IF THE price doesn't attract your attention, the athletic new look will. Toyota's 11th generation Corolla has rolled into showrooms with a sharper look and an even pointier price.
The base model Ascent retails for $19,990, while other variants have been reduced by up to $1500, which fires an aggressive salvo at the likes of Mazda, Ford, Holden, Hyundai and Volkswagen.
Standard equipment has been improved, and the new look not only has sportier connotations but also improves aerodynamics.
All trim levels feature an improved ambience and feature a groovy interior finish no matter what trim level you choose.
Soft-touch materials across the dash and the brush-look features are classy, even in the entry-level derivative.
We test drove the range-topping Levin ZR with leather trim, which ups the quality ante, although the models with cloth trim still have a nice feel.
Our leather-wrapped steering wheel felt great in the hands and sets the sportier benchmark.
Four adults can easily find comfort in the Corolla, with the back seat even able to house those around the 180cm mark.
On the road
Toyota has made solid inroads with cabin noise. Cruising around is done with minimal fuss when even coarse bitumen fails to upset the ambience.
Not a great deal has changed in terms of the engine, with the same 1.8-litre, four-cylinder petrol that now has an extra 3kW and takes total power to 103kW. Torque is down slightly, although it has a better spread across the range.
Big gains have been made in the handling and the Corolla can handle quick changes of direction with improved feel through the steering.
Push too hard into a bend and typical understeer arrives but it takes much more speed thanks to the improved dynamics.
We sampled the new continuously variable transmission that replaces the four-speed auto. It behaves well with timely shifts, and in the Levin models you have paddle shifters on the steering wheel where you can make use of seven pre-set ratios for manual-style control.
What do you get?
Every model gets seven airbags and a five-star crash rating, a full-size spare as well as cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, and a six-speaker audio system. Only the base model misses out on a reversing camera - but it can be optioned.
Levin models have 17-inch alloys and satellite navigation, while the range-topping Levin ZR gains swivelling high-intensity discharge headlights including an automatic high beam function, leather seats, front seat heaters, keyless entry and start and climate control air con.
Sitting in the Corolla's crosshairs is the top-selling Mazda3 (from $20,330), along with the Ford Focus (from $21,990), Hyundai i30 (from $20,990), VW Golf (from $21,990) and the Holden Cruze (from $21,940).
The automatic derivatives are thriftier and average under seven litres for every 100km, which is pretty cheap motoring.
Future out of pockets peace of mind comes with capped price of $130 for each of up to six scheduled logbook services in the first three years or 60,000km. The Toyota dealership network is also strong so those who do plenty of kilometres should have little problem finding spare parts and support.
With a distinctive European flavour, the new Corolla banishes the bulbous proportions for sharper and more purposeful edges. It may not be in the supercar realm in terms of attraction but it is now far better positioned to take on the competition.
Reliability now meets good looks. Toyota's new Corolla is better positioned with an all-round package which is hard to fault.
Improved steering feedback helps deliver a confident performance on the twisties while the tried and trusted four-cylinder engine will seldom let buyers down.
Model: Toyota Corolla.
Details: Five-door five-seat front-wheel drive hatch.
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder generating maximum power of 103kW @ 6400rpm and peak torque of 173Nm @ 4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 7.1 litres/100km (manual); 6.6 litres/100km (CVT).
CO2: 166g/km (manual); 152g/km (CVT).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 9.7 seconds (manual); 10.0s (CVT).
Bottom line: Ascent $19,990, Ascent Sport $20,990, Levin SX $23,990, Levin ZR $28,490.
Vehicle: Courtesy Ken Mills Toyota, 82 Sugar Rd, Maroochydore, phone 5443 6277 or 107 Coronation Ave, Nambour, phone 5441 1544.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
The good stuff: European feel inside and out, quiet cabin.
What we'd like to see: Slightly more power would reward the improved driving dynamics.
Warranty: You get a three-year 100,000km warranty and capped price servicing for the first 60,000km.