Whizzy? The Corolla?
ROAD TEST Toyota Corolla
Saturday 26 July 1997
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.
Life & Style blogs
Surgeon backs 'good death' plans - and reveals his own
Britain's kitchens so filthy that they present a health risk, says new research
NHS hit by stealth cuts of £2bn as tariffs received for medical procedures are reduced
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter
KickassTorrents down: new Isle of Man domain taken offline just hours after launch
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...