This Corolla's distinctly different
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Australian motoring writer Grant Edwards takes Toyota's new small sedan for a spin
Chances are you have owned a Toyota Corolla, or at least someone in your family has.
The nameplate has become folklore. It means "crown of flowers" and it has been a bloomin' brilliant car for Toyota.
Now the 11th-generation range is complete with the sedan's arrival.
The hatch has been in Australia and New Zealand since late 2012, and propelled Corolla to the No1-selling car in both countries last year - the first time Toyota has secured that title in Australia.
New Zealand will gain three models - the manual and auto GX from $33,490, the GLX at $37,490 and the top-spec ZR at $43,690.
This isn't just a hatch with a boot attached to the back. The sedan is bigger, and geared toward comfort.
Most sales will still be owned by the hatch, and the majority of sedan buyers will be family focused and aged above 50. But Toyota hopes that by offering a distinctly different car it will offer a new appeal, which will help fend off the all-new Mazda3 which is gunning for the top sales position in Australia.
The Corolla has a pronounced dash, sitting square with a vertical face which features the touch screen and climate control operations.
Improved front seats cosset the body and greater under-thigh support, extra bolstering at the lumbar and sides make for a pleasant ride.
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Sitting on a longer wheelbase has enabled Toyota to push the wheels further to the corners and create 100mm of extra interior space. Much of that space is provided to rear seat passengers. Combined with thinner front seat backs, it results in outstanding leg and knee room.
It's not far off a medium-size car in terms of cabin accommodation.
Typically Toyota, with a simple layout, everything is logically positioned.
A much roomier interior for the new Toyota Corolla ZR sedan launches this week. Photo / Supplied
Billed as more comfortable and luxurious than the hatch, the sedan is no shrinking violet. Toyota makes clear this isn't a sports car, although it is surprisingly adept.
Powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, the Corolla offers impressive dexterity. Transmission choices are a continuously variable automatic or a six-speed manual.
We only drove the self shifter, which will secure the majority of sales, and it's a slick little unit. It offers timely, smooth shifts. Only when worked extremely hard under acceleration does it become flustered, offering more noise than action.
But the four-potter is up to wide-ranging tasks. It can overtake with confidence on a rural road, cruise at 100km/h below 2000rpm or potter around town.
The steering has good, accurate feedback through the wheel and we had to push hard for any loss of traction.
Twin bottle holders sit in the centre console as well as the fold-down arm rest in the back, and there are drink slots in each door.
Up front there is a good spot for phones and audio players in front of the shifter close to the USB, auxiliary and 12-volt ports.
Toyota Corolla ZR sedan launches this week. Photo / Supplied
The Corolla is much larger than your usual small car and three adults can fit across the back seat.
Boot space has improved to 470 litres (up 20 litres), and load space has the flexibility of 60-40 split fold rear seats.
And while hearts won't race when it comes to design, the Corolla is not a bad looking thing. Particularly noticeable is the new front end with curved bonnet edges and lights which wrap around the front edges.
There has been greater attention to detail with reduced panel gaps between the doors.