Corolla moves up a gear

Price: 29990
Engine: 1987cc four-cylinder VVT-iE petrol, max power 125kW@6600rpm, max torque 200Nm@4800rpm; 1798cc four-cylinder 16-valve DOHC VVT-I petrol and Hybrid Synergy Drive system with dual motor generator and lithium ion battery pack, max combined power 90kW
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive
Brakes and stability systems: Front and rear disc brakes, ABS, ESP, TC, & EAB
Safety: Five-star ANCAP
Wheels and tyres: Alloy wheels, 205/55 R16 (GX, SX) to 225/45 R18 (ZR)
Fuel and economy: 91 octane unleaded petrol 6.0l/100km (petrol) or 4.2l/100km (hybrid), capacity 50 litres (petrol) or 45 litres (hybrid)
Emissions: 139g (petrol)/ 97g (hybrid) CO2/km
Dimensions: Length 4370, width 1790, height 1435


Since its launch in 1996, the Toyota Corolla has ranked as the world’s biggest-selling car. Rob Maetzig gets behind the wheel of the soon-to-be released 12th-generation model to see how it compares. The world's most popular car - one that enjoys global sales at a remarkable rate of one every 15 seconds - has just moved into its 12th generation. The vehicle is the Toyota Corolla, which was first launched in 1966. In 1997, it surpassed the Volkswagen Golf as the world's biggest-selling car, and it is now heading towards cumulative sales of 45 million. Little wonder, then, that this compact Toyota is also New Zealand's most popular passenger vehicle. It is estimated there are 155,000 of them on our roads, and Toyota New Zealand expects to sell at least another 6000 Corollas over the next 12 months. Even before the car was officially launched on October 1, more than 200 had already been sold. "Without question, Corolla has been an incredible game-changer for Toyota,'' Toyota New Zealand's general manager of product and new vehicle sales Neeraj Lala said at the car's media launch in Palmerston North. So, will this latest-generation model have the goods to continue with that claim? The immediate answer is ... yes. The new Corolla is striking, has more personality and is certainly a better drive. The new Corolla hatch is longer, lower, wider and more expressive in design than the 11th-generation model, the petrol versions are powered by an all-new 2.0 litre engine mated to a new ``dynamic shift'' CVT auto, and a pair of hybrid models feature the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system as that aboard the Prius. In addition, all members of the new five-model Corolla fleet boast unprecedented safety specifications. The petrol-powered models start with an entry-level GX which, thanks to TNZ's recently introduced Drive Happy transaction pricing system, retails for a competitive $29,990. Then there are higher-specified $32,490 SX and $37,490 ZR versions. Meanwhile, there are now two hybrids to choose from - a GX which is specified to the same level as the petrol equivalent and is priced at $32,990, and a top ZR for $38,490. These are appealing prices when compared to other hybrids on offer. This new model brings excellent levels of safety technology to the small-car class. Even at the GX level it offers an array of active driver assistance and passive driver protection features, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist with lane departure alert and steering assist, lane centring and sway warning, and road sign assist. Powering the petrol Corolla is a new direct-injected 2.0 litre engine that offers 125kW of power and 200Nm of torque, which is 21% and 15% more than the previous model. But combined average fuel consumption has been improved, and is now rated at 6.0l/100km. A lengthy drive during the media event quickly showed the new engine offered spirited performance. It is helped along by the new CVT, which features a gear and belt drive system to improve efficiency in the lower ratios. The transmission uses a gear drive when the Corolla is starting from a full stop, giving it more powerful acceleration and getting rid of the momentary sluggish feel that is traditionally present with CVTs . Then, when the hatch is up and going, the CVT switches from the gear drive to belt drive. The CVT aboard all the petrol Corollas can also be operated in a 10-speed manual mode. With the GX this can be via the gearshift lever, while the SX and ZR variants also feature paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The hybrid models now have the same powertrain as the current Prius. The 1.8 litre engine and electric motor have a combined system output of 90kW, and average fuel consumption has been reduced to 4.2l/100km. This latest Corolla is built on the Japanese brand's Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, which not only allows for a lower centre of gravity, but which has also helped improve torsional rigidity by 60%. And while the front suspension remains MacPherson strut, the rear is now a trailing wishbone independent setup instead of the previous model's torsional beam. The result is a Corolla that offers much improved ride and handling. Combine that with the more powerful petrol engine and improved automatic transmission, and the 12th-generation model rates as the best Corolla yet.