YOU CAN TELL FROM THE FRONT GRILLE: THE LEVIN SX MEANS BUSINESS
Every day three Toyota Corollas are sold in New Zealand, making it easily the best-selling model on our roads.
Although it was eclipsed by other models in recent months, Toyota New Zealand delivered a range of facelifts across the range, returning Corolla to the top-selling position in July.
Rental and fleet buyers will have helped restore the Corolla to its accustomed position, but that does not alter the fact that 357 Corollas were sold in July.
Driven tested the Levin SX model, which is one down from the top of the range, the all-leather Levin ZR.
The SX sells for $33,390 plus on-road costs, while the ZR with a panoramic roof costs $39,190 plus on-road costs.
Updates across the range include improved front and rear styling.
New features on the Levin SX include a rear-view camera, stop-start button, leather all-purpose steering wheel and gear lever, and privacy glass back window. The Levin SX has additional body kit with a black honeycomb grille, and sits lower on the ground than lesser models.
The changes combine to give this Corolla an altogether more aggressive appearance.
The front belies Corolla’s somewhat docile reputation — the Levin SX leans more towards being a hot hatch than a sedate shopping basket.
A drive northwest from Auckland through a particularly windy section of State Highway 16 provided ample evidence of its sporty credentials.
The Levin SX kept up with a Skoda Octavia RS being driven hard through the corners, and clung on to the more powerful Skoda on the straighter stretches.
The ride is firm but comfortable and the seven-speed CVT automatic gearbox is exceptionally smooth and efficient.
The car has steering wheel paddle-shifters when you want to change gear manually.
There is not the throaty roar of a more powerful hot hatch but this car is no slouch.
The engine puts out 103kW of power, ensuring the car can summon enough oomph to pass safely and quickly.
The Levin SX is fitted with sport mode, engaged by pushing a button between the two front seats. It sets up the suspension, engine and gearbox for a sharper ride with greater feeling coming through the steering column.
This model also includes more sporty seats than the lesser models. They support the driver’s shoulders when cornering hard.
There might be too much faux carbon-fibre plastic on parts of the dashboard but the three-spoke steering wheel is leather, along with the gear stick cover, and the twin-circle speedo and rev counter are clear and bright.
The Levin SX is $4400 more than the baseline GX automatic Corolla, and packs in a great deal more for that price.
The Corolla updates have propelled the model back into the sales lead, proving some rejuvenation projects turn out to be well worthwhile.