Three Corolla body styles are offered: Hatchback, Touring Sports and Saloon. Toyota Manufacturing UK’s (TMUK) Burnaston factory in Derbyshire is the European centre for the production of the Hatchback and Touring Sports, with hybrid engines (1.8-litre) supplied by the TMUK factory in Deeside, North Wales. Saloon models are produced by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Turkey.

Inside story

In terms of the main changes that Toyota made to the interior of the latest incarnation, Rembert Serrus, senior manager, vehicle performance, Toyota Motor Europe, said: “With the GA-C platform, the base of the windscreen was lowered by 40mm and the overall height of the dashboard was reduced to create a more elegant and lighter shape than before. On the materials and finishes side, we mapped the interior to ensure a consistent approach in all applications and, from the first 3D model, shapes were optimised in detail to ensure they looked authentic; for example, metal inserts look and feel like metal.”

It is certainly true that the interior touchpoints feel soft and plush. And in respect of measures taken to improve the car’s noise and vibration performance, Serrus added: “Overall cockpit sealing performance has been improved by using a much more effective dashboard silencer with a far smaller exposed area. There is also new door sealing, wheelhouse silencers at the rear, front acoustic glass and so on.”

Compared to its predecessor, the sculpted dash is slightly slimmer. The reduction in height of the upper panel area reduces the structure’s perceived mass and improves the driver’s forward view while enabling the front seat hip point to be lowered. The net result is a more engaging driving position.

The seven-inch instrument cluster includes the choice of a digital or analogue speedometer.  The steering wheel integrates a new heating and optimised switch layout. 

Positioned high centre stage of the dash is Toyota’s Touch 2 multimedia system, an eight-inch touchscreen that controls various infotainment features including a sat-nav system.

All versions of Corolla are fitted with eCall, a system that can automatically contact the emergency services in the event of an accident. Talking of connectivity, several services are in the process of being rolled out following the car’s launch, including Last Mile Guidance, Send to Car Navigation, Driving Analytics and Maintenance Reminder.

In the seating department, the revised front seat design features changes to the seatback and cushion springs and optimisation of the urethane pad thickness.

New sports front seats featured on Hatchback and Touring Sports Excel models have slim and wide shoulder supports that overlap thick side bolsters. The long wheelbase of the Touring Sports and Saloon has allowed for the front-to-rear couple distance to be increased by 48mm to 928mm, thereby improving rear-seat legroom.

Further back, the boot provides 313-litres of storage capacity in the Hatchback version and 581-litres in the Touring Sports. Repositioning the rear shock absorbers has simplified the deck sidewall structure, maximising the loadspace width, facilitating loading and allowing side wall storage pockets to be added behind the rear wheel housings.

The load surface has a two-position (upper and lower) deck. This can be opened and closed in the upper position as if it were hinged from the rear seatbacks. It is also reversible, with carpet on one side and a resin finish on the other, suitable for use when carrying wet or dirty items.

The space beneath the deck has been made larger, carpeted and fitted with detachable side separators. There’s more convenience thanks to the LED load compartment lamps, a claimed world first, on either side of the boot and a detachable, retractable tonneau cover. 

Other comfort and convenience features include a powered liftgate with kick sensor (Touring Sports only) and an always useful head-up display (optional).

Audio-wise, certain versions of the Corolla can be equipped with an eight-speaker JBL Premium Sound System. The speakers have been specifically tuned to the acoustics of the cabin. The system uses Clari-Fi technology, developed by Harman, which supplements real-time frequencies that are lost in compressed audio files, such as MP3 and streaming audio files. This restores the sound quality and stereo mix as closely as possible to the original recording.

Active safety

All versions of Corolla are equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, a suite of active safety technologies designed to help prevent or mitigate collisions. These include a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, lane trace assist, automatic high beam, road sign assist and drive start control. The latter helps prevent unintended or abrupt vehicle starts when the driver is operating the shift lever by suppressing drivetrain power output and issuing a warning to keep vehicle speed and acceleration below a pre-determined level. For example, if the driver is pressing the accelerator pedal when shifting from Park to Drive, the system will automatically limit power output to help avoid unintended acceleration.

The chore of parking is eased thanks to a park assist system that uses a rear camera and sensors located around the sides and bumpers to identify viable reverse and parallel parking spaces.

