Exclusive: New Toyota Corolla arrives in NZ — and we take it for a spin
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Driving through Great North Road as it morphs into Karangahape Road is good fun for petrol-heads young and old alike. The smorgasbord of new car dealerships is a sight to behold, and on more than a few occasions it's been the scene of a great four-wheeled 'first sighting'.
This morning I expected to see one new car along the busy stretch — that car being the Tesla Model 3. What I didn't expect was to also spot the new Toyota Corolla.
We've been giving the new Corolla plenty of props of late, given its integral role in Toyota's larger overarching plan of making the brand and its products less of a bore. So having spotted two proudly on display at Auckland City Toyota, curiosity led to a brief visit after the Tesla reveal.
One thing led to another, and we were handed the keys to the top-of-the-range Corolla ZR for the morning.
The ZR comes loaded with plenty of tech and trim changes. It sports a deeper bodykit and 18-inch wheels on the outside, and heads-up display, a JBL sound system, and ultra comfy heated suede sports seats on the inside. That's on top of a heap of standard kit that includes an 8.0-inch infotainment system as well as a stack of safety kit.
That safety tech deserves a bit of attention because it's really quite impressive. Adaptive cruise control that slows the car all the way to 0km/h, lane-tracing assist, vehicle sway warning, autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and automatic high beam are all standard across the range.
Engines? Well, the SX and ZR models share the same naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 125kW and 200Nm to its name. Humble figures on first reading, but that's 21 per cent more power and 15 per cent more torque than the outgoing 1.8-litre. All from a more compact unit, despite the additional 200cc of capacity.
There's also a Hybrid variant, which comes equipped with a 72kW 1.8-litre petrol engine paired with a supporting hybrid system.
But most people considering a Corolla probably place the engine changes or safety changes second or third on the totem pole of importance, at best. The big story here is how the Corolla looks, inside and out.
Interior-wise things are bolted well together, much like the last Corolla's interior. The difference is that material quality has improved across the board. Soft touch materials don't just adorn major touch points, but they also find home all over the dashboard and door cards.
The supporting design is also of the more mature variety, with contrast stitching in this ZR model complimenting a few well-weighted licks of silver accenting. Everything's well laid out, although the big plinth of piano black plastic on the transmission tunnel is likely to be a hot bed for dust and finger prints.
And the exterior styling? Well, a shrinking violet the new Corolla certainly is not — particularly in ZR trim.
You'll like it or loath it, much like a lot of the Japanese brand's other current designs. But we tend to think that it's one of the most ambitiously styled Corollas since the '90s. Sharp edges and defined character lines make it something that not only stands out in its own segment, but also stands on its own two legs.
The leering headlights wrap around the nose while feeding into the gaping honeycomb grill, and out back the boot-lid looks like an unfolded piece of origami paper.
No, those exhaust tips in the diffuser aren't real — the real exhaust system ends underneath out of sight. But that's to be expected in today's motoring landscape, where half of the contenders would rather look athletic than actually be athletic ... a bit like those who make regular trips to the cafe in active-wear only to dine on pies and full-milk triple mocha chocas.
But, without giving away too much, the Corolla ZR is athletic.
The new Corolla will launch next month, which will undoubtedly involve a lengthy spirited drive or two. Driving impressions from that event will no doubt have more weight than impressions founded over the course of a 30 minute Auckland City run around.
What I'll say for now is that the CVT is a wonderful thing.
A rare statement for sure, given how much we generally loathe transmissions of the continuously variable variety. But, this one's different. It has an 'automatic' first gear, which comes with its own torque converter. That means that, with a bit of right-foot encouragement, the Corolla has impressive pick-up off the line — revving out to red-line along the way before switching over to a pulley-driven CVT arrangement once it's reached a certain speed.
There's more to discuss; the Corolla's 'TGNA' underpinnings and suspension characteristics included — not to mention whether the Hybrid is the better bet than the ZR. Pricing is also still to be confirmed, although it's expected that this range topping ZR will slot in at a similar price as its predecessor in the high $30k-bracket.
Once we have that info, we'll let you know. For now, know that this Corolla isn't really like the old one ...