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(Pocket-lint) - Toyota's CEO, that aptly-named Akio Toyoda, recently announced that his company would leave behind its reputation for slightly dull but functional automobiles and vowed that Toyota would "make no more boring cars".

He stuck true to his word and now the entire range features funky, futuristic styling, its forward-thinking hybrid technology has paved the way for cleaner vehicles, and we have a brand new Supra on the way. A Supra definitely isn't boring.

However, this move away from the mundane wasn't without its casualties. The dependable-but-drab Corolla badge was one of the first things to get the chop. As a result, Toyota dealers up and down the country have spent the past 10 years trying to convince customers that the Auris is, in fact, the Corolla's cool cousin, but that idea has now been scrapped.

So, the 52-year-old Corolla badge is back. It comes in three distinct flavours - Hatchback, Saloon and Touring Sports (we'll go with "estate" here) - while the choice of a tiny 1.2-litre petrol engine and two hybrid powertrains (120bhp to 178bhp) means customers have a range of power outputs to choose from.


The new Corolla is based on the same basic platform as the latest Prius and CH-R SUV, and there's a lot of the former in the elongated saloon version. In fact, we'll stick our neck out here and suggest the saloon is not particularly beautiful - which is fine, because they don't expect to sell many here in the UK anyway.

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However, the lower, wider and generally more aggressive Hatchback and Touring Sports models suit the trapezoidal design language far better. The athletic little hatch, in arresting red paintjob, strikes an imposing figure in a segment where many models are slowly morphing into one another.

Granted, the top-of-the-range Excel variants appear far more purposeful riding on top of those gargantuan 18-inch alloy wheels, but even the more basic models feature intricate rear LED light clusters and sporty little roof lip spoiler.

Compared to the previous Auris hatchback, the new Corolla measures 40mm longer and is 25mm lower, while both front and rear overhangs have been reduced by 20mm to give this machine a more 'hench' appearance.

The elongated Touring Sports boasts an identical face to its hatchback sibling but every panel rear of the centre pillar is exclusive to the model.

Its flared wheel arches and sweeping roofline ensure it will appeal to a younger, more style conscious audience, while the larger boot and clever reversible boot floor (rubber one side for wet, muddy things and carpet t'other) means bikes and boards fit easily.

Interior and technology

The Corolla's interior feels spacious and modern, especially up front, with a completely overhauled driver cockpit that sees a new, slimmer instrument panel sit in front of the steering wheel, while many of the buttons and controls are neatly laid out beneath a large touchscreen infotainment system.

That said, the largest 8-inch Toyota Touch 2 system does feel a little bit like it has been bolted on to the middle of the dash, rather than elegantly factored in to the rest of the pelasingly symmetrical design.

Higher trim levels receive leather seats and cool contrast stitching, while many of the dash details are finished in a neat chrome surround, which give the cabin a premium feel to compete with some of the more expensive German rivals.

On top of this, every model bar the basic Icon variants, receive a 7-inch multi-information TFT display that sits in place of old-school analogue instrument binnacles. This can be altered to present a whole host of information and the choice to have various data screens highlighted in cool blue accents looks fantastic.

Interior mood lighting can be found on the most expensive models and an eight-speaker JBL premium sound system features at the very top of the range but, sadly, the technological highlights end there.

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In a slightly bizarre move, Toyota won't commit to a date for the introduction of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, despite it being offered on the tiny and far less expensive Aygo, and that big infotainment tablet already feels dated.

The sat nav is clunky and unintuitive to use, and the graphics feel basic. But Toyota has said it will roll out greater smartphone functionality and further connected services, including Send to Car Navigation, later in the year.

The drive

Toyota is committed to making its hybrid technology as user-friendly as possible, so it doesn't tend to mess about with the business of plugging in (aside from its Prius PHEV), meaning customers don't have to worry too much about range and where the next charge is coming from.

In the UK, Corolla is offered with a very basic 1.2-litre petrol engine, a 1.8-litre petrol hybrid or a more powerful 2.0-litre petrol hybrid version. Predictably, hybrids will make up the majority of sales and that's probably a good thing.

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According to studies carried out in Paris and Rome, 62 per cent of Toyota hybrid journeys are completed with zero emissions, where the on-board batteries power a permanent magnet synchronous motor, which then turns the wheels. 

Like Prius and some of Toyota's other hybrid offerings, the new Corolla features a pure EV Mode (electric only), which allows the driver to silently cruise around using nothing but electricity at a flick of a switch.

But unlike other plug-in hybrid rivals, this electric-only system only lasts for a couple of miles (at very low speeds) before the engine kicks in and begins the process of topping up the small battery packs stashed beneath the bodywork.

In most other driving situations, the system cleverly juggles between internal combustion engine and electrical assistance without the driver knowing. At snail's pace around town or at motorway cruising speed, it is quiet, refined and extremely comfortable, but things get a bit wayward when the roads get more enjoyable.

Boot the throttle and there's a slight delay as the CVT gearbox hunts out the perfect ratio. Anyone who has spent any time in an Uber will recognise the curious droning soundtrack produced by a hybrid like this. 

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The lower-powered 1.8-litre hybrid setup, with its 120bhp, definitely lacks a bit of punch and drivers will find that not much progress is being made, even when the right foot is pinned to the floor.

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Step up to the 2.0-litre variant, which sees power jump to 178bhp, and things definitely improve, but there's still a disparity between the way new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform handles and the lack of guts from the hybrid powertrain, which is a shame.

But Toyota isn't suggesting this is a performance machine and instead capitalises on the fact that even the most powerful engine and electric motor combination emit just 92g/km CO2 and return up to 60mpg on the combined cycle.


The new Corolla definitely succeeds in its mission to make this dependable nameplate more exciting, with sharp exterior styling and a neatly executed interior giving other affordable hatchbacks something to ponder.

Admittedly, the lack of on-board gizmos is disappointing, and the hybrid powertrain doesn't do the excellent chassis and suspension setup justice, but this is an incredibly comfortable and efficient vehicle for everyday use. 

Plus, that clever hybrid system produces some tempting fuel economy figures and Toyota claims that its monthly payments for PCP customers are going to be among some of the most competitive on the market.

The old Toyota Corolla is one of the best selling cars ever, shifting over 50 million units during its long and illustrious career, and we expect that to continue with this new model, but there's still something of the dowdy that Toyota just can't quite shift.

Writing by Leon Poultney.