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Corolla D-4D Exclusive tested

2008-12-11 21:23
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Toyota
Model Corolla
Engine 2l turbodiesel
Power 93kW @ 3 600r/min
Torque 300Nm @ 2 000r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 10.3 seconds
Top Speed 200km/h
Fuel Tank 55l
Fuel Consumption 6.1l/100km
Boot Size 450l
ABS Yes. with EBD, BAS
Airbags Six
Tyres 205/55 R16 (full size spare)
Front Suspension Macpherson struts
Rear Suspension Torsion beam
Service Intervals 15 000km
Service Plan 5 year/90 000km
Price R251 300
Rivals Ford Focus, Renault Megane, VW Jetta

Lance Branquinho

What’s it about?

Moving the masses around – with a modicum of comfort. Toyota’s Corolla is the best selling car ever, and unsurprisingly South Africa’s too. The latest incarnation features a flagship powered by diesel for the first time locally too.

Boasting greater refinement, traditional Corolla capaciousness and ease of operation, the world’s number one car company’s journeyman seller faces extreme competition in the most forbidding local vehicle segment: C-segment sedans.


The Corolla 2.0 Exclusive D-4D is the local range flagship and although it might look as appealing as a higher grade matric trigonometry problem, it does come loaded with kit.

Styling is terribly underwhelming, with flanks so flat-panelled you could swear the door panels are just cut from plain sheet metal and fitted - they don’t appear to have been shaped. Beneath the drone styling you get a six-disc MP3 enabled CD-changer, keyless entry with push-button start, automatic headlights and leather seats.

Safety is well catered for too with front and side driver and front passenger airbags, augmented by curtain shield airbags for all occupants and a knee airbags for the driver.

Mechanically it's powered by a 2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel which produces 93kW and 300Nm, which is hardly class leading. Point is though, it’s the first time you can attempt to run your repmobile Corolla on diesel locally…

On the inside

The cabin, in aspects of texture, appointments and quality is a significantly more welcoming experience that the bodyshell which encloses it.

Although the predominantly beige trim will shows up dirt with consummate ease (ask any Fortuner owner) the centre console is ergonomically friendly and stowage spaces capacious and located easy to hand.

Seats, especially the leather trimmed ones on our Exclusive trim test unit, are superbly comfortable in the daily commute or long distance haul. Perhaps a bit unshapely for dynamic driving, the comfort coefficient outweighs the need for a more bucketed shape.

Two features were slightly irksome concerning the interior – and a third simply maddening. Firstly, the cubbyhold is split - we have no idea why - as this essentially halves the utility to store single sized items commensurate to its full capacity.

The second interior design foible is a question of taste. Toyota’s amber optitron instrumentation looks like it was imported form a cheap late 80s console game; it’s just not soft on the eye. Toyota designers should realise it’s the 21st century and backlighting is can be different hues - like blue or white.

Beyond these two issues, there was one huge point of contention I had with the Corolla, concerning its keyless entry system. It necessitates you to mash the clutch pedal to the firewall to actuate the sensor before the engine swings into life.

On more than one occasion I was nearly at the end of my tether as the display told me in no uncertain terms that it simply was not recognising the key - something our long-term Rav4 had a habit of doing too…

On the road

Corolla’s have a good reputation for gobbling up huge distances; probably due to their reliability more than dynamic driving ability; civil servants and company representatives cover awesome distances yearly in Corollas.

With its comfortable interior (especially the previously mentioned seat comfort) Corolla is a vice-free vehicle to navigate through the morning traffic to work; or set down to the coast in for December holidays.

The 2l turbodiesel might be down on power compared to its rivals – and a mite raucous too – but it drives through an effortlessly shifting six-speed manual gearbox.

Thanks to the six-speed gearbox – essential to garner an economic benefit from the diesel’s frugality potential – we averaged 6.1l/100km during the test period, which is plenty decent.

Hardly a dragster, the Corolla delivers most of the 300Nm torque peak low down, peaking at 2 000r/min. Consequently, if you busy yourself amongst the manual transmission’s ratios, you’re unlikely to be left behind around town or on the open road.

Chassis dynamics are tuned with an understandable ride-comfort bias. Front wheel suspension is via a trusted MacPherson strut arrangement, controlled by a rack and pinion steering system boosted by electric power steering. This combination renders plenty of effortless low-speed nimbleness, but scant feedback at higher speeds.

At the rear it’s a cost effective torsion beam, which hardly endears the Corolla with the sharpest handling class. Honda’s Civic sedan has multilink, double-wishbone rear suspension for example - just a shame you can’t get it in a diesel locally – and Ford’s 2.0 TDCi features full independent rear suspension too.

Net result is that at speed, on broken or rutted surfaces, it lacks the body control of the Honda and Ford. Corolla’s target market is unlikely to ever push the dynamic envelope near enough to notice this.


Corolla is a very good Toyota; the best of a long lineage of very successful cars when measured in sales volume.

The interior is a huge leap ahead; in terms of design and quality, and though the boot trim is a bit cheap, Corolla has a thoroughly premium C-segment feel in Executive spec.

It’s not the best looking, handling or performing car in class; but with simple controls and good economy on offer, buyers who purchase a car purely as a rational transport solution should be well pleased.

The secret to Toyota’s success is not engineering prowess, its product planning; they’re peerless in this department; especially locally, where they give customers what they need – not necessarily what they want.

I should tell you to buy a Honda Civic sedan instead; almost a better car in every way – but there is no diesel. Perhaps a Focus 2.0 TDCi? It’s two airbags down though, and no six-disc CD shuttle or leather trim standard either. VW’s Jetta 2.0 TDI Sportline is an accomplished car, yet specced to a comparable level it runs close on R300 000.

So, Toyota’s masterful product planning ensure the Corolla slots in at R251 300, which is not cheap, but there’s little else turbodiesel powered around to compete with it on specification – not to mention the considerable country wide service network.


Very comfy interior

Good economy

Build quality


Needs independent rear-suspension at this price

Engine a touch unrefined

Shows you have very average aesthetic taste

Maddening keyless-go system


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