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New car review

Toyota Corolla review

Toyota has resurrected the Corolla name with a great package. This is a car with an eco-friendly hybrid drivetrain that offers plenty of space and looks good.

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Design
8.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving
7.0
Value for money
8.0
Safety
9.0

Summary

Toyota has revived the Corolla name with the most effective model ever. This is a car for mainstream buyers, who will be happy with the eco-friendly hybrid drivetrain encased in a car that offers more space than its predecessor and looks a whole lot more attractive.

Summary

Toyota has revived the Corolla name with the most effective model ever. This is a car for mainstream buyers, who will be happy with the eco-friendly hybrid drivetrain encased in a car that offers more space than its predecessor and looks a whole lot more attractive.
 

Inside the Toyota Corolla

The TNGA platform adds 4cm to the length of the hatchback (compared to the previous Auris) while the Touring Sports estate is 10cm longer than its predecessor. Contributing to the more distinctive exterior look is a design that pushes the wheels closer to the corners, reducing the overhangs and extending the wheelbase by the same as the car itself – 4cm in the hatch and a significant 10cm in the estate.

What this means is rather more interior room. This is a spacious car to sit in, front or back, and it still offers plenty of headroom despite losing 2cm off its height – another legacy of TNGA.

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Boot space in the hatch with all seats in place measures up at 361 litres – that’s 20 more than the segment-leading Ford Focus, but note that if you choose the 2.0-litre hybrid, which has more battery cells, you lose a whole 54 litres… The Touring Sports offers 598 litres and the 2.0-litre only cuts 17 of these.

This is well-designed space – the back seats can be dropped in an instant using a lever, and the Touring Sports, in particular, is designed for intensive use. It boasts such niceties as a two-level boot floor that is reversible, with a more hard-wearing surface on one side to cope with muddy boots and such.

Throughout the cabin fit and finish is well up to Toyota’s current high-quality standards. The front-end layout is good too – the digital driver’s information screen fitted to all but entry-level cars is worth having, practically laid out with a lot of information options offered through the centre section.

Shame we can’t say the same for the big infotainment screen. It follows the current trend to being stuck on top of the centre console, but a neatly designed frame does integrate it rather more effectively into the console compared to many rivals.

But the system itself is a disappointment, being somewhat clunky to use with graphics that lag behind rivals. And this is more of an issue due to the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone compatibility – a surprising failing from a brand of Toyota’s prominence.

Driving the Toyota Corolla

On the launch event in Majorca, we got to drive cars with the 1.8-litre and the new 2.0-litre hybrid engines – as mentioned Toyota expects these to take 90% of Corolla sales.

The two engines are different to each other – the 1.8-litre is basically the system already offered in the Prius and C-HR, while the 2.0-litre is an all-new design with those space-eating extra battery cells.

More cells mean more output, at 181 rather than 122hp and as a result 2.0-litre Corolla hatches pass 62mph from rest in just 7.9 seconds compared to the 10.9 of the 1.8. Touring Sports models, by the way, are just two tenths slower.

 
 

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Of course, it is fuel efficiency that drives buyers to hybrids. Under the latest stricter WLTP testing method, we are talking between 55 and 65mpg for the 1.8-litre (in either hatch or estate), the 2.0-litre between 50 and 60mpg.

CO2 emissions are still quoted under the old NEDC measuring methods until 2020, and the 1.8-litre hatch is rated at 76 to 83g/km (depending on wheel size), the 2.0-litre at 89 – so among the cleanest cars on the market that are not full EVs.

The extra potency of the 2.0-litre is pitched towards those who don’t just want fuel efficiency. It comes with a different transmission which means the driver gains the very un-hybrid-like addition of gearshift paddles for some extra control.

This would be good if the car provided an enthusiastic on-the-road performance, but sadly it doesn’t. Whichever engine you drive with, the Corolla is a car that does not respond at its best to being pushed on – do this and you feel disconnected, the handling innocuous and the engine not responding with the alacrity an increasingly coarse hybrid audio note suggests.

The hybrid Corolla is at its best in cruise mode – it eats up motorway miles easily and around a busy town driving it is a relaxing and almost silent experience. So basically it will suit the vast majority of its potential audience.

Summary

The negative press that the Corolla has attracted in the past is a fallacy – it has been a very successful model for Toyota, with almost 50 million sold so far. The bad news for Toyota’s rivals is that the new Corolla has all the qualities of previous models but has also addressed the criticisms – particularly the styling, as the new one is an attractive car to look at.

Will buyers be put off by the fact that hybrids dominate the Corolla sales pitch? Unlikely – the hybrid offers significant economy savings and all the tax advantages that come with it. Okay, it throws in the towel if you try to drive it like a sports car – but few Corolla owners will want to do that, and if you really can’t abide the idea of an electric motor under the bonnet there is a petrol option.

This is by far the most effective Corolla yet and if you think that’s damning the car with faint praise, go take a look at one.

Good points

  • Distinctive, attractive styling
  • Efficiency of hybrid powertrain
  • Extensive standard safety package

Bad points

  • Hybrid does not match efficiency with enthusiasm
  • Less than user-friendly infotainment system
  • No Apple Carplay or Android Auto compatibility

Key specifications

Make & model Toyota Corolla Ford Focus Volkswagen Golf
Specification 1.8 Icon Tech 1.0 Ecoboost Zetec 1.5 TSI SE Nav
Price (on-road) £24,800 (range starts £21,300) £21,500 (range starts £18,300) £23,780 (range starts £18,440)
Engine 1.8-litre hybrid 1.0-litre petrol 1.5-litre petrol
Transmission Auto Auto Auto
Power 122 hp 120 hp 130 hp
Torque 142 Nm 200 Nm 200 Nm
0-62mph 10.9 sec 11.1 sec 9.1 sec
Top speed 112 mph 121 mph 130 mph
Fuel economy (combined) 85.6 mpg (NEDC) 50.4 mpg (NEDC) 57.6 mpg (NEDC)
CO2 76 g/km (NEDC)
101 g/km (WLTP)
126 g/km (NEDC) 111 g/km (NEDC)
Insurance Group TBC 12E 15
Euro NCAP rating Not yet tested 5 stars (2018) 5 stars (2012)*

* rating expired January 2019, so the Golf’s five-star rating is no longer valid

Design
8.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving
7.0
Value for money
8.0
Safety
9.0

Summary

Toyota has revived the Corolla name with the most effective model ever. This is a car for mainstream buyers, who will be happy with the eco-friendly hybrid drivetrain encased in a car that offers more space than its predecessor and looks a whole lot more attractive.
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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