TOYOTA Australia has aggressively cut prices almost across the board for its crucial new Corolla hatch, which was officially launched today with a razor-sharp entry-level price of $19,990 (plus on-road costs).
All variants with the exception of the flagship Levin ZR – the price of which is unchanged – get cuts of between $1000 and $1500 while featuring more standard equipment, power and fuel economy that before, wrapped-up in a sharper Euro-inspired body design.
The 11th-generation model is charged with returning fire on the top-selling Mazda3 and fending off Nissan Australia, which has stated its ambition to topple the Corolla with a reborn Pulsar range, announcing it will also be priced from $19,990 at launch early next year.
Likewise, the new Corolla will be tasked with taking on the now Thai-sourced Ford Focus – earlier this month the subject of aggressive price cuts down to $20,290 – the feature-packed new-generation Hyundai i30 (from $20,990) and the Australian-built Cruze hatch and sedan range (from $21,490).
The new Corolla hatch enters the fray alongside the existing sedan – the new version of which is still a year away – and again without a wagon version, which for now remains a Europe-only model.
While the Corolla hatch has long been a popular pick with fleets, Toyota Australia aims to boost sales among private buyers, with executive director of sales and marketing Matthew Callachor saying the edgier design and improved road manners would appeal to hearts as well as heads.
Around 40 per cent of all previous-generation Corolla hatch sales were to fleets, whereas the Mazda3 not only tops the sales charts but has a higher percentage of more profitable private sales than Corolla.
Toyota says the new Corolla features a lower centre of gravity for more agile handling, a more premium interior with improved space, more soundproofing, quicker steering and a sportier driving position courtesy of a lower hip-point and steering column angle.
The small-car segment as a whole is easily Australia’s most popular, consisting of 38 models from 27 manufacturers and accounting for 22.7 per cent of the total market with 186,579 sales to the end of September – up around 5000 units or 2.8 per cent on last year.
All new model Corolla hatches are powered by a tweaked but still Euro 4-emissions compliant version of the previous 1.8-litre normally aspirated petrol engine, producing 103kW of power at 6400 rpm (up 3kW) and 173Nm at 4000rpm (down 2Nm, although peak torque arrives 400rpm earlier).
Power is sent through the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox or – for the first time – a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a seven-speed sequential ‘Sport’ mode, replacing the old four-speed torque converter unit. The auto is a $2000 option.
The engine tweaks, CVT and aerodynamic improvements from the edgier new body (down 0.01 to 0.28Cd) are said to yield fuel savings of more than 10 per cent, with combined-cycle consumption as low as 6.6 litres per 100km (7.1 for the manual version).
Underneath the more rigid new body design sits tweaked suspension and electric power-assisted steering hardware with a quicker ratio and the claim of more response from centre. As before, there are MacPherson struts and a cheaper, space-saving torsion beam at the rear.
The wheelbase is unchanged at 2600mm, but the car is 30mm longer (4275mm overall) and 55mm lower (1460mm) than before.
Boot space up to the cover is 280 litres – the same as before – expanding to 1120 litres with the rear seats folded, while the fuel tank is five litres smaller at 50 litres.
The new Corolla hatch has been tested by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and scored the expected five-star maximum.
The base Corolla Ascent is $1000 cheaper than before and comes with seven airbags, Emergency Brake Signal, a six-speaker audio with Bluetooth connectivity and steering wheel controls, cruise control and a multi-information display trip computer (with an Eco display for the CVT).
The higher-specified Ascent Sport retails from $20,990 (down $1500 from the previous model) and gets extras including 16-inch alloy wheels (with full-size spare), reversing camera, privacy glass and foglights with chrome surrounds.
Next up is the Levin SX, priced at $23,900 (down $1100) and picking up additional equipment over the Ascent Sport including paddle shifters for the CVT, 17-inch alloy wheels with 45 aspect-ratio tyres, satellite-navigation, mock carbon-fibre interior highlights and sportier front seats.
The flagship Levin ZR – from $28,490 and the only model that does not get a price cut – gets extras like bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime-running lights, chrome exterior highlights, keyless start, dual-zone climate-control, partial-leather seats and an auto-dipping interior mirror.
Exclusive to the ZR is an optional panoramic sunroof for an extra $1500.
The Corolla, like all new Toyota vehicles, is covered by Toyota Service Advantage with a capped price of $130 for each of up to six scheduled logbook services in the first three years or 60,000km.
Toyota has produced a staggering 39 million Corollas since 1966, including 1.2 million sold in Australia – the first market outside Japan to sell the car.
More than one in five Toyotas sold here have been Corollas, making it the best-selling model in the history of Australia’s top-selling brand.