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Facelifted Corolla driven

2010-07-23 07:19

The car which moves around South Africans has seen a slight price increase commensurate to a balance of new features.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Toyota
Model Corolla
Engine 1.3, 1.6-,2l, D-4D
Power 74kW @ 6 000-, 90kW @ 6 000-, 102kW @ 5 600-, 93kW @ 3 600r/min
Torque 132Nm @ 3 800-, 154Nm @ 5 200-, 189Nm @ 4 400-, 300Nm @ 1 800r/min
Transmission Four-speed auto, six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 13.1-, 10.4-, 9.1-, 10.1 sec
Top Speed 180-, 192-, 200km/h
Fuel Tank 55l
Fuel Consumption 5.9l-, 6.9l-, 7.3l-, 5.1l/100km
Boot Size 450l
Tyres 195/65 R15, 205/55 R16
Front Suspension McPherson struts
Rear Suspension Torsion beam
Service Plan 90 000km/5 years
Warranty 100 000km/3 year

Lance Branquinho

Toyota’s boundlessly popular (if slightly staid) Corolla has gained subtle styling revisions and a slight equipment upgrade as part of a facelift.

The tenth-generation Corolla (which is coincidently the world’s best-selling car) tallies some negligible exterior styling changes contrasted by neat cabin upgrades.

If you are a Corolla loyalist (and considering how many they retail locally, that is entirely probable) you’ll be capable of unpacking the new styling details at a first glance.

Brand neutral observers may find it slightly more challenging to notice what has changed.

Tidier exterior

Bumpers are new both front and rear, housing redesigned fog-lights (fore) and integrated reflectors (aft).

Primary illumination benefits aesthetically from more defined front lights and combination rear lamps.

The new forward facing lights frame a new grille too.

Around the rear those new combination lamps are more symmetrical in design (not appearing to swell in size as they run across the boot shut-line anymore due to clear undersides) and an alloy garnish runs atop the number plate.

The facelifted Corolla also gains turn-indicators integrated into the side mirrors.

Neater inside

Access the car, settle into a driving position, and you’ll notice a few (welcome) changes to the ergonomics and cabin architecture.

At the helm you grip a new steering wheel (with the bottom third squared-off) buoyed by satellite controls and Bluetooth hands-free convergence on the Advanced and Exclusive grade Corollas.

Thumb over the ignition key and the instrument cluster illuminates in a white hue, instead of the garish 1980s gaming console dominant orange of the previous car. Infotainment on the latest Corolla benefits from an iPod/USB interface positioned low-down on the fascia too.

Those are all the details. How does it drive though?

Toyota optioned to let us evaluate the facelifted Corolla on some of South Africa’s most choice dynamic driving roads – the mountain passes of Mpumalanga.

If you consider the Corolla’s family-car billing this was a rather odd decision.

Mechanically the new cars carry over their suite of engineering features from the range launched in 2007.

The engine line-up is four derivatives strong (three petrols and a diesel - the 1.8l’s been dropped) driving the front-wheels (obviously) via either four-speed planetary geared automatic or six-speed manual transmissions.

Suspension remains torsion bar levelled at the rear. The result is that Corolla does not ride with the decorum (or track with the athleticism) of all-wheel independently suspended competitors such as Ford’s Focus or the VW’s (rather tired) fifth generation Jetta.

In mitigation the cars I drove did not feel out of place on Mpumalanga’s sweeping roads.

Whether the tangible heft of the new, thicker-rimmed steering wheel (or the tactile quality of its AurisX-like re-geared steering) was responsible is of no consequence. The result was, plainly, that the Corolla could be placed with accuracy when negotiating open, fourth-gear corners at a moderate pace.

For its intended purpose – commuting within an urban environment – the new car retains some of its predecessors’ foibles though. The seats are not overly ergonomic in terms of design – feeling distinctly lacking in terms of support and sound-insulation is good instead of class leading.

The obvious urban commute drivetrain choice is also problematic. The four-speed automatic transmission (paired either with 1.6- or 2.0l petrol power) is dynamically inept and will surely drive you to madness with its antiquated shift-regime. Simply avoid a dual-pedal Corolla at all costs.

Conversely, all the tri-pedal cars are six-speeders and combine a tidy shift action with expertly spaced ratios. The 1.6- and 2.0l manuals I drove felt agile, with fourth-gear being a particularly well executed ratio for overtaking Lowveld logging traffic.

Power games

Statistically the 2.0l petrol engine has gained two units or power (now peaking at 102kW) and 13 additional Nm of rotation force.

In contrast the 1.6l is slightly weaker (by a single kW and three Nm).

On the road though, you would be incapable of pinpointing the difference.

I’ve always felt the 1ZR-FE 1.6l Toyota engine to be a criminally underrated four-cylinder engine and the re-familiarisation with it on the Corolla launch reinforced this perspective. Tallying 90kW at 6 200r/min and 154Nm (at a crankspeed 1 000r/min lower), this is the only oversquare architecture engine in the Corolla line-up, and it shows.

Toyota’s dual-VVTi camshaft control ensures none of the low-speed breathlessness often contaminating small-capacity multi-valve engines, whilst the 2mm bore-bias ensures quick piston-speed pick-up. It really is a disarming little engine – frugal and fun.

Paired with the six-speed manual transmission, I made an effortless run from Hazeyview to Nelspruit in a Corolla 1.6 – even with a complement of three (rather hefty) passengers and the air-conditioning running.

So yes, the new range may still lack a credible dual-pedal alternative – yet there remains a great value offering in the matrix of 1.6l manual models.

The most interesting detail to emerge from the Corolla launch regards Toyota (finally) being at the cusp of addressing one of the car’s most glaring safety oversights. Vehicle stability control will soon become optional on the D-4D model, hopefully signalling a future roll-out to the entire range.

A return of the Sprinter moniker (last seen locally in the late 1990s), is set to flesh out the four grades of Corolla soon too - sure to appease customers yearning for pseudo boy-racer styling bits.


1.3 Impact                R177 700
1.3 Professional        R185 800
1.3 Advanced           R201 800
1.6 Professional        R207 400
1.6 Advanced            R222 800
1.6 Advanced a/t      R233 300
2.0 Exclusive             R258 500
2.0 Exclusive a/t        R268 800
2.0 D-4D Advanced   R253 500
2.0 D-4D Exclusive    R282 000

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