Toyota Corolla launched in NZ: going from steady to stylish
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Toyota is setting out to transform the public’s perception of its best-selling Corolla models — from steady and reliable to stylish and fun to drive.
The 12th generation of the Corolla hatchback is officially launched on October 1 and marks the biggest upgrade of the model that in many ways symbolises Toyota.
The Corolla has been New Zealand’s biggest-selling individual model for the past decade, although it is under challenge now from utes.
Kiwis are not alone in buying the car in droves — Toyota says a new Corolla is sold somewhere in the world every 15 seconds.
Corollas went on sale in 1966 and since then about 220 million have been bought, making it the world’s best-selling model.
The new Corolla is longer, lower and wider than its predecessors, and it sits on the Japanese giant’s new Toyota New Global Architecture platform.
That has allowed the company to incorporate a range of new active and passive safety features, while delivering a car that handles much better than earlier Corollas.
The new models have a lower centre of gravity, trailing wishbone independent rear suspension and other features such as an active pre-crash safety system that incorporates autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, and active cornering assist.
The new model range is priced from $29,990 for the baseline Corolla petrol 2-litre GX model, through to $38,490 for the top of the range Corolla ZR 1.8-litre petrol hybrid model. There are three Corolla models available now: the GX (petrol and hybrid), a mid-range SX petrol model, and petrol and hybrid ZR models.
The petrol models are powered by a new 2-litre four-cylinder engine with a direct-shift CV transmission, while a 1.8-litre petrol electric hybrid engine on the hybrid models is linked to an electronically controlled CV transmission.
The new models are not only better equipped and safer than their predecessors, they are also a more dynamic drive.
The steering has more feel and direction, and the cars handled the twists and turns of the road over the Saddle Track from Palmerston North to Woodville, then down through secondary roads through the Wairarapa to Martinborough, and back via the Pahiatua Track, during the press drive.
The GX and SX models were particularly impressive, especially from a value for money point of view. The higher-grade ZR models have more road noise from larger tyres, have more enveloping seats and higher-grade interiors.
However, the model most New Zealanders are likely to experience (as a rental car) is the baseline GX, and they will enjoy the drive.
The lower grille on the new models emphasises the increased width of the new cars, with LED headlights wrapping around into the front guards, while the design is more rounded at the rear.
Toyota New Zealand general manager of product and new vehicle sales, Neeraj Lala, told the press launch that it was the biggest upgrade in the Corolla’s history.
“It’s a more premium and stylish car that places a priority on the highest active and passive safety standards,” he said.
The 2-litre direct injection petrol engine has the latest technology for gains in power, fuel efficiency and cleaner emissions. Toyota says it now has 21 per cent more power (125kW) and 15 per cent more torque (200Nm) but is more economical.
The CVT transmission is more efficient, and uses a new gear drive when starting from a full stop, eliminating the momentary hesitation that has annoyed drivers of CV transmissions.
The SX and ZR petrol variants add paddle shifters and all petrol variants can access a 10-speed sequential manual shift mode.
The hybrid models feature the latest self-charging petrol hybrid electric powertrain from the Prius. The 1.8-litre petrol engine has a combined system output of 90kW, with a claimed combined fuel consumption of 4.2 litres/100km.
The baseline GX model has an 8-inch touchscreen display, a 4.2-inch multi-info display, rear privacy glass, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a six-speaker audio system with satellite navigation.
The GX hybrid model gains a dual climate control system, with and keyless smart entry and push-button start.
The SX grade models also have a wireless phone charger, LED front fog lamps, paddle shifters, leather steering wheel and an additional USB port.
The ZR has a large colour head up display on the windscreen, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather and suede-accented sports front seats, a premium audio system, 7-inch colour multi-information display, ambient illumination, automatic dimming rear-view mirror and high-grade bi-LED headlamps.
All models have an active pre-crash safety system that includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and cyclist detection, all speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert and lane centring and sway warning.
All have reversing cameras, along with drive start control, secondary collision brake and active cornering assist.
Blind spot monitoring is added to the mid-range SX and top line ZR variants.
● Driven and driven.co.nz will publish full road tests of the ZR petrol and hybrid models in coming weeks.