16.4 L/ 100km
The iconic Toyota Corolla first seen in Australia way back in 1967 as a two door sedan has been a main player in Toyota's success ever since and is now in its tenth generation.
There are four hatches and three sedans (the wagon has been discontinued in the new line-up), with all offering either manual or automatic transmission except the Ultima Sedan. The top specked Ultima Sedan is available as an auto only. That's 13 variants. Body shapes differ - the Ascent hatch is designed in Europe, the sedans are from Japan. Both are built in Japan.
Power-wise the new 1.8-litre engine has been further refined and made more powerful. Dual variable valve timing increases output to 100kW@6,000 and 175Nm of torque at 4,400rpm.
Also new is the six speed manual transmission replacing the previous models' five speed, although the automatic still remains a four speed.
Value for money
PricingThe entry level Ascent tested was the automatic version and it retails for $22,990. The manual version is $2,000 cheaper, at $20,990. It's around $1,000 more than the outgoing model. Every manufacturer has something to offer in this class - Honda with its award winning Civic VTi is $23,490 (auto), Mazda has the Mazda3 Neo priced at $22,990 (auto) and Hyundai has the Elantra SX auto at $21,990 (although it's only available as a sedan). The entry level Ascent fits between the smaller Toyota Yaris YR auto - $17,890 and the Camry Altise at $29,500 in the Toyota range.
Some manufacturers have had the jump on the most recent Corollas when it comes to standard features especially safety. This new model rectifies that to some extent with ABS braking now standard across the range.
Other standard features include:
- 100kW 1.8 litre engine
- Driver and passenger front airbags
- Tilt and telescopic steering
- AM/FM radio with CD player and MP3 compatibility
- Power windows with auto function for drivers (on the front windows only).
- Metallic paint - $300
- Safety Pack - includes five additional air bags - $750
- Cruise pack - includes cruise control and leather bound steering wheel with audio controls and a moonroof - $1,500
- Plus a range of Toyota 'accessories' like Satellite Navigation, different alloy wheel options and reverse park sensors.
Design and function
Space and practicality
The new model has grown up in all key dimensions. It's longer, wider, higher and heavier than the last model tested back in 2002. Interestingly, the latest Corolla hatch is now bigger in dimensions (except in length) than the pre 'wide' body Toyota Camry from the 90's.
The Ascent Hatch differs from its sedan counterpart in interior design. The hatch has a high mounted gear lever that sits in a sweeping centre console that gives a snug 'cockpit' like feel for the front seat passengers. Front and rear leg room and head room is generous and the rear seat is a 60/40 design with adjustable backrests. The hatch has a wide opening aperture and a flat floor and with the seats down there is over 1.4 metres of cargo length. Interior storage for small items is handled by a two piece glovebox, a smaller upper section and a larger lower half for street directories etc. There is a sunglasses holder in the overhead light console, door pockets on all four doors and map pockets on the backs of both front seats.
The front seats are a huge improvement over previous generation Corollas. The new models are more sculptured with additional side bolstering on the seat base and backrest. Rear seat comfort is also better although taller passengers could do with some additional thigh support.
Toyota Corollas have always been a user friendly vehicle and the latest hatch is no different. Door openings for front and rear allow for easy access though interior door handles are oddly positioned and take a while to get used to. Once seated the driver has excellent forward vision through the large rectangular front screen. On test the large windscreen 'A' pillars didn't block vision when cornering - a definite plus and there is a small fixed quarter glass to help.
Rearward vision is hampered by the high waistline and thickish C pillars although the Corolla isn't alone in this regard.
Ahead of the driver two large dials for speed and engine revolutions are simply marked, but not particularly striking to look at. Minor gauges for fuel and temp are also easy to see. In the centre console three large rotary dials for heating and ventilation are clearly marked - although not as tactile to operate as some opposition models. Similarly, the audio controls for sound were a bit old school and small. The higher specked models have the controls on the steering wheel, a much better option.
The new Corolla Ascent has dual front airbags, ABS braking with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution. This latest hatch also scored a five star safety rating in the latest round of Euro NCAP safety tests. Australian versions may differ slightly though. The optional safety pack adds an additional five airbags including, for the first time for Corolla, a driver's knee airbag, bringing the total to seven.
Build quality and finish
A strong point for Toyota is their solid reputation for build and finish though with the Ascent there were a couple of minor disappointments. The choice of seat fabric looked and felt low-rent, and the dash board, whilst it didn't squeak on test, was decidedly flimsy between the windscreen and instrument cluster.
Remote keyless entry and an engine immobiliser form the basis of the Corolla's security armoury. An alarm is standard for the top line Ultima, optional for the rest of the range. A security rating of 57/120 is better than the outgoing model but still below average for class.
On the road
The combined government ADR fuel figure for the new Ascent auto is 7.4 litres per 100km. On test we recorded a higher figure of 8.8 litres per 100km on our city cycle, out on the highway this dropped to 7.6 litres. Compared to the last Corolla tested with a 100kW engine in 2002, the new Ascent automatic is better by nearly 7 per cent and that's despite a weight gain of around 125kg for the new model.
The 1.8 litre powerplant powering the last model delivered 93kW of power. Dual variable valve timing on the new 1.8 has increased this to 100kW. Coupled to the four speed automatic, performance is adequate without being too impressive. Accelerating hard to overtake it starts to get a little busy with engine noise increasing.
Up front tried and proven MacPherson struts are used in the front suspension layout while the rear utilise a torsion beam design, which helps in minimising suspension intrusion into the luggage area. A lot of work has gone into matching springs and dampers for the new model, and it shows with the new Ascent having less body roll than its predecessor, and a cabin that is extremely well insulated from potholes and road irregularities. One of the best tested recently.
Handling and steering
Compared to the old model the latest Ascent feels much more accomplished out on the road. There's no denying that the Corolla has become larger but with the growth has come an improved chassis and more communicative steering although with fairly heavy self centering. The new Ascent gives something back to the driver.
The entry level Ascent now has the braking features standard that that others in the same class have had for a number of years. ABS brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist plus 275mm ventilated front and solid rear discs form a solid brake package. On test the brakes performed strongly with a reassuring brake pedal feel and solid stops.
Smoothness and quietness
Mechanically the engine becomes a little noisy when pushed right to its rpm limits but if you are less heavy with the right foot - especially at higher speeds, the new Ascent is impressive with its levels of quietness and refinement. It's a nicely balanced powertrain. The four speed automatic transmission also provides engine braking when travelling downhill.
Since it was introduced in 1966 more than 32.5 million Corollas have been sold throughout the world. Its appeal is in part due to its straightforward, user-friendly design, and as the model grew, so has its reliability and higher than average resale value. The new Corolla Ascent will undoubtedly continue the tradition. It's improved in key areas - fuel consumption, safety features and better drive qualities - producing a model that will continue the Corolla tradition and remain a favourite with buyers.