Toyota Corolla (sedan): Rolled gold for old

Riley Riley

corollaWhat is it?

The Corolla sedan is something of an anachronism, given the market’s current penchant for utes and SUVs.

But we’re guessing the sedan still has a strong following among older folk, who are drawn to the Toyota name and the trusted, familiar design.

The good news is that, along with the reputation, it’s a lot sleeker, sexier and roomier these days, and even the petrol model uses hardly any fuel.

Oh, what a feeling!


What’s it cost?

Prices for the Corolla sedan start from $23,335 before on-roads for the Ascent Sport, with a petrol engine and 6-speed manual.

Mid-range SX is priced from $28,235 with the inclusion of an auto, while the top of the range ZR, also with an auto, goes for $33,635.

You can have hybrid versions of the Ascent Sport and SX too, with a 1.8-litre-based hybrid powertrain — priced from $26,335 and $29,735 respectively.

Petrol models roll on 16-inch wheels, the hybrid on smaller 15s.

Our test vehicle was fitted with 205/55 series Bridgestone Ecopia rubber and comes with a space saver spare.

Standard kit includes Auto LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights,

Inside you’ll find all new cloth trim seats, single zone climate control (manual aircon for Ascent Sport petrol), and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with Siri, voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

SX adds keyless start, digital radio, satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic alerts, a wireless phone charger and premium three-spoke steering wheel with paddle gear shifters (petrol only) for the 10-speed sequential shift CVT.

No mention of auto wipers, front or rear parking sensors, and an auto dimming rear mirror is restricted to the top of the line ZR.

All variants feature a comprehensive suite of Toyota Safety Sense driver assistance, with seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) provided by the pre-collision safety system (PCS), active cruise control, lane trace assist (CVT-only), lane departure warning (manual gearbox), road sign assist and auto high beam.

Added to that are reversing camera and seven airbags, with SX variants also gaining blind spot monitor.

The cost of servicing is capped at $175 per visit, with 12-month/15,000km intervals.


What’s it go like?

Petrol variants like our SX test vehicle get a 2.0-litre engine that produces 125kW at 6600rpm and peak torque of 200Nm between 4400rpm and 4800rpm.

It’s the same engine as in the hatch and is coupled with a “direct shift” CVT transmission with 10 “steps” or gears, and a physical first gear to deliver quicker, smoother launches.

The new CVT incorporates a series of electronic controls to optimise economy, performance, acceleration feel, shift timing and downshifts for engine braking.

Okay, we thought, so why does the hell does it feel completely different to the ZR hatch with the same engine and transmission that we drove not too long ago?

There’s a Sport button, but hatch gets three drive modes — Sport, ECO and Normal modes.

It also had larger 18 inch wheels with low profile rubber.

The Sport button in the SX feels like a placebo, having little discernible effect on the way the car drives.

The main difference, I suspect, lies in the driver response to the cars.

Subliminally, the sporty ZR hatch encourages the driver to drive enthusiastically — let’s say like a revhead.

The more staid design of the sedan however tends to illicit a slower, more conservative approach to driving.

Punch the accelerator, start changing gears manually, attack corners at higher velocity and that perception starts to change — they start to feel more alike.

That’s my theory anyway and I’m sticking with it.

At 4630mm in length, the sedan sits on a slightly longer, 2700mm wheelbase, and is slightly longer and wider than the previous generation sedan.

The new architecture offers a wide, stable platform complemented by new suspension and electronic controls including active cornering assist.

At the front, the MacPherson strut suspension has been substantially upgraded with new geometry and components.

The rear features an all-new multi-link system designed to offer excellent handling, stability and ride comfort and still enable a large capacity boot.

Steering, ride and handling are in a word superb and should be the benchmark for the segment.

The ride is smooth, it’s quiet inside and remains composed even on back roads, with some understeer if you really push the issue.

Getting in and out of the car is relatively easy, thanks to wide opening doors and a user friendly ride height.

The seats are firm but comfortable, even for older, more ample frames, providing support in all the right places

But there’s a general lack of storage in the cabin, especially in the centre console where it’s needed.

It has a small lidded storage bin, containing USB and power sockets, two cupholders and a small tray area up front that has been given over to wireless phone charging.

The door bins are narrow too, only just able to accommodate a water bottle.

With a 50-litre tank, fuel consumption is a claimed 6.0L/100km for this model.

We were getting 6.2L/100km after more than 400km and it takes standard, 91 unleaded.

And, in case you’re wondering, the sedan can tow a 1300kg load (but you can’t tow anything with the hybrid).


What we like?

  • Modern looks
  • Easy to drive
  • Easy entry and exit
  • Large easy to use infotainment
  • Separate boot
  • Low fuel consumption


What we don’t like?

  • Slurry CVT transmission
  • It has a tacho!
  • No rear air vents
  • No centre console storage


The bottom line?

It’s a very accomplished car and it bloody well should be, given the number of years Toyota has been pumping these things out. But we’d be sure and check out the competition before making any hasty decisions. The competitively priced and perhaps larger Honda Civic sedan range springs to mind.


CHECKOUT: Toyota Corolla: petrol versus hybrid?

CHECKOUT: Hybrid option for all Corollas


Toyota Corolla SX sedan, priced from $28,235
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10