New Toyota Corolla: return of the hatch

By Miles Downard

Toyota’s Corolla has become pretty synonymous with one thing; Uber. Not a bad thing for the sales numbers – and indeed a testament to the reliability and build quality considering the abuse an Uber car goes through – but one would be hard-pressed to say a Corolla is high on the desire list.

That’s all going to change in my opinion because Toyota recently unveiled this, the Corolla Hatch. And my does it look desirable (and nothing like an Uber).

What’s good?

The new design and lack of a boot really brings the Corolla into the modern era. It’s got sharp lines where it needs them complimented by the right kind of curves, putting the car in the ballpark with the likes of VW’s Golf, the Opel Astra and the Korean duo of Hyundai and Kia’s similar hatchbacks.

The interior has received a similar make over. A nice big touch screen infotainment system takes centre stage in the middle of the dashboard and has all of the gadgets like Bluetooth, Carplay and Android Auto. Nice climate controls and other switchgear finish off what’s an interesting design all round.

The seats are something to mention here as well. Up front you’re met with nice form fitting quasi-bucket-seats that not only look the part but are very comfy too.

Powering the Corolla is a 1.2 litre turbo charged petrol unit available with a CVT auto gearbox or a good old 6 speed manual. Personally I find the auto the best combination with the motor, thanks to one of the better CVT implementations working nicely to smooth out the slightly peaky nature of a small capacity turbo charged engine. Out on the road the car felt fairly supple over bumps and ruts, overall delivering a nice driving experience.

Read also: Lexus ES: redefining comfort

What’s not so good?

As I alluded to above, the manual gearbox derivative of the Corolla isn’t my favourite. The clutch is exceptionally light making it unusually difficult to find a balance on pull off or a gear change.

I also wasn’t overly impressed with our fuel consumption achieved over a day of driving the car down in the Western Cape. We managed 8.2 l/100km in the CVT and 7.6 l/100km in the manual through mixed conditions.

Pricing

There are two specification levels, Xs and Xr. The lower spec Xs manual is R336,800 followed by the CVT at R347,400. The higher spec Xr, only with CVT, is R367,100. All include a 6 service/90,000km service plan.

At that money you could get any of the aforementioned competition, in the Golf’s case with less equipment though. I think Toyota could perhaps have been a bit more aggressive on the pricing front if it really wanted to recapture this segment, however it’s still competitive and comes with Toyota’s legendary reliability and high resale values.

Verdict

It’s been a long time since I considered Toyota a real competitor in the mid sized hatchback market but this new Corolla Hatch has been brought bang up to date and is ready to take on the fight. For my money it’s a better value proposition than an equivalent Golf, which is currently (and has been for a while) the flavour of the month. Whether the same can be said regarding all the other challengers I’m less certain as they’re all jockeying for the position by offering great value.