Passive safety

In terms of passive safety features, Corolla’s body rigidity has been increased by around 60 per cent through the greater use of adhesives and spot welds.

Hot-stamped and ultra-high tensile steel are used to reinforce the front and centre pillars, the front door beltline, roof cross-members, the inner roof and front header extension, which helps suppress cabin deformation and optimise occupant protection.

A new ‘floating island’ bonnet inner structure helps reduce the inertia G forces at the start of a collision and combines with a cowl louvre impact-absorbing structure to mitigate head injuries in the event of a pedestrian impact.

All Corolla models are equipped with driver and front passenger front and side airbags, driver’s knee airbags and curtain shield airbags.  The front seatbelts have a new-shape shoulder anchor which reduces the force needed to pull the belt. The belt’s locking sensitivity has been changed to make fastening smoother when the belt is pulled quickly. The adoption of a flexible inner belt allows for easier fastening, regardless of the buckle angle.

Material matters

A reduction in the car’s body weight has been achieved by making use of high-tensile steel and hot-stamped materials, and by reducing the thickness of the door and roof panels. The carmaker has also added more spot welding throughout the body shell and used fully closed cross-sections and structural rings. The net result delivers an increase of around 60 per cent in body rigidity compared to the previous Corolla/Auris models. Handling and agility are further improved by the engine’s low mounting height, a lower hip point for the seats and the location of the hybrid battery beneath the rear seats. In combination, these measures have brought the centre of gravity down by 10mm.

Noise, vibration and harshness

To minimise noise and vibration entering the cabin, the engine installation has been designed to reduce vibration at start-up and idling speeds. The increase in engine speed at the start of acceleration has been suppressed, to achieve both a more linear match between engine and vehicle speeds and quieter running under acceleration. The GA-C platform contributes to the suppression of transmission vibration, the steering wheel pad acts as a dynamic damper to suppress steering vibration, and even the toolbox design helps reduce vibration in the rear floor panel.

Also, a good helping of sound-absorbing and insulating material in the engine bay combines with a triple-layered dashboard inner silencer to minimise the ingress of engine and transmission noise into the cabin.

Further attention has been paid to the floor. An integral floor silencer, increased body sealer in the gaps between panels and foam material injected into various locations around the body frame to reduce wind and road noise levels in the cabin.

A question of spec

Six spec levels are offered, from the Icon, Icon Tech, Design, GR Sport, TREK to the top-drawer Excel.

Standard interior features in Icon models include an eCall system, heated front seats with lumbar support, Toyota Touch 2 with eight-inch multimedia touchscreen, reversing camera, DAB, 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, and dual-zone air conditioning.

The Icon Tech grade adds Toyota Smart Connect+ multimedia system, a seven-inch colour TFT multi-information display. Intelligent Clearance Sonar, and smart entry.

The Design grade introduces rain-sensing wipers, power-adjustable heated door mirrors with automatic folding function, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear privacy glass, and an optional opening panoramic roof.

The top-drawer Excel grade goes further by adding sports front seats, part-leather seat upholstery, an optional opening panoramic roof with power sunshade, and an optional eight-speaker JBL premium sound system.

The GR Sport cabin is fitted with sports front seats, upholstered in fabric with a pinstripe pattern and with seatback and cushion bolsters finished in black and grey synthetic leather. The equipment specification matches the Corolla Design grade and further includes a seven-inch colour TFT multi-information screen with 3D-effect graphics, and a colour head-up display. Other standard features include Toyota Safety Sense, rear privacy glass, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and power-adjustable door mirrors with an auto-folding function.

Corolla Touring Sports TREK interior features include TREK-branded scuff plates, black leather upholstery and a satin chrome deco line across the instrument panel and front doors.

On balance, this renamed well-equipped model with some neat touches felt brisk, quiet and poised at every turn. The uncluttered cockpit with polished black panels and touches of metal edging makes it a pleasant place to spend time behind the wheel. The sat-nav and infotainment are easy to use without becoming too distracting.

It is also economical. Officially, the 2.0-litre petrol hybrid Excel Touring Sports will achieve 52 mpg. Our local run-about this week achieved a perfectly agreeable 49 mpg.  Rival estate models include the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia.