Home' NewsLink : November 15th 2012 Contents 15.11.12 Newslink
Toyota hatches a real smoothie
After treading water for several generations, the Toyota Corolla at last fronts up as the great car it has often promised to be, writes
Smooth: The Corolla is now the world's best-selling vehicle.
There were two yellow cars on
display at the Earls Court Motor
Show in 1968. One was a canary
yellow Morgan Plus Eight,
appearing for the first time and gaining
attention at the time as much for the
scantily-clad models draped upon it, as any
importance it held for the average new car
aspirant. The other yellow car was a two-
door Toyota Corolla, a custard-toned
newcomer that had the gall to offer a radio
AND a heater for hundreds of pounds less
than the price of a similarly-sized European
car without such equipment.
It has to be said that most petrolheads took
more time at the Morgan stand than at
Toyota's in 1968 but that's all changed now.
Last month another new Corolla made its
motor show debut, this time at Paris, and
the Auris as it will be called in Europe was
one of the most eagerly awaited models at
In Europe, the Corolla/Auris hasn't had the
same level of saturation as it has in New
Zealand, largely due to decades of
protectionist sales quotas and in many
cases brand snobbery from both the press
and the public. Now that Toyota, like
Honda and Nissan, has expanding car
plants in Britain and mainland Europe, it is
not only easier to sell, it's also cheaper to
deliver there than it would be from its
While we have sourced one or two Corollas
in the past from Britain, and still get the
larger Derby-built Avensis models, the new
Corolla, for New Zealand comes from
The Corolla is now the world's best-selling
vehicle, with more than 39 million units
finding first owners in more than 140
countries since its debut in 1966. The
Toyota is also something of a star in New
Zealand, having been the leader in the
C-segment here for 28 years in succession,
and the country's favourite car for 15 of the
past 25 years.
It has to be said that while the car has been
a consistent performer in the New Zealand
market for 30 years, of late it has been
looking a little dull and cynically under-
equipped when compared with its
competitors from other Japanese makers
So it's just as well that Toyota says that its
pride and joy, in its new 11th generation
guise has been rethought and re-
engineered. At 55mm lower and 30mm
longer than the car it replaces, the new
Auris has a far sleeker profile, despite
using the same wheelbase and a modified
version of its predecessor's underpinnings.
The extra length is in the car's overhangs --
up 15mm front and rear, and this is visually
reinforced by the lower roof height,
especially in the case of the top-spec Levin
SR model, whose contrast coloured glass
and shade roof panel -- all 2340mm by
1280mm of it -- looks terrific. It's good news
in the boot too, with a 360-litre load area --
up from the previous 334 litres.
The outgoing car's dull exterior has been
dealt with very effectively with this new,
lower, more angular look which is
highlighted by slim, slanted headlights and
bold feature lines, with the car's waistline
featuring a unique ''double crease'' which
works well, linking to those slim ''eyes'' to
give the model a much more modern
cohesive appearance than before.
With dark, metal-rimmed chin and tail
treatments that wrap under the front and
rear valances, the new styling also invests
the car in a very emphatic on-road stance,
and even if you opt for the base GX with
16-inch steel rims, the wheels and tyres fill
the wheel arches well, though the alloys on
other models (16-inch on the GLX and
17-inch on the Levin versions) look even
better. Inside, the cabin is crisper and
cleaner too, with some nice choices of
fabrics and plastic materials, with the
added class of stitched leather-look panels
in the dash and fascia on top models.
The new model starts off with GX and GLX
models (cheaper by $1000 and $2000
respectively than before) but the range now
adds posher Levin SX and Levin ZR
The first thing you notice when driving the
car is the quietness and the smooth, flare-
free behaviour of the seven-step CVT. It
turns the idea of a Corolla as an ordinary
car into something much better than that.
A 100kmh cruise takes a hair less than
2000rpm when throttled back on the
highway, and with commendably calmed
road noise and just a flutter of wind sighing
around the side mirrors it's a remarkably
relaxed drive. It has to be said that such
quietness makes the standard fitment of
cruise control a necessary one if you want
to keep your licence and to maintain the
promised 6.6L/100km economy rating.
On the launch route I managed that figure
quite easily according to the on-board
computer - which is refreshing during a
week in which Korean makers have been
slammed for ''overstating'' their models'
economy figures in the US.
It was mainly open-road running, but in
barely run-in cars and working the engine
hard on the hills and pleasingly difficult
backroad twisties in the Manawatu such a
figure is impressive indeed.
With a similar wheelbase to the old car and
a lower roofline, I didn't expect the Corolla
to feel as spacious as it does. This is
brought about largely because of the deeper
side glasses and the 40mm lower hip point
which conspire to impart a remarkably
roomy feel. The car seems so much bigger
inside than before, even if the actual
dimensions say that's not quite the case.
However, sitting in the rear, I can't
remember having quite as much space
between the back of the front seats and my
knees before. Toyota may have moved the
rear seat pivot rearward a touch, but if they
did, they did not say so.
The steering column is adjustable for tilt
and reach and particularly with the
sporting seats of the Levin models, the
driving position could be made to feel very
secure and comfortable.
In the GX and GLX models, the seating has
cheaper cloth and the steering wheels are
vinyl finished, but the sitting and driving
experience is still pretty decent and among
its lower-level competitors, the Corolla still
feels special inside.
It feels special nearly everywhere, truth be
known. After two generations of adequate
but ultimately disappointing Corollas, this
eleventh generation model is a cracker.
Despite having much of the old model in it,
in the form of its basic underpinnings and
powertrain, Toyota's execution of the latest
iteration of its staple range adds so much
more style, character and desirability in
the model than I can ever remember.
Certainly a lot more than that first wee
custard yellow one I remember .
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