Toyota Corolla Sedan

Toyota’s latest 4-door Corolla is quite brilliant

Toyota could not have chosen a worse time to launch its brilliant new 12th generation Corolla sedan. It did so basically on the day that lockdown commenced, so we respectfully declined the invitation amid all that shock and horror at the time. 

They had a second, just as challenging bash at digitally revealing it midway through, but now we’ve had the pleasure of testing it and this is one report you really should read, because it clearly is a milestone car, no matter how close – or even related its name is to that bloody virus.…

So, the world’s best-selling badge has a brand new car on it. To be honest, it’s by far the best yet. First launched in 1966; the version twelve Sedan expands on the brand’s unquestionable virtues as it joins the Hatch launched a year ago to deliver a broad choice in the world’s favourite car range. 

It gets a similar front-end to the distinctive Hatch and it’s now more compact than the car that’s just become the latest Quest. 

Not that there was anything wrong with the look of that outgoing car, but the Sedan’s cut roofline, shorter rear overhang and smart bi-colour LED taillights make for a look that you probably won’t think is a Corolla at first sight. It looks far larnier and cosmopolitan than you’ve come to expect too – 20mm lower and 25mm shorter, it sits on 11mm wider front and 22mm broader rear tracks for a squatter, more appealing overall stance.

But the real trump card here has to be that cabin. We’ve been beyond scathing about Corolla cockpits over the years – going as far as likening one particular dashboards a decade or two back, to the arse of rhino lying on its side. And we’ve been put off by a lack of any real progress ever since, even if the last one was a fair step in the correct direction.

This latest V.12 however brings a cabin quantum leap. And then some. 

Carrying its impressive Hatch sibling’s interior architecture across, Toyota kept the best finishes, trim and colour combos for the sedan and we have to admit, we were pleasantly shocked by how bloody good it really is. A splendid ribbed new-age Rezatec finish even further enhances the beautifully contoured chairs and that dash is as good as anything out there – including its apparent R150K richer Hun rivals and that upstart Mazda 3.

Add this top model’s splendid, clear and well-thought out and presented touchscreen infotainment packing Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a reverse camera and the kitchen sink, eco climate control, one-touch power windows, keyless entry, tilt and telescopic power multifunction steering and cruise control and even auto-dimming rear view mirrors.

Also impressive is this flagship XR model’s new 125kW 200Nm 6 l/100km Dynamic Force TNGA 2-litre 4-pot nicked from the latest RAV4 and packing a new 10-step Shiftmatic CVT. It all conspired to deliver some handy performance figures to even match those hallowed German exec rivals and prove as economical as Toyota promised too. 

Responsive and easy to drive, you only really notice it’s a CVT if you give it horns and even then, it’s pretty well fine, especially if it’s set to that ten-step shifting mode.

Handling, road holding, ride and quietness is all top notch too, thanks to that 60% stiffer hot-stamped aluminium and high-tensile steel shell, an improved lower centre of gravity to complement its proven MacPherson strut front and all-new multi-link rear suspension. That all causes much improved dynamics, handling and stability in a truly serene driving environment.

It’s safe too – Corolla Sedan gets ABS, EBD and BAS brakes and Stability Control with hill start and ISOFIX anchors complimented by Toyota Safety Sense Pre-collision, blind spot, lane trace and more active driver aids including all-speed cruise control and automatic high-beam Bi-LED headlamps. They proved the only glitch on our test unit in that the dims were set too low at their maximum beam height.

We don’t need to bother telling you about Toyota back-up – you should know that’s why they sell so many of them. This car is however far more than just a white appliance with brilliant back-up and a guaranteed good resale value to ensure sales to fleets and people who just need transport.

No, the latest Toyota Corolla Sedan has finally evolved into a true all-rounder with everything else that makes it a dam good car too. Good enough or better than most of its rivals in fact, to go with that best-ever seller status and finally make this twelfth attempt among the better cars in its segment, too. 

Now that’s something I’ve never been able to say in 30 years of testing Corollas… - Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota Corolla 2.0 XR auto Sedan
Engine: 125kW 200Nm 2-litre petrol I4
Drive:10-step CVT FWD
0-60km/h: 3.64 sec
0-100km/h: 7.98 sec   
0-160km/h: 19.22 sec
400m: 15.7 sec @ 156km/h
80-120km/h:          5.15 sec
120-160km/h: 8.24 sec       
VMax: 195km/h 
Fuel: 6 l/100km
CO2: 137 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100Kkm/6 service 90Kkm
RATED:          9