Review: New Corolla XR is great, but…

Toyota recently launched their all-new Corolla in South Africa and does the new car build on forty+ years of reputability and trust. Perhaps this was the reason why you clicked on this article, or perhaps you decided to read it because you want to know (again) why this car is so good.

The easiest part about this article is that we could just end it here, conclude that the Corolla builds forth on what’s made it a success, say it’s brilliant, and call it a day. That’s the easy part. The reality, and the section we simply can’t leave out, is that despite the brilliance of the new Corolla, there are thoughts that came up during the test tenure. Thoughts that did little to diminish or take away from the Corolla’s offering, but thoughts and ideas that, quite frankly, need to be addressed.

But do know this: the new Toyota Corolla is great in many ways, but even it is not perfect.

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Image: Warren Wilson

Real sporty

When a manufacturer write down their press releases for a new vehicle, you’d often find words such as ‘sporty’ and ‘progressive’ littered across it. And when you see said vehicle, neither of those words are evident in the design. Not in the Corolla’s case. Sharp lines and striking design elements form the basis for this new hatchback and can one not help but stand in awe of what Toyota did.

Toyota, a manufacturer known for designing vehicles that are neither inspiring or fun to look at (bar the 86 GT, of course). It’s a case of logic and sense leading the design ethos, with everything else being an afterthought. But the 2019 Corolla turned the tables and I’m hoping it’ll herald a new era for Toyota passenger cars. Back to the Corolla.

From the front to the rear the Corolla is decked in a sporty design. The front bumper has multiple layers that fold in unison to create a truly sporty presence. The low slung design continues on the side of the vehicle, flowing towards the back where more sharp and dynamic lines form part of the design. Never before has a Corolla looked this striking and is it a massive departure from the bland products of yore.

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Image: Warren Wilson

Misleading seats

What is particularly impressive about the new Corolla, especially in this XR trim, is the well-appointed interior. Toyota has made huge strides with regards to the new model’s cabin over the outgoing model and can one not help but give that nod of approval for what’s been done and achieved.

Though there are plastics to be found, the majority of the cabin is fitted with soft-touch materials, panels that are, in typical Toyota fashion, well put together. Glide your fingers across it and the attention to detail really does shine through. The multimedia system, that sits atop the dashboard, also sees a redesign and does the latest iteration of Toyota’s system now feature buttons on the side rather than the extension of the touchscreen. This goes a long way in making the system easier to use. But the lack of satellite navigation was not expected on this top-of-the-range model, though.

Perhaps the most pleasing part about the interior are the seats the Corolla XR is fitted with. One could be easily misled to believe that you are in a sports car of sorts, only because the seats are so sporty. Decked in suede-cloth and leather, the front seats offer ample of support and does it not tire you out. And speaking of the manually adjustable front seats (bar electric lumbar support), both feature heaters that can be set to either low or high.

All is not well, however, and does the Corolla suffer from a lack of space. Toyota notes that the Corolla has a luggage capacity of 294L with the rear seats in place, but the boot is neither deep nor wide. In fact, it’s a bit on the shallow side and does it not take much for it to be filled to the brim. Passengers in the back will find rear legroom to be on the sparse side, especially when a driver of 1.85m has the seat in his ideal position.

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Image: MotorPress

10-speed gearbox

One of the biggest talking points around the new Corolla has to be the new 10-speed CVT gearbox it is fitted with. Granted, a CVT (continuously variable transmission) is not one of a motor journalist’s ‘most loved things’, but in the Corolla it made a good case for itself. The whine and squeal is still there when you wind the engine up, but it is far less obtrusive and irritating than some ‘boxes used by other manufacturers.

This gearbox is mated to a new 1.2-litre petrol engine that, for the first time on a Corolla, features a turbocharger. Thanks to the magic of forced induction, the engine delivers 85kW and 185Nm. It translates to a car that can effectively manage the tolls of day to day driving and in which you can shoot from robot to robot in a swift manner. The addition of a turbocharger does not make the Corolla a fast car, but it does make the car easier to drive and to handle. Add to it a suspension setup that handles the road with aplomb and you have to wonder why Toyota didn’t add more power to the package.

Toyota says that its new Corolla, when fitted with the new gearbox, will consume 6.1 L/100km, but the best we could manage was 7.8. And that was with a very light foot.

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Image: Warren Wilson


Gone are the days when Toyota’s, and especially the Corolla, were seen as an appliance. Not anymore. It’s now a car that merges a great design with brand trust and reputability. And not since the 86 GT has a Toyota been fun to drive, until now. Apart from the mentioned gripes with the interior and fuel consumption that’s not come close to the claimed figure, the new Corolla has made a statement.

Not just a statement that its segment should take note of it, but a statement that Toyota’s should now be regarded as fun, youthful cars. The new Toyota Corolla is not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good at everything else.

Price: R367 100

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Image: Warren Wilson