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With the end of local Corolla production, Toyota has been progressively introducing the new fully imported Corolla range and there are now 14 models to choose from.
There is a choice of two body styles (sedan or liftback), two transmissions (five-speed manual or four-speed automatic) and four equipment levels. Sedan equipment grades are the Ascent, the Conquest and the Ultima, while the liftback offers these, plus a sporty Levin version (tested).
The base model Ascent is expected to account for just over 50 per cent of total Corolla sales. A manual Ascent is priced at $20,390, with the automatic version costing $22,100. As for all new Corolla models, there is no difference in price between sedans and liftbacks.
Next is the Conquest at $24,220, then the Levin at $25,100 and the Ultima tops the range at $28,560. These are manual prices, add around $1,700 for automatics. None of these prices includes dealer or statutory charges.
Equipment levels have been raised across the Corolla range. The 1.6 litre engine has gone, with the 1.8 litre EFI-equipped twin cam multi-valve engine now a standard fitment. All versions have a driver's airbag, power steering, power exterior mirrors, central locking, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, an engine immobiliser and variable intermittent wipers. All liftbacks have a 60/40 split/fold rear seat.
From Conquest up, there's air conditioning, power front windows, full cloth trim, an alarm system with panic mode, remote locking, a CD player and driver's seat height adjustment. The Conquest liftback has a rear spoiler.
Added features on the Levin include anti-lock brakes and rear discs, alloy wheels, front foglamps, body spoiler, sports seats, a mesh radiator grille, leather-covered steering wheel and gear knob.
Ultimas have all these features, plus a front passenger airbag, a 6-disc in-dash CD player, power rear windows, different style alloy wheels, ‘high-grade' front seats, velour trim, mudflaps and chrome window mouldings.
The Corolla isn't as big on the inside as its appearance may suggest. Front legroom is satisfactory for average size adults but those with long legs might wish for a bit more space. Front seat comfort and support in the Levin model tested rated as good.
With the front seats set right back, rear legroom is rather restricted and suited mainly to smaller children. Rear headroom is also limited in the liftback versions.
The Corolla has good load space, with the option to increase it further (in liftbacks and the Ultima sedan) by folding the 60/40 split backrest and the one-piece cushion. The only catch when folding the cushion (to obtain a flat load area) is that the front seats need to be slid forward a couple of notches.
For drivers, the Corolla's instrument and control layout mostly follows a familiar and easy to use pattern, however the sound system looks a little out of place stuck up in the centre of the dash, and it's a stretch to reach. The Levin's instruments are designed to project a sporty look, but I found the orange markings particularly hard to read in bright daylight conditions.
The Levin's sporty pretensions are pretty much limited to its handling and its appearance, as the performance is nothing special, particularly in the automatic version tested.
My experience with the manual versions is that quite good performance is available in the higher rev ranges, but automatics work better with engines that produce good torque at low engine rpm. The test car's auto was harsh at times when it needed to change down for better performance.
One of the biggest improvements with this latest Corolla range has been in the areas of handling and roadholding. The Levin felt stable and secure in all conditions, with a reassuringly solid feel on the road.
The steering is quite firm compared to some other power assisted systems, but in the Levin particularly, this adds to the sporty feel.
With its four discs and anti-locking equipment, the Levin put in an impressive braking performance. It pulled up in short distances during emergency stopping tests from 80 to 0 km/h and displayed good resistance to fade under heavy use.
At the same time as projecting a fresh and more youthful look with its appearance, and upgrading equipment to levels that would have been unheard of in years gone by, the latest fully imported Corolla range remains faithful to the values that have made this model such a huge success for so many years.
Buyers trust Corollas to be reliable to own, economical to operate and easy to live with, and judging by the build quality, the test results and our experience so far, this new range should have no trouble meeting these ideals.
Test vehicle supplied by Toyota Motor Corporation Australia Limited.
|Body type||5-door hatchback|
|Price of vehicle tested||$30,260|
Good handling and braking
Limited occupant space
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||3 years, 100,000km|
$20,390 - Ascent manual
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||1.8 L|
|Claimed max power (kW)||85 kW @ 5800 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||154 Nm @ 4800 rpm|
|Wheel size||14 "|
|Type||Power assisted rack and pinion|
|Turns to lock||3.3 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1870 mm|
|Fuel capacity||50 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||900 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||76|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||6.5 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||8.3 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||8.1 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||12 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||7.0 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||10.7 L/100km|
|Average on test||8.2 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||28.3 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||68 dB(A)|