Return to a traditional name for the radical Auris replacement
- Built in UK, promises to be as reliable as ever
- Big improvement over Auris range
- Two hybrid powertrains available
- No 'entry-level' engine
- Traditional name might be a hard sell to younger buyers
- Sharp styling, but does it look exciting enough?
The name Corolla is one of the oldest in the business, spanning eleven generations from as far back as 1966, with more examples sold worldwide than any other car.
For Toyota to resurrect this badge in the UK suggests more than a small desire to separate this new car from its predecessor, the Auris.
Just like the Auris, this is a car first and a green-conscious hybrid second, as opposed to the more overtly eco Prius. Unlike either of those cars however, the 2019 Toyota Corolla has been designed with half an eye on driving enjoyment, too.
That's the final piece in the puzzle for a car that weighs in against great all-rounders like the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, SEAT Leon, Vauxhall Astra as well as family-oriented SUVs typified by the Nissan Qashqai and SEAT Ateca.
Will the Toyota Corolla be more fun than the Auris?
There are good signs from under the surface – this car is based on the same TNGA underpinnings as the C-HR, a car we found surprisingly entertaining to drive (including one we ran for six months).
Even from the outside you can see that the Corolla means business – with its wheels pushed right out into the corners and a squat, purposeful stance. It’s a bit tricky to see the full effect of the Corolla’s sporty new look as these pre-production cars have been camouflaged.
Helping separate it from the worthy but dull Auris are some promising chassis revisions too – the body is 60% stiffer, which means better ride comfort and handling, while the 24mm lower hip point and 10mm lower centre of gravity reduces bodyroll significantly.
Adaptive suspension is available and a sophisticated rear double wishbone set up is standard on all models – unlike the traditional driver’s choice Ford Focus and more expensive cars like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class - to help the way the Corolla corners and to improve refinement. To this end you also get 50% more body sealing, plus noise-damping material in the dashboard and floor.
What engines can I get?
A revised version of the 1.8-litre hybrid found in the Auris and Prius plus the new 2.0-litre ‘Dynamic Force Engine’. A 1.2-litre petrol exists but won’t be included in any UK pricelists.
While the 122hp carryover engine will appease smaller diesel and petrol converts, the new unit is going after those used to a torquey 2.0-litre diesel like a Golf TDI. Toyota was keen to point out how its 180hp hybrid is several tenths quicker from 0-62mph than that aforementioned VW, too – taking 7.9 seconds.
It’s also crucially much quicker from 50-70mph than the old Auris, which felt particularly tiresome at this speed. The new car isn’t going to set any hot laps on a track day but the effortless and spontaneous nature of its power delivery is very welcome.
What about the interior?
A vast improvement on the old car, if only because all of the air vents are the same shape now (the Auris had two rectangular and two incongruously circular designs) and the flat, dull design has been ditched.
What’s more everything is softer to touch and more sculpted to look at – where the Auris’s door cards were made of slabs of hard plastic, the new car feels much plusher.
It’s also much more modern in terms of the digital dashboard display and the lack of Toyota’s trademark anachronistic LCD clock – overall think C-HR but a bit less futuristic.
What is the 2019 Toyota Corolla like to drive?
Toyota asked its customers what they wanted from the new car and unsurprisingly were told to make the engine more responsive and to tune the CVT transmission to avoid it revving so hard (called ‘rubber-banding’) when accelerating.
The old car was quiet and relaxing so long as you conformed to the way it wanted to be driven – progressively and with very little throttle input. Try to accelerate quickly and you’d get a lot of noise and not much else. To an extent that’s still true in the Corolla, expect there’s much more mid-range performance and less noise even when you really floor it.
That’s in part due to a smaller and lighter battery that can be recharged faster thanks to better energy recuperation, so it can assist the petrol engine more readily and avoid those noisy jumps to max rpm we lamented so much in the Auris.
We haven’t driven the revised 1.8-litre hybrid but found the 2.0-litre to be willing where the old Auris would have been very out of its comfort zone – it’s still not exactly a hot hatch but the more powerful Corolla provides confident performance this time around.
Gearshift paddles on the steering wheel are standard in the 2.0-litre car and help keep the engine cooking when you’re pushing on - left to its own devices the revs will drop and leave you bogged-down when trying to accelerate out of corners.
The steering is light but predictable while the fly-by-wire brake pedal offers little to no feel and is a bit tricky to modulate if you’re used to driving a non-hybrid car. These are nitpicky points, though, that most drivers will overlook.
Tell me about safety tech…
Toyota is quite big in the driver assistance game and its pack of sensors and cameras (called Safety Sense) sells in big numbers – 92% of buyers select this option.
This time around there’s a new wider angle and higher resolution camera making night-time pedestrian and cyclist detection possible.
You also get things like adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistant as standard thanks to the fact that all Corollas have an automatic gearbox, while the optional heads up display is the largest in the segment.
As far as other equipment goes we’ll have to wait until Toyota UK has firmed up what it wants to include with the new car, so watch this space.
Is there a Toyota Corolla Touring Sports?
Yes, and we've had a drive of the new Corolla Touring Sports, which has a tough job to compete against the likes of the Peugeot 308 SW and Ford Focus Estate - especially given the proliferation of SUVs that claim to do much of the same job.
But, given that the old Auris Touring Sports sold decently well, its maker clearly thinks replacing it is worth the effort.
The Parkers Verdict
The old Auris acknowledged the fact that some drivers wanted a hybrid but didn’t necessarily want to draw too much attention to it by buying a Prius.
In a similar vein, the Corolla gives a nod to those who want a hybrid that looks like a conventional car and crucially drives like one too.
While this model hasn’t 100% cracked that brief, it’s close enough now to recommend it as a serious alternative to a larger diesel VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra or Peugeot 308.
The Toyota Corolla goes on sale in February 2019.