Make / Model Search

Car reviews - Toyota - Corolla - 5-dr hatch range

Our Opinion

We like
Improved ride and handling, styling, CVT transmission better than old four-speed auto, decent rear seat space, quieter than before, bulletproof quality
Room for improvement
Plain dashboard, cheap-feeling touch-screen, cramped boot, tight on headroom, anaemic engine, no diesel or sportier petrol option

22 Oct 2012

TOYOTA had to tread a fine line with its new Corolla – the 11th generation model since 1966.

The company wanted to inject a hint of sizzle and driving spice to its bread-and-butter small hatchback, while retaining the solid-and-simple traits that have won it so many admirers (almost 40 million sales around the globe, at last count).

The compromise has resulted in a sleeker and more dynamic model than those that preceded it, but one that retains most of the core qualities – it is well-built, easy to drive and good value – that have served it so well.

Toyota Australia’s choice of roads for its launch program was brave – twisty and corrugated asphalt on the outskirts of Sydney bound to show up overt dynamic flaws.

We came away pleasantly surprised by the strides the company has made in ride and handling, and in the suppression of road noise.

The electric steering system is quicker than before, and while there is a characteristic lack of ‘feel’ through the wheel, the tweaked ratio and stiffer bodyshell combine to make the new model feel appreciably more agile.

As before, the suspension consists of front MacPherson struts and a cheaper, space-saving rear torsion beam, but the damping feels firmer and the lower roof line helps alleviate bodyroll.

At low speeds the Corolla feels zippy, while pushing it harder round bends yields predictable front-drive understeer, though its abilities outstrip a fair few mainstream small-car rivals.

A fair supply of sizeable mid-corner bumps failed to throw the Corolla off-balance, and Toyota has struck an impressive balance between good road-holding and a compliant suspension tune that soaks up bumps and ruts.

Likewise, noise suppression has been improved, with less tyre roar and wind noise than the old model. The engine is still raucous, and the CVT transmission has a characteristic lifeless drone, but again it’s a step up on the previous generation.

The engine itself is a weak point. As mentioned, it’s the same basic 1.8-litre unit as from the previous model, and its 103kW output is scarcely more than the car was developing two decades ago.

It is fine for doddling around town, but results are less fine when pushing for some extra grunt on an overtake, or punching the throttle when exiting a corner.

Peak power arrives high in the rev band, meaning the engine needs to be revved hard and often, and while maximum torque is available earlier that before, there is still a noticeable lack of pulling power until the tacho hits 3500rpm.

A revvy engine is a noisy engine, and as a result it occasionally undoes the strides made elsewhere in noise suppression. Thankfully, both the six-speed manual gearbox and brand new CVT automatic transmission perform relatively well, all things considered.

Around 80 per cent of Corolla buyers opt for the automatic, and the CVT is a quantum leap on the old four-speed torque converter unit.

While prone to the typical drone – CVTs have no distinct ratios, and therefore lack the familiar sound of gears changing – the manual override is slick and the seven designated ‘steps’ or ratios are well calibrated.

Even more impressive is the fuel consumption. We easily managed to achieve the claimed 6.6-litres per 100km on our test route, and you can be sure we were hardly driving with unnecessary caution.

Still, we can’t help but think Toyota needs to follow the lead of all its key rivals and offer something else alongside the 1.8 here, such as its Europe-only diesel or hybrid powertrains.

The company would do well globally hasten the development of a sporting GTI equivalent, too.

It’s a shame, also, that the new Corolla’s cabin fails to match its sexier exterior visage. Everything feels well-built and there’s no lack of standard gear, but there is a lack of cohesion in the design, a feeling that it was all kind of slapped-together.

The old version felt mildly sporty, including a rally-style gear shifter mounted high, but the new version has goes without that touch, and features a flat slab of plastic and a rather aftermarket looking touch-screen that proved tough the see it the glaring sun.

On the bright side, the satellite navigation system on Levin variants is excellent, with constant live traffic updates, and the leather steering wheel feels good in the hand. Over the harsh roads we tackled, there was not even a hint of any squeaks or rattles.

Legroom in the front and rear is fine, though the lower roofline and smaller windscreen give the cabin less airy feel than before and tall drivers should steer clear of the space-robbing panoramic sunroof.

The back seats fold almost flat, freeing up plenty of cargo room, but the 280-litre storage capacity with the seats in place is pokey for the class. We liked the bag hooks in the rear – a thoughtful touch.

To sum it up, the new Corolla is rarely spectacular, but on the other hand it doesn’t get anything drastically wrong either. The engine lacks fizz and the cabin lacks sparkle, but we can rather easily imagine ourselves living with one.

Toyota has towed the line between adding some pizzazz to the design while retaining the basics that appeal to its core buyers. Its not a paragon of new technology, but it is well-priced, specified and better to drive than before, and that gets some kudos from us.

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

GoAuto can help you buy a new Corolla

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires


This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only

Corolla pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here