My Australian motoring experience started early one morning at Kingsford Smith Airport in a rented BA Ford Falcon XR6. I remember my wife looking at the purple (ish) car with its added aerodynamic features and then back at me with an “Ooookay”, a bit of a pause and then with her best newly-found Australian accent, “Let’s go, mate!”.
Come to think of it, my acquaintance with Australian made vehicles started a few years before that with a South African delivered Ford Falcon, owned by my then boss. The man loved power boats and participated in the national F1 power boat series. He bought the Falcon (think it was an EL, late '90s) to tow his boat to and from racing events, usually at speed. Some work colleagues refused to drive with him, and the red Falcon became a bit of a legend under junior employees.
But I digress. Another thing I recall after being in transit for 20 hours with two toddlers was the fuel consumption readout creeping up and then over 15L/100km during the morning Sydney traffic.
Before arriving in Australia, I spent six months driving a small, three-cylinder hatchback in Europe and no matter what I tried, I was unable to get it UP to the magic 8.0L/100km mark. We drove straight from the airport to a Toyota dealership in the Southern outskirts of Sydney to collect our new 2008 Toyota Corolla Conquest manual sedan.
Our main reason for buying the Corolla was most likely the same reason Toyota keeps on topping the sales charts in Australia. A few months before arriving in Australia, I contacted all the main manufacturers’ dealerships located near our planned temporary address in Sydney. I asked whether they would be able to have a small manual sedan available on our scheduled day of arrival, assist us with all the registrations processes and in return I will pay the full list price in advance.
Easy money? You would have thought. Anyway, one reply, one Corolla later.
My first proper drive in Australia was from Bowral down to Nowra, via Kangaroo Valley. I was pleasantly surprised by the route and the scenery. An additional reward was my two-year-old throwing up in the car and officially welcoming it to the family with only 715km on the clock.
The car was our primary family vehicle for two years in which we managed to accumulate 40,000 of largely eventless kilometres. Over the next eight years it only did 60,000km of mostly short distance daily commuting duties as the secondary vehicle in the household.
Over its 10-year life it resided in rural towns, capital cities and up in far north Queensland. Fuel consumption varied between 6.5L/100km (Hume Highway commute) and 10L/100km (idling up in north Queensland at the school pick-up).
Maintenance was hassle free and cheap during the three-year warranty period (6 monthly/10,000km intervals). After the warranty period the vehicle was only serviced on an annual basis by either me or an independent workshop.
The only noteworthy additional service item being that only quality synthetic oils were used in the services conducted after the warranty period.
The vehicle had four recalls during the period of the review (one window switch, one fuel tank filter gasket and two airbag related). The radio also decided to give up at around year four and was replaced by an Alpine unit. I also noted a faint dried pink spray under the bonnet at about nine years/90,000 km. After cleaning up the area and keeping an eye on the fluid levels it never reoccurred but I did replace the water pump in any case (there is something about Toyota water pumps).
Excluding logbook items, the only other items replaced were brake pads (once for age mostly), two batteries (at five and nine years), one park light bulb and three sets of key batteries. I also once had to clean the contact points in the lights/indicator assembly stalk when the headlights started to intermittently not turn on when the switch was turned from the “off” to the “on” position. There were no other electrical or mechanical issues with the car. It started and brought us back home each and every time over the last 10 years/100,000 km.
The original tyres were Dunlop Sport SP 01 which I found more than adequate for the vehicle’s intended use and target market.
The Corolla was never bought with driving enjoyment as a main consideration, but the lack of steering feedback was disappointing.
The interior and exterior of the vehicle held up well. The car is fortunate to have spent most of its time under cover. I tend to keep my cars clean, not meticulously, but clean cars tend to break down less or so does the old mechanics’ saying goes.
We were thinking of replacing the Corolla at the 10-year mark for something with the latest safety gear. My partner is adamant that it needs to be manual (bless her) and that poses a bit of a problem.
I hope the new Mazda 3s will be specced with manuals throughout the range because the pickings are getting slimmer and slimmer on the manual front. The replacement vehicle will mostly likely be owned for an extended period as well, which makes a Corolla, whether you like it or not, the default option.
All said, it is going to be difficult to send the old dog that you never really loved but was always waiting at the gate, never got sick, obey commands, played with the kids, ate the cheap no-name brand dog food and didn’t dig holes or destroy the furniture, to the… “farm”.
NOTE: With no exterior image supplied, a press image has been added to this story. The model shown is the Ultima spec.