With 46 million plus sales, the Toyota Corolla is the most successful car to date with the first model introduced in 1966.
Throughout Ireland, the Corolla has been a firm favourite and with the latest generation there are three distinct versions, Hatchback, Sedan (Saloon) and Touring Sports.
Looking at the Irish market, in Northern Ireland there has not been a Saloon for more than a decade while in the Republic it has been a firm favourite.
Speaking to a Toyota spokesperson, I learned that the uptake on the Sedan in Northern Ireland will be in the region of five percent and indeed it’s likely with the Avensis no longer available, this could in some way boost sales.
With the arrival of the new models, this marks the twelfth generation, all as I discovered have brought a higher level of refinement and sheer drive quality.
My opportunity to be acquainted with the new Corolla came on the island of Majorca and that, allied to this time of the year, meant a lot less traffic, ideal to put them through their paces.
There is a little disappointment for many, as there is no diesel option with the emphasis very much on hybrid technology. Toyota are masters of this art, and the Corolla benefits from the very latest, a choice of two, a 1.8 litre and a two litre, the latter not available in the Republic.
I tried the smaller capacity engine in a Touring Sports and the larger in the impressive Hatchback. The latter will have appeal to the sporty minded in our midst, aided in no small way by a choice of six driving modes!
Petrol power is provided by a 1.2 and a 1.6 litre engines which deliver higher top speeds than the hybrids. However the two litre hybrid does sprint from rest to 100kph (62mph) in a whisker under eight seconds. Both petrol engines will be offered in the Republic, the smaller, however, will be the only petrol unit in Northern Ireland. Emission figures range from 73-166g/km.
Overall, I found it an engaging drive, all the more comfy with an improved driving position; you really do feel part of the car.
The opportunity to meet Chief Engineer Yasushi Ueda did shed further light on the development of the new Corolla. Along with his team, he identified two key elements, dynamic styling and sheer driving pleasure. This was aided by the new TNGA based GA- C platform.
A key element of the new platform, more freedom re development, the result all models have a lower stance and much more appealing proportions.
This is the same platform used with both the latest version of the Prius and the trendy C-HR. This was a good basis to build on and to further improve the driving dynamics.
I must point out that the new Corolla is a global car; however European versions have been tuned to suit our roads and driving styles. According to Yasushi, we in Europe tend to have a much faster driving pattern, so cars have to have performance, handle well and be nimble in urban environments; sounds like a tall order, but after having driven the new Corolla, I think Yasushi and his team have, as they say, come up with the goods.
I did further research to discover that the Hatchback has been given a more dynamic character with a more agile feeling, but the other two variants with a longer wheelbase do deliver good handling and relatively high comfort levels.
The Touring Sports had additional tuning to thus ensure the same level of handling even when full use is made of the carrying capacity. Load capacity is a maximum of 1,606 litres. Clearly, Toyota sees it as being an ideal choice for families or small business users. With eye-catching styling I can see those with an active lifestyle deciding on this variant.
It goes without saying the Sedan will appeal to those who prefer the more traditional style of driving, a well appointed vehicle with a generous boot and I find that owners of this type of vehicle appreciate the added security.
Returning briefly to the Touring Sports, it has been given additional rear sound proofing and there is a reversible deck board in the boot. The living space in any vehicle is a key point and all three variants feature the use of quality materials, delivering a premium feel throughout the range.
Instrumentation is easily read and all of the controls fall easily to hand, adding to the enjoyment factor.
As already noted the new Corolla will be sold in many market, there are marked difference, eg. re grades, the four in the Northern Ireland market are- Icon, Icon Tech, Design and Excel while in the Republic of Ireland customer choice is, Aura, Luna, Luna Sport and Sol.
The Sedan is produced in Turkey while the other two variants are produced in the UK as is the 1.8 hybrid engine.
No one knows better than Toyota the challenge that today’s market brings for this segment. There is still, of course, a huge desire to own an SUV. However, with three such strong offerings in the new Corolla range, are we about to witness a challenge?
Thankfully we all have different needs and tastes and when it comes to me personally, I’d pick the Hatchback with the larger hybrid engine, for me it was the most engaging to drive. However for the would be Corolla customer, do take time to make that all important choice. All three, however, enjoy low running costs, good residual values and a generous helping of street cred.