Pros: Hybrid refinement, sleek styling, safety technology
Cons: Rivals are more spacious, less engine choices than rivals
The Toyota Corolla is the world’s best-selling car with almost 50 million sales to date, bolstered by the launch of an all-new hatchback and saloon models for 2019. Although the Corolla was replaced by the Auris in recent years, the Corolla returns for 2019 much to the delight of its Irish fans. The new Corolla has changed significantly from before, with sharp new styling, larger dimensions, new safety technology and a suite of new hybrid powertrains. We recently drove the Corolla Saloon on Irish roads to see how it compares to competitor offerings like the Honda Civic Saloon, Skoda Octavia Saloon and Hyundai's i30 Fastback.
The new Corolla is definitely the best-looking version yet, with sharpened styling throughout, a low-slung bonnet, slimline headlights and wide-reaching bumpers. While the Corolla has never been known as a style icon, the new model is certainly more appealing than ever before. It’s now based on the same platform as the popular Toyota C-HR crossover, and exclusively available with either petrol or hybrid engines. We drove the hybrid version, and it’s adorned with lots of hybrid badges and blue Toyota emblems to stand out from the crowd. There are four different specifications to choose from, with Aura, Luna, Luna Sport and Sol models to consider. Our range-topping Sol specification test car is equipped with lots of niceties including 18-inch bi-tone alloy wheels and chrome detailing.
The Corolla’s cabin is positively improved, with new materials, infotainment and extra room. Up front, the Corolla is spacious and airy with a floating dashboard design and an eight-inch touch screen multimedia system on the centre console. The system takes a little getting used to, but it works well, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto isn’t offered. The driving position is lower than before and it’s easy to get comfortable with a wide range of steering and seat adjustment available, while quality is strong, and everything feels well-constructed. There is enough room for two adults in the rear seats, though taller passengers may space is restricted. The Corolla includes a pair of ISOFIX mounts in the rear seats for family buyers, while boot space in the saloon stands at 471 litres, which is considerably larger than the hatchback’s 361 litre boot.
The Corolla Saloon is offered with a 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 1.8-litre petrol hybrid, and we drove the hybrid. Hybrid popularity is rising in Ireland and Toyota expects it to be the best seller in the range. The 1.8-litre hybrid has 122bhp and a CVT automatic transmission, and it can cover 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds when pushed. The Corolla is quite relaxing to drive, switching between petrol and electric power in seamless fashion. Toyota claims the Corolla can spend up to half its time driving on electric power when it is driven considerately. We achieved circa 5l/100 kilometres in fuel economy during 500 kilometres of driving on varied roads, while annual motor tax is listed at €180. Although the hybrid isn’t particularly powerful, it is quite easy to drive, and we were impressed by its refinement.
Out on the road, the Corolla is quiet, comfortable and highly refined. It cruises at motorway speeds without fuss and road noise is kept to a minimum, while the steering is light and it’s easy to park around town. The Corolla is best-suited to a relaxed driving style and it copes well on all sorts of roads, although the 18-inch alloy wheels on our test car are a tad harsh on bumpier surfaces. The Corolla isn’t particularly engaging to drive on twisty back roads, though we wouldn’t expect it to be and it covers the basics very well. The Corolla scores well in terms of safety too, with Toyota’s Safety Sense systems included as standard, which includes auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, road sign recognition, lane-keep assist, automatic high beam and various other aids.
Prices and features:
Prices for the new Toyota Corolla Saloon start from €25,685 in base specification Aura guise. Aura models are well equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, pre-collision systems with pedestrian and cyclist detection, road sign assist and rear LED lights. The step up to Luna (from €27,700) adds silver detailing outside, front LED fog lamps and Toyota’s Touch 2 multimedia system with the eight-inch touch screen display. Luna Sport models (from €29,995) gain 17-inch wheels, rear privacy glass, rain sensing technology and electric door mirrors. The range-topping Sol is the most expensive model in the range, starting at €31,705, and it is equipped with all sorts of extras such as 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and start and front and rear parking sensors.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The Corolla Saloon is back and it’s better looking, better to drive and better equipped than ever before. While the popularity of compact SUVs is on the rise, it carves a niche in its own right as one of the few hybrid models in the small saloon class. It’s very relaxing to drive and well-suited to hybrid powertrains, with competitively low running costs and lots of safety technology included as standard. Granted, the Corolla Saloon isn’t the most exciting car to drive in its class, while it isn’t particularly roomy for taller passengers in the rear seats and rival infotainment is superior. That said, the Corolla saloon is a highly refined proposition, expect to see plenty on Irish roads as a result.
Test Car Details:
Model tested: Toyota Corolla Saloon Sol Hybrid
Prices from: €25,685
Price as tested: €31,705
Annual Motor Tax: €180
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid
0-100km/h: 10.6 seconds
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 471 litres
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