11:08AM, Friday 20 September 2019
Toyota’s Corolla may bear the biggest selling model name in the world but in its own way it is also something special, although not unique.
It is one of that rare breed of cars actually built here in the UK. Sadly, none of them are produced by British companies although Vauxhalls made at Ellesmere Port bear a British name dating back to 1903 and one unique to the British market.
The Corolla name disappeared for a time when for some inexplicable reason Toyota decided it should adopt the name Auris in 2007. With Corolla already so well established it was a curious thing to do. The question now is whether the new generation of drivers most likely to be switched on to Toyota’s hybrid technology will recognise the Corolla. Hopefully they will.
Many imagine Toyota to be the first Japanese brand to be sold in the UK but that distinction goes to Daihatsu back in 1964. Toyota was here within two years with the shovel-nose Corona and continued to dominate during the era of the gentlemen’s agreement that saw Japanese makers restricted to an overall quota divvied up according to previous sales success when it was instigated.
Thus Toyota and Nissan were the big players – to be fair, both have repaid our faith in them by building car plants in the UK. Toyota makes engines on Deeside and complete cars at Burnaston in Derbyshire, its first European assembly plant but there are others to take up the slack if the Brexit cost is too high.
Back to brighter thoughts, however. The new Corolla is worthy of the name and carrying it forward to greater things. It offers a choice of hybrid powertrains in the hatch and touring estate versions, with either a 1.8 litre or 2.0 litre petrol engine. There’s also a conventional 1.2 litre turbo petrol but the hybrid will grab the sales.
It’s easy to see why. The car is simple to drive because all you have to do is press the power button, select drive or reverse, and get going. There are other bits to master, such as the familiar brake setting on the gearshift that acts like a retarder and recovers energy faster, delivering it to the battery pack.
While this car didn’t manage the 87 mpg average we saw in the last Toyota Prius hybrid we tested, its overall 68 mpg exceeded what we thought would be a good target and proves the case for going into self-charging hybrid mode for most drivers.
Infrastructure does not exist at present to support everyone going the full electric route, nor are drivers confident that sufficient range is offered by current full electric cars. Plug-in hybrids are an option but their power packs are more bulky, and therefore heavy, and they don’t go far on a full charge. We will certainly be exploring the hybrid format when it comes to replacing our diesel Ford Galaxy and we are now trying to find something that offers the comfort and hip height entry essential for our ageing bones.
The Corolla makes a roomy family hatchback and with prices starting at £21,305 it will win devotees although you need to spend at least £23,775 to get a hybrid. That’s no worse than adding a diesel engine and auto gearbox to a conventional car yet the hybrid brings greater promise of both economy and clean air.
Our Corolla test car, a five door Excel trim hatch had a list price of £27,350 and its 122 bhp seemed sufficient muscle to make spending £29,075 on the 180 bhp 2.0 litre model a waste. The car performs well enough, keeping up in traffic, holding its own, and still offering that diesel-beating economy.
Of course, every car has its drawbacks but with this Toyota it’s limited to the use of 40 profile tyres on 18 inch wheels, an option too far for us. They make the ride just too firm. The rest of the Corolla is automotive brilliance; great packaging, superb economy, and made right here in Blighty.
Car: Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-I Excel Hybrid CVT
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 10.9 secs
Top speed: 112 mph
Bhp: 120 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 142 Nm @ 3,600 rpm plus 163 Nm from electric motor
...and your wallet...
Combined: 55.42 – 65.94 mpg
CO2 emissions: 83 g/km
Best bits: British-built and bristling with clean tech
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