.4LX, pounds 12,670. Getting long in the tooth, but competitive after last makeover.

Nissan Almera 1.4SX, pounds 11,600. Nicely made, fairly roomy, rides and handles well. Peugeot 306 1.4XL, pounds 11,960. Good looks improved by recent face-lift. Still the class benchmark dynamically.

Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing