Sleeker, sportier and pricier new Corolla arrives loaded with more safety tech and hybrids across the board

Toyota fully expects the new-generation Corolla – launching in hatchback form this week – to keep the Hyundai i30 and Mazda 3 at bay, and remain Australia’s number one passenger car.

When we say ‘new’, we really mean it. The MY19 Corolla sits on a version of Toyota’s TNGA modular architecture like the C-HR and Prius, has completely new exterior and interior designs, different engines, improved infotainment and “class-leading” safety.

There’s also been a demonstrable shift towards petrol-electric hybrid power, with all three specification levels now available with this alternative drivetrain at a $1500 impost. The Corolla/Camry hybrid duo clearly extends Toyota’s market leadership in this area.

Nothing comes free, though. The fleet-focused Ascent grade has been ditched (for now, anyway), while the Ascent Sport entry car’s $22,870 RRP is seven per cent higher than before. The actual price of entry to the range is now $2780 more than the previous model.

Boldly enough, this base manual Ascent Sport now costs more than an entry grade Holden Astra, Hyundai i30, Honda CivicMazda 3, Renault Megane or Subaru Impreza, though it's $1120 cheaper than entry Volkswagen Golf 110TSI.

Platform

The Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform is basically the company’s take on the modular formula popularised by the likes of Volkswagen and its MQB.

The new platform gives the Corolla a lower centre of gravity for a sportier feel, includes pricier multi-link rear suspension to improve road-holding, helps the body become 60 per cent more rigid, and improves the weight balance. In other words, the new Corolla actually likes corners.

Dimensionally, the new Corolla is 40mm lower, 30mm wider and 45mm longer than before, and gets a stretched wheelbase.

Drivetrains

Toyota still doesn't offer a turbo engine, preferring the Mazda philosophy of improving natural aspiration. The entry petrol engine is called Toyota Dynamic Force. We’ll spare you too much engineering talk, but it has very good thermal efficiency, direct injection and electrically-actuated ‘intelligent’ variable valve timing.

The old 1.8-litre engine may have been reliable and cheap to maintain, but the new one spanks it elsewhere. It’s a 2.0-litre unit with 125kW and 200Nm peak outputs, up 21 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. At least same time it uses less fuel, with a claim of just 6.0L/100km. It’ll also happily run on Australia’s atrocious 91 RON petrol.

The Ascent Sport can be had with a new six-speed manual gearbox with electronic rev-matching, lest you stuff up your downshifts. But the main gearbox will be the new automatic. It’s a weight-saving and fuel-conserving CVT, but not as we know it.

For one, it has a 10-speed sequential shifting mode with paddles to make it feel like a ‘conventional’ ‘box. It also has a specific fixed first gear to improve your launches. Once the car reaches a set speed, the transmission automatically shifts over to the CVT pulley system.

Toyota reckons you’re having your cake and eating it, too. All the fuel savings of a CVT without the slurring, raucous, clutch-slip-imitating behaviour of some other units of this type.

The other engine option is the “substantially upgraded” petrol-electric hybrid, which pairs a modified 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre engine running the Atkinson Cycle (better for fuel savings) with two motor generators (the main drive motor makes 53kW/163Nm), a 6.5Ah nickel-metal hydride battery, e-CVT and a new power control unit.

Oddly, the combined system output actually drops 10kW over the old model, to 90kW. And the fuel consumption grows from 4.1L/100km to 4.2L/100km. On the upside Toyota reckons this new version is quieter and smoother, and the $1500 price tag over the petrol is more affordable. Toyota expects a “substantial uptake” of sales.

Cabin and safety

Toyota calls the cabin more comfortable, refined and upmarket. It’s a bit wider, for one, while the slimmer dash is made of more premium materials than before.

The company says it has improved the ergonomics, while the design of the wheel and fascia is entirely overhauled. The de rigeur ‘floating’ tablet screen defines the look, while higher grade models and all the hybrids have a new 7.0-inch digital instrument display.

There’s also a better boot, with all models getting 60:40 split-folding back seats. The Ascent Sport 2.0 petrol has a full-size spare wheel, while the others have a temporary unit or, in the case of the ZR hybrid, a patch kit.

On the safety front, every variant gets seven airbags, a reversing camera, active cruise control that mirrors the car ahead and brings the car to a full stop (CVT only, manual cuts off at 30km/h), and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

“The new Corolla hatch brings unprecedented levels of advanced safety technology to the small car class with an array of active driver assistance and passive protection features,” Toyota reckons. It’s not wrong.

Quote

Toyota Australia’s vice-president sales and marketing, Sean Hanley:

“This all-new Corolla hatch leapfrogs everything in the affordable small-car segment and sets the new benchmark.

“Corolla has become the world’s and Australia’s best-selling passenger car – and the new Corolla hatch is even better through our commitment to produce more appealing and dynamic cars.

“Many of its ground-breaking technologies and class-leading features would normally be found in more expensive, prestige models.”

Specification breakdown by variant

Ascent Sport (above) 

  • 2.0-litre petrol with 6MT or CVT
  • 1.8-litre hybrid with CVT
  • Independent rear suspension
  • Electric power steering
  • Auto high beam LED headlights
  • 16-inch alloy wheels

 

  • Embossed fabric seats
  • 4.2-inch Multi Info Display (MID)
  • Urethane steering wheel
  • 8.0-inch colour touchscreen
  • One USB point/Bluetooth streaming
  • Voice control and Toyota Link
  • Manual air conditioning
  • Dual zone climate control (Hybrid only)
  • Electronic park brake
  • Keyless entry and start (Hybrid only)

 

  • AEB with pedestrian (day/night), cyclist detection (day)
  • All-speed active cruise control
  • Lane departure alert with steering assist
  • Road sign assist (speed signs)
  • Seven airbags
  • Reversing camera
  • ISOFIX child restraint anchors

SX extras^

  • Privacy glass
  • ‘Premium’ steering wheel
  • Blind-spot monitor
  • Dual zone climate control
  • Wireless Qi phone charger
  • Proximity key
  • DAB+ digital radio
  • Satellite navigation with SUNA

ZR extras^

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Leather/ultrasuede seats with heating
  • Larger digital instruments
  • Ambient cabin lighting
  • Head-up display
  • JBL premium 8-speaker audio

2018 Toyota Corolla hatch pricing (before on-road costs):

Variant Drivetrain RRP
Ascent Sport2.0 petrol, manual$22,870 (+ $1660)
Ascent Sport2.0 petrol, auto$24,370 (+ $1120)
Ascent SportHybrid $25,870  
SX2.0 petrol, auto$26,870 (+ $870)
SXHybrid $28,370
ZR2.0 petrol, auto$30,370 (+ $350)
ZR Hybrid $31,870

Options:

  • Ascent Sport: Satellite navigation and privacy glass - $1000
  • All grades: Premium paint - $550

Servicing:

Toyota Service Advantage capped-price servicing at a maximum of $175 per service.