Toyota Corolla (2019-present)

The Toyota Corolla returns with familiar hybrid efficiency and practicality - but with style too

The 52-year-old Toyota Corolla nameplate is one of the best selling in the world, with the Japanese manufacturer shifting over 50 million units globally during its long and illustrious career.

But it never inspired British buyers, and the name was even replaced by Auris for several years - which wasn’t particularly successful either.

Now Toyota CEO Akido Toyoda has stated that his company would make "no more boring cars”, and the Corolla is back - promising style and driving fun, alongside its familiar traits of practicality and efficiency.

Available in Hatch, Touring Sports (estate to most) and Saloon, new Corolla measures 40mm longer and 25mm lower than the outgoing Auris hatchback, while both front and rear overhangs have been reduced by 20mm to give this machine a more purposeful stance on the road.

A narrow upper grille, 'clamshell' bonnet and striking LED headlights sit at the very front of the vehicle, while a lower roofline and a small rear spoiler give the car a touch of sportiness that was lacking in previous generations.

The Sports Touring might look the same from the front, but every panel rear of the centre pillar is exclusive to the model and that elongated tail allows for additional storage room that, we're told, can swallow a large mountain bike when laid flat.

Finally, Toyota is offering the latest Corolla in a Saloon model, which receives its very own exterior design language that we can't help but think looks a little dated compared to its hatch and estate siblings. It's probably telling that the company doesn't expect to sell very many in the UK.

Inside, the new Corolla feels modern and fresh, with a neat dashboard that wraps around driver and front passenger, its chrome detailing and surrounds elevating giving it a nice premium feel.

However, the largest eight-inch Toyota Touch 2 system looks like it has been bolted on to the middle of the dash, rather than elegantly factored in to the rest of the pleasingly symmetrical design. It also lacks Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and other advanced smartphone functionality, but Toyota says it will introduce more online services and apps in the months to come.

Space in the rear of all three body styles feels a little cramped, seeing as that the swooping roofline impedes on headroom for those taller passengers, but a clever multi-layered boot in the Touring Sports model ensures plenty of space for prams, dogs and other family appurtenances.

A relatively weedy 1.2-litre petrol engine powers the most basic Corolla models but Toyota's new range of hybrid powertrains is destined to be the most popular. This consists of either a 1.8-litre petrol engine or a more powerful 2.0-litre engine version, which team up with on-board battery packs and an electric motor.

Unlike plug-in variants, this hybrid system automatically switches between charging the on-board batteries and using any stored energy to boost performance or assist in low speed traffic scenarios. No need to plug in to an outlet to charge.

Despite featuring an EV mode, the pure electric system only lasts for a couple of miles (at very low speeds) before the engine kicks in and begins the process of topping up the small battery packs stashed beneath the bodywork.

In most driving situations, the system cleverly juggles between internal combustion engine and electrical assistance without the driver knowing. According to studies carried out in Paris and Rome, 62 per cent of Toyota hybrid journeys are completed in zero emissions EV mode, which results in an impressive fuel economy figure of up to 65mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 73g/km.

At snail's pace around town or at motorway cruising speed, it is quiet, refined and extremely comfortable, but things get a bit wayward when the roads get more enjoyable and that's predominantly down to the noisy, droning CVT gearbox.
Keenly priced at £21,300 for the most basic 1.2-litre petrol Hatchback Icon models, the Corolla look set to compete with the likes of VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus in this guise, but finding a rival hybrid hatchback is more difficult.

Buyers will have to look towards options like the Kia Niro, Hyundai Ioniq, Mini Countryman Cooper SE All4 or the much larger Ford Mondeo hybrid, for example.

On top of this, the Japanese marque keen to point out that its monthly PCP payments will likely be in the low £200s for the most basic models and rise to just under £250 per month for the most generously specified Excel Hybrid models, making this purchasing model particularly enticing for those buyers with small deposits and tight monthly budgets.

Last Updated 

Thursday, February 28, 2019 - 23:00