Predating the VW Golf, the 12th generation Toyota Corolla ranks as a top-seller in the fiercely competitive European C-segment.  Continuing QUBE/just-auto's review of interior design and technology trends, we slip inside to see how it compares to its Corolla/Auris predecessor.

Built in Britain

Three Corolla body styles are offered: Hatchback, Touring Sports and Saloon. Our press review Touring Sports is exclusive to Europe and was styled at the automaker's design centre in Zaventem, Belgium. Toyota Manufacturing UK's (TMUK) Burnaston factory in Derbyshire is the European centre for 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. Rivals to the Corolla include the likes of the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia.

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 sat-nav system.

All versions of Corolla are fitted with eCall, a system which can automatically contact the emergency services in the event of an accident. Talking of connectivity, a number of 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.

Are we sitting comfortably?

In the seating department, 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 which 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.

All aboard

The Touring Sports that we took out and about this week offered a 598-litre boot capacity with the rear seats up. That compares to a VW Golf Estate offering 605 litres and Ford Focus with its 575 litres. The rear seats can be folded down using a remote lever. The tailgate opening has been extended by 10mm.

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. 

Audio system

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 in 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 and passive safety systems

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 and road sign assist

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.

In terms of passive safety features, the 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.

A change for the better

Four spec levels are offered, from the Icon, Icon Tech, Design to the top-drawer Excel. 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 is easy to use without becoming too distracting. From the outside, the Corolla also looks the business. The sweeping roofline of this sharp-edged estate gives it an elegant appearance.

On balance, this renamed well-equipped model with some neat touches felt brisk, quiet and poised at every turn. It also has noticeably good suspension; a 100-yard stretch of country road near me, littered with bumps and potholes similar to that found in a proving ground, is the perfect spot for a road test. It is also economical. Officially, the 1.8 petrol hybrid Touring Sports will achieve 56 mpg. Our run-about, mostly involving a gentle, steady cruise along motorways and dual carriageways, achieved a perfectly agreeable 55 mpg.