Reinventing the legend
The Toyota Corolla is the bestselling car ever! From its origin in 1966, the nameplate passed 44 million units sold worldwide in 2016. This eclipses the previous champion, the Volkswagen Beetle, which closed out its production run in 2003 at twenty million units. Given the numbers, it would be easy for Toyota to continue the model without any changes. They didn’t, taking the subcompact sedan and giving it a from-the-ground rebuild to infuse it with style, refinement, and technology for 2020 and beyond.
The newness starts under the skin, with the new TNGA-C platform, which is the building blocks of the twelfth-generation Corolla. TNGA stands for Toyota New Global Architecture, designed to reduce costs by allowing multiple models to be created from a base set of components. Further advantages of TNGA are a stiffer chassis, lower centre of gravity, and the ability to apply greater technical advancements across each model vehicle. All three elements are easily found in the new Corolla.
ADDING TECHNOLOGY WHERE IT COUNTS
The car now packs in a lot of technology for its class. These technical advancements come under the Toyota Safety Sense banner, a group of four smart features that make the car safer and easier to drive than before. This is on top of passive safety elements like a stiffer body structure and seven standard airbags. Toyota Safety Sense complements anti-lock braking, vehicle stability control, and electronic-brake distribution.
Adaptive Cruise Control leads off the Safety Sense suite, allowing three preset levels of distance to be kept between vehicles in front. When engaged, the Corolla will adjust its speed to match whatever is ahead of it. Drivers no longer have to keep manually applying the brakes, which would normally disengage the cruise control, to do the same thing.
The automatic high beams is one of the best in the business, switching with a good level of accuracy between high and low beams as the car senses both oncoming headlights and rear tail lights. Lane departure alert uses an audible or visual signal to keep the driver aware of unintended lane changes. It works in conjunction with steering assist and road-edge detection. Continue to ignore the alerts, and the Corolla will attempt to steer you back into the correct lane or back on the road with small corrective inputs. Toyota Safety Sense processes information from two main sources – a millimetre-wave radar and a single-lens camera – for its fourth element: the pre-collision system. The Corolla can now recognise slowing vehicles before the driver to either warn or apply the brakes.
All that brainpower would be useless if the overall package wasn’t good. If one were to strip away all the technological advancements, the Corolla would still be an impressive package. In Toyota’s own words, TNGA provides rapid improvement in the three areas of driving, namely, moving, turning, and stopping.
DRIVING THE VEHICLES
The Corolla succeeds on all those fronts. It is not positioned as a sports car, but the ride quality is far superior to the previous generation. The chassis is extremely refined, giving a supple ride that flows with the road and absorbs bumps that would upset it. Yet it is not soft in the corners and is rather pleasant to be driven fast. Helping that feeling along is a more powerful 1.8 litre engine and Toyota’s new direct shift CVT. Unlike other constant velocity transmissions (CVTs), the Corolla has a physical first gear. This makes acceleration and shifting smoother than rivals having standard CVTs.
The styling is brave in a class used to copying upmarket styling for staying conservative. The lines are sharp from all angles and the grill makes sure you know it is a Toyota. Slide into the spacious interior afforded by the new platform and the dashboard takes as radical a design as the exterior. The seats, great for long-distance cruising, complement a cabin filled with soft-touch materials at the contact points and backed by solid ergonomics. All primary functions, such as the electronic handbrake with auto hold, are easily accessible while the rest are hidden away. Noise levels are low inside, highlighting the great sounding stereo system run from the large touch-screen infotainment system and its accompanying steering wheel-mounted buttons.
Price of tested model: $5,279,814.93
Price range: Starts at $4,924,489.63
Fuel tank: 50L
Body type: Sedan