2019 Toyota Corolla Review

18th February 2019
Richard Bremner

The Toyota Corolla is notable for many things – being the best-selling car range of all-time, having a stellar reliability record – but above all, if you’re an enthusiast, it’s for being dull. The Corolla’s appliance-like reputation was one reason it was replaced by the Auris in 2007, a car developed to better suit European tastes. It has seen some success, mainly for its hybrid drivetrain and because it too is reliable, but now it has gone, to be replaced by… the Corolla.


One reason is that Toyota will sell this new Corolla on every continent on the TNGA platform (Toyota New Global Architecture), already shared with the Prius and C-HR. Its benefits include an improved driving position, a lower centre of gravity and a 60 per cent increase in body rigidity – sound building blocks for polished manners. It’s complemented by much needed improvements to the cabin’s visual and tactile quality and plentiful new technology, including a pre-collision system able to identify pedestrians at night, and the options of a head-up display, adaptive dampers, parking assist, wireless phone charging and an eight-inch infotainment screen.

The most important technology, however, is the Corolla’s hybrid engine choice, Toyota now offering a 1.8 and new 2.0-litre, the latter promising a drive more entertaining than you could ever hope for from an Auris. There’s also a 1.2-litre turbo and a choice of hatchback, estate (Touring Sports, in Toyota parlance) and saloon body style, the last of these intended to part-replace the recently deleted Avensis. Toyota’s European arm has had a major input into the Corolla’s development and saloon apart, all versions sold here will be UK-manufactured, as with the Auris.


The Corolla’s sophisticated new character is evident as soon as it strikes a bump, which will be absorbed with a supple pliancy worthy of a larger car. Keen drivers will be pleased – and possibly surprised, too – that it handles with the kind of quietly capable enthusiasm that encourages you to push it harder into corners. There aren’t many Corollas you can say that of.

The 1.8-litre engine will be familiar to anyone who has driven a Prius. Its performance is never more than brisk, and the engine yells a touch too much when accelerating hard, but it offers decent economy. Unavailable for test was the 1.2-litre turbo, but it’s slightly quicker than the 1.8-litre hybrid and can be had with a manual gearbox, too, potentially making for an agreeable budget package. Though offering considerable extra power the 180bhp, 2.0-litre hybrid provides substantially more performance without much of a fuel consumption or emission penalty. The hybrid drivetrain slightly undermines its lightly sporting character, but matters improve if you select the sport mode with its stepped gearchanges, or you can do it yourself with the paddleshifts. This version would be the obvious choice if it didn’t cost £1,725 more than the 1.8-litre hybrid.


Most hybrid buyers aren’t looking for sporting performance, however, their motivations being economy, lower emissions and less tax exposure. Toyota reckons that the hybrid option will see the Corolla depreciating less steeply than rivals, making it a usefully less expensive car to run over three years than a Ford Focus or VW Golf. That doesn’t mean that you sit aboard penny-pinching wheels, the Corolla’s appealingly sculpted soft-feel dashboard, tactile controls and more imaginative seat trim creating an ambience vastly more attractive than the Auris’. Points are lost, though, for a fiddly infotainment system, which will not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto until later this year.

The result is nevertheless a much better car than the Auris, a much better car than any previous Corolla and a Toyota that serves its hybrid drivetrains with some panache, especially from the 2.0-litre. For those who still prefer hatchbacks to SUVs, this car should be a contender.


Stat attack: Toyota Corolla 2.0-litre Hybrid Excel Hatchback

Price: £27,550 (Corolla range starts at £21,300)

Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder hybrid petrol

Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel-drive

Total system power: 178bhp @ 6,000rpm

Engine torque: 140lb ft @ 4,400-5,200

Electric motor power: 80kW

Electric motor torque: 149lb ft

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Top speed: 112mph

Weight: 1,340-1,510kg

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