Toyota’s most popular car, and Australia’s number one selling vehicle – the Toyota Corolla hatch – has been given a nip-tuck for 2015. The mid life update not only brings revised styling but also a two-tiered model strategy to cater for all tastes.
The entry-level Ascent and Ascent Sport variants share similar styling with the facelifted Toyota Auris from Europe, while the sports-flavoured SX (as tested here) and flagship ZR feature the more aggressive design borrowed from Toyota-owned, youth-oriented Scion iM from the United States.
With persistently fierce competition in the segment, Toyota has also sharpened the rejuvenated Corolla’s pricing, with the Ascent six-speed manual now dipping under $20,000, at $19,790 plus on-roads. The Ascent Sport adds another $1,000 to the price, coming in at $20,790. Our SX is priced from $23,490, while the range-topping ZR jumps to $28,990, which is $1,000 cheaper than the previous ZR Levin.
The 7-speed CVT is a $2,000 option across the board. Specifying metallic or pearl paint will add another $450 to the price list.
Obvious changes include new LED infused headlights (the SX misses out on the LED daytime light of the ZR), LED taillights with light guides, a new set of 17-inch alloy wheels with brighter, machined highlights, shark-fin antenna and a vociferous body kit that looks too tagged-on for our liking.
Inside, Toyota’s designers have refreshed the dashboard design with cleaner integration of the instruments and higher quality plastics. There’s a new 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system (6.1-inch on Ascent) with satellite navigation and SUNA real-time traffic updates, and a 4.2-inch colour multi-info display in front of the driver.
The new instruments now feature a cool blue illumination with a three-gauge design for Ascent and Ascent Sport, and a double-gauge set for the SX and ZR.
Our SX also comes with sporty black-and-orange leather seats that help lift cabin ambience.
Standard features carried over from its predecessor include keyless entry and push-button start and auto-dimming rear view mirror. And while there’s power windows all round, only the driver’s side window gets auto up and down. A rear seat centre arm rest is also missing on all but the range-topping ZR variant.
The Corolla’s five-star ANCAP crash rating remains, thanks to the standard seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags). However, it misses out on advanced driver assistant systems such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking that are offered on some of its rivals, including the Ford Focus and Mazda3.
While the refreshed Corolla does look somewhat better than the previous model – especially in SX guise – its styling lacks the cohesiveness of key rivals such as the Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf. Toyota has a tendency to over design their body kits and it’s no exception with the Corolla. Still, there’s no reason to see 2015 Toyota Corolla ceding its podium position.
When we picked up the car, a Toyota representative proudly pointed out the new giant infotainment touch screen that dominates the dashboard. It is Toyota’s best effort yet, integrating neatly with the rest of the dash and adding a touch of class to the interior.
The system itself is relatively easy to use, too, with menus that are easily accessible. The graphics are however, not the most pleasing to the eye and you’ll need to bring the car to a halt before you can input a destination for the sat
Like most cars today, there’s voice control that lets you input the address by speaking to it but it is infuriating to use most of the time.
The 2015 Corolla continues to be a comfortable small car to buzz around in with good refinement that is an improvement on the old model. The seats are supportive and snug, with a decent driving position, while there’s plenty of storage space dotted throughout the cabin.
It’s a different story when it comes to boot space as there’s only 280 litres of capacity, which is meager compared to others in its class. The Volkswagen Golf, for example, has 380 litres. Some buyers may also be disappointed with the space-saver spare offered with the Corolla but it is increasingly rare to find a full sized spare these days when every gram counts. Other gripes include rear seat legroom that is not the most generous, with taller passengers likely to feel the squeeze.
Toyota says the revamped hatch is now more dynamic to drive, thanks to revisions to the front and rear suspension. The car’s MacPherson strut front suspension now incorporates revised front shock absorbers, stabilizer bushes and coils to improve ride comfort as well as handling stability.
The coil shape has been changed with lateral force-reducing springs utilized to aid ride comfort while the twist resistance of the strut bearing has been reduced, contributing to steering feel. Mapping for the electric steering has been tuned for additional steering weight as speed increases.
The Corolla’s torsion-beam rear suspension has also been retuned to enhance ride comfort as well as improved handling and stability.
A blast through some of Adelaide Hills’ awesome twisty roads confirms Toyota’s claim. The car rides noticeably better, dutifully absorbing major road undulations and potholes with ease. Its dynamics has also improved, with decent turn in aided by a precise steering. There is still minor body roll if you are overly aggressive when hitting a corner, but most Corolla drivers are unlikely to race around an apex like we do.
Granted, it still isn’t as sharp as a Ford Focus or even the latest Peugeot 308, but it is a big step forward for the Corolla. Refreshingly, Toyota has finally listened to our complaints. For the first time ever, the ESP doesn’t unleash its vice like grip like an Advil coming down on a headache. Instead, it will gently correct your mistakes with the subtlety of a well-trained butler.
The Corolla carries over its existing 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers 103kW at 6,400rpm and 173Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. However, fuel efficiency has improved across the board. Toyota claims the CVT-equipped Corolla, such as that fitted to our test car, now consumes just 6.1L/100km – commendable for a naturally aspirated engine. Although on test, we struggle to get under 9.7L/100km across a mix of city and freeway traverse.
The car’s engine response is good and matches well with the CVT on the whole. However, it can a little noisy at above 3,000rpm. You will also want to engage the wheel-mounted paddle shifters for spirited drive as its performance is lack luster if left to its on device.
The 2015 Toyota Corolla will no doubt continue to be a sales star for its maker, thanks to tangible improvement in all areas. It is generously equipped and comes with Toyota’s solid reputation for reliability.
Importantly, it is now more exciting to drive, too.
While the Corolla hatch is covered by Toyota Service Advantage (which means a capped price of $140 for the first 6 scheduled service in the first 3 years or 60,000km), owners are required to service their vehicles every 6 months or 10,000km, instead of 12 months/15,000km on some of its rivals.
|Price (Excluding on-roads):||From $19,790|
|Ascent – $19,790, Ascent Sport – $20,790|
|SX – $23,490 / As tested: $25,940**includes:7-speed Multi-drive – $2,000
Metallic paint – $450
|ZR (Multi-drive only) – $28,990|
|Service Intervals:||6 months/10,000km|
|Engine:||1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol: 103kW @ 6,400rpm, 173Nm @ 4,000rpm, front-wheel drive|
|Transmission:||6-speed manual/7-speed CVT|
|0-100km/h (seconds):||Not tested|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 6.7/Tested: 9.7|
|Body:||5-door hatch, 5-seats|
|Dimension: L/W/H/W-B (mm):||4,330/1,760/1,475/2,600|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,310|
|Towing Capacity:||Braked: 1,300/Unbraked: 450|