The brand new Toyota Corolla is finally here and looking to overthrow the Holden VE Commodore as Australia’s number one selling vehicle.
Made in Japan and powered by a 100kW 1.8-litre engine, the new Corolla is taking on the aging Mazda3, the soon to be updated Ford Focus and Mitsubishi’s nearly replaced Lancer. In essence, the Corolla arrived first, ahead of all its competitors. If you are after technical specifications, click here.
Today I found myself behind the wheel of a six-speed manual Corolla Conquest Hatch followed by a Corolla Conquest Sedan (auto). First impressions? It really isn’t as ugly as it looks in all the photos, infact the Hatch conquest with the foglights (pictured) looks a treat both at the front and the rear, I called it ugly before, and whilst I think the Sedan is still hideous (at least at the front), I can live with the Hatch (in graphite colour).
The Corolla suffered a very early setback with the steering column clips, but all cars that have made it to dealerships have been checked now. As far as interior quality goes, the Corolla is leaps and bounds ahead of its smaller brother, the Toyota Yaris which resembles a cheap and used Korean motel stuck in a time warp.
The Hatch has a slightly different interior to the Sedan with the gear stick sitting up slightly higher and with the addition of a few cup holders here and there, apart from that, it’s pretty much the same.
The base model Ascent, is really not worth the price. For the extra ~$4,500 for the Conquest, you get fog lights, cruise control, seven airbags, a bluetooth compatible stereo, 16″ alloys, rear and front power windows and a spoiler. It give sthe car a whole new perspective, definitely worth the upgrade.
Comparing the quality of the interior to say, the Ford Focus or the Mazda 3, despite its old age, the Mazda 3 still feels better built on the inside. However the Corolla’s new innovative use of space gives many nice and hidden compartments to store nearly everything.
When I started up the six-speed manual, I was a little pessimistic, sure six-gears is great, but does the Corolla really need it? Or it is just a marketing ploy? After about an hour of driving, I realized I still hadn’t really gone into sixth gear, there is just not enough power to use sixth gear apart from highway diving, and after all thats really what its there for.
Does it really need a six-speed? The gear ratios were a little shorter than I would have liked – and the clutch – what clutch? It felt just as light as the one in the Yaris. Nevertheless having to jump between third and forth constantly was a bit of pain, but overall if there was still an option for a five-speed instead of the six, I’d still tick the six-speed as it gives better fuel economy and lets be honest, you don’t buy a Corolla for its performance.
Toyota says the manual Corolla gets from 0-100km in 9.7 seconds and has a fuel economy of 7.4L/100km (using 91 RON fuel), however in reality unless you are going to be brutal on take off and on the gearbox, the 0-100 times are going to be around the 11 second mark. In other words, incredibly slow.
So onto the Auto and truth be told, I would never buy the Corolla in a manual, although a great deal of private buyers opt out for the manual (to save $2,000), given the type of car the Corolla is, I think the auto would be the ideal choice. Unfortunately, the car is still driven via an ancient four-speed gearbox, and it really does struggle.
With 3 people in the car, the aircon on and pushing the pedal all the way down, the gearbox hesitates before changing down and power delivery is a little on the down side, however casual driving is smooth and the gear changes are seamless up or down. But I will admit, the auto gearbox is not as responsive as the one found in the Mazda 3 and the Ford Focus (although they are both powered by a 2.0-litre not a 1.8)
The Automatic uses a little more fuel (7.7L/100km) and does the 0-100km/hr dash in 11.1 seconds, which means you’ll be keeping your foot all the way down when merging on the highway.
The steering is incredibly light, this car is aimed at everyone and the steering and general feel easily reflects this. Driving around roundabouts and corners the Corolla felt incredibly stable, although the car lacks Electronic Stability Control (a feature available on the Mazda3), the Corolla’s chassis is capable of some hard cornering without complaints.
The seats are relatively comfortable, however I wouldn’t plan a trip from Brisbane to Sydney in this thing. This isn’t a cruising car, on the highway the car feels incapable of basic overtaking, you simply dont have the power to overtake, which is a big problem if your a right foot driver.
The steering wheel comes equipped with audio controls and whilst I couldn’t work out how to connect my phone via bluetooth, I was assured that the feature was there and it was easy to setup. The rear seats felt a little too cheap for my liking, and don’t expect to comfortably (and effortlessly) take five large adults on long trips.
The Corolla has some nifty features such as adjustable headlights, so you can adjust the angle of your front lights incase your car is weighed down or if your going up hill. However this is done manually at can be a huge distraction while driving (as I found out).
Would you buy the Hatch or the Sedan? I would buy the Hatch, the Sedan is 20cm longer, and whilst it has a bigger boot, the sedan has the option of carrying larger items with the rear seats folding down. Furthermore as mentioned, the gear stick is in a far more practical location in the hatch whilst the centre storage compartment in the sedan is placed in a very unfriendly location causing a great deal of discomfort if your used to resting your left arm.
Overall the new Toyota Corolla does exactly what it is designed to do, the car felt great around the city and although it lacks some power on the highway, it makes it rather license friendly. As for the brakes, it was a case of either push it hard or you don’t stop. But that seems to be the case with all small cars.
The 2007 Toyota Corolla is a winner in my books, it can really do with another 15-20kW of power, and so far there are no figures for the cars performance on 98 RON fuel, I suspect it will achieve another 5kW. The 0-100km/hr times are just too slow and merging onto the highway becomes a little scary especially if there is not enough road to get up to speed. Nonetheless, for its target demographic – ’till the new Mazda3 arrives – I really can’t fault the Corolla.
Expect to walk away with the Corolla Conquest Auto (hatch or sedan) for around $28,500 drive away with a little haggling.
Pricing Table Follows :