6 / 10
A lot of people refer to the humble yet popular Corolla as “white goods” motoring which, if you are to take the glass half-full attitude, translates to a reliable, affordable and necessary piece of household equipment – not such a bad thing.
That being the case then in our push-button, touch-screen world it could well be said that the Corolla Ultima is indeed white goods motoring in the truest sense of the meaning – albeit with a stainless steel finish.
Though it might be viewed as conservative stylistically, the Corolla Ultima does set itself rightly at the top of the model range with a few subtle styling cues lending the upper spec sedan a little more class than its poorer siblings.
Handsome 16-inch alloy wheels with front and rear mudflaps, xenon-bulbed auto headlamps with washers and height adjustment, front fog lamps and chrome bright work under the side glass all do their bit in adding to the car’s overall appeal, without that is challenging convention or making any elitist statements.
Inside the roomy and well laid-out cabin you’ll find all the mod-cons you would expect of a top shelf small sedan including leather upholstery, leather wrapped tilt/slide steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, single-zone climate control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, smart card entry with push button starter, trip computer, power windows and mirrors and a six CD tuner with Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and auxiliary input.
The instrumentation, known as an ‘Optitron Combimetre’ in Toyota speak, is a stand-out item for me as it is very attractive, crisp, and informative while at the same time being simple to navigate. All ancillary controls too fall readily to hand providing no challenge to those who might be challenged by the whizz-bang equipment levels found in some similarly spec’ed rivals.
While the gadgetary offerings from the Corolla Ultima are indeed rewarding, the performance on hand is anything but, and while it’s certainly not the worst performing car I’ve driven in this category, the 1.8-litre VVTi four-cylinder it is a little asthmatic, especially with four adults on board.
Developing 100kW @ 6000rpm (and 175Nm @ 4400rpm) the written down figure isn’t really the issue, it’s the car’s ability to utilise the power effectively which is hampered primarily by a dated and slow to react four-speed automatic.
Although the transmission is very smooth of shift it is reluctant to kick-down in a timely manner meaning overtaking opportunities need to be a long planned affair. But should you intend a more leisurely, city-based role for your own Corolla Ultima this may not prove such an issue.
The ride is above average, comfortably settled yet not so firm as to be bothersome, and despite the torsion beam rear end (strut front), the Corolla Ultima manages fairly confident handling that is now assisted by ESP (or VSC in Toyota terms).
Add to this dual front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee airbag, as well as ABS with EBA and EBD, then it is a given the Corolla Ultima will achieve maximum points when next ANCAP tested (Corolla has not yet been tested with ESP – previous model scored 34.96 out of a possible 37 points to achieve five-stars).
Light but true steering feel somehow offers the driver an unremarkable level of feedback from the front wheels once at highway speeds while contrarily braking is sure and progressive with fade evident only after repeated excessive application.
An ample boot allows 450-litres of cargo to be carried with the seats up though this can be nearly doubled thanks to a 60:40 split fold back seat. The boot also houses a full-size (steel) spare wheel under the floor.
So while it may not get your heart racing in terms of looks or performance the Corolla Ultima is a pleasant and smooth drive with enough in the way of comfort and kit to keep you abreast of modern small-sedan motoring.
Were it a little cheaper the Corolla Ultima would have scored higher in our ratings but with Korea’s top-shelf rivals offering the same level of spec’ for much less coin it’s a worthy 3.5 wheels.
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