Corolla 2018 road test review

RoyalAuto magazine

The latest Corolla targets the in-crowd with sportier stance, smart styling and improved handling.

Report: Ernest Litera
October 2018.


With its new Corolla, Toyota has launched a version of the world’s best-selling car that is significantly improved, both visually and technically, yet without breaking the mould that has made it an icon for durability and still attracts great brand loyalty.

The 2018 Corolla’s longer, wider and lower stance is immediately apparent, along with pleasingly crisp front and rear styling. The aim is to lure younger buyers, so this smart presentation is accompanied by more spirited handling, thanks to the wider wheel track and a sharper steering feel.

Drivers face a neat and significantly refreshed dash layout.


The sportier stance, incorporating a lower centre of gravity and occupant hip point, may be less attractive to older buyers who are turning to high-riding SUVs. Seat-height adjustment is thankfully standard in all models. 

Up front, access and space are good. Drivers face a neat and significantly refreshed dash layout, enhanced by a large, centrally mounted touch screen. Front-seat design and support has improved, as has cabin presentation and trim finish, although the step up is more obvious in mid SX and top ZR models. The cabin finish in the entry Ascent Sport model remains somewhat sober. 

Fundamental shortcomings of this model are small rear doors and a roof-hinged hatchback design that make access to the rear seat difficult, while space for adult passengers is notably compromised. The lack of rear air vents and decent storage pockets is also disappointing. Young families should check child-seat access and space, although all mounting points are well positioned.

The electric motor provides silky crawling in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Boot space is also quite small in the Ascent Sport petrol, which is the only model carrying a full-size spare wheel. All hybrid versions and the ZR petrol model are fitted with a temporary-use spare. The ZR Hybrid comes with a sealant and inflator kit, which allows a deeper boot floor and more useable load space. 


The question of requesting a full-size spare wheel is complex, as it has more to do with weight, particularly with the hybrid battery installed, than the space to install one. Apart from the obvious advantage of carrying a spare wheel, the resulting higher boot floor also sits commendably flat with the 60/40 split fold seat. The sloping hatch does, however, limit fitting in boxy cargo.

Toyota is committed to developing and expanding its use of hybrid driveline technology and now offers this engine option, coupled to a new CVT automatic transmission, in all Corolla models. 

The advantages of the hybrid are more significant in city and suburban driving. The electric motor provides silky crawling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As speeds pick up around town there’s a strong and seamless performance flow, complemented by new features in the CVT. Toyota engineers have incorporated a launch gear to deliver brisk take-off, along with a selectable 10-speed programmed sequential shift mode. Drivers can also choose between ECO, Normal and Sport modes via a console-mounted switch. 

The new Corolla is particularly praiseworthy for its revised ride quality and handling package.

The 1.8-litre hybrid with CVT is less convincing on the open road. It can be a little breathless when overtaking and doesn’t deliver the same fuel advantage over the 2.0-litre petrol models as it does in the city, while also generating more of the characteristic CVT slurring noise. In sustained regional and country driving, the 2.0-litre petrol models feel stronger and more composed.

Government fuel consumption testing gives an overall figure for hybrid models of 4.2L/100km, and 6.0L/100km for the petrol CVT – or 0.3L/100km better than the six-speed petrol manual. On-road figures will be around 18 per cent higher, but both engines will run on 91-RON fuel. More significantly, hybrid models produce substantially fewer CO2 emissions.

The new Corolla is particularly praiseworthy for its revised ride quality and handling package. A new multi-link rear suspension set-up, combined with a bigger footprint, lower ride height and vastly improved electric steering, give the new model sharper dynamics as well as good driver feel and feedback. 

Together with Active Cornering Assist, there is controlled suppleness that works well over all manner of undulating and patched roads. The only criticism is for the Hybrid’s energy-saving tyres – they are designed for enhanced economy around town, but are less grippy on a high-speed country road.

With buyers hungry for ever-higher equipment levels, Toyota has dropped the entry-level model of the previous generation. That means pricing now starts at $22,890 for the low-volume petrol/manual model before adding on-road costs. A CVT auto adds $1500, and hybrid-drive an additional $1500. Optional satellite navigation and privacy glass add $1000 to the Ascent Sport, while premium paint is $550 on all models. 

The better-presented SX petrol and Hybrid are $26,870 and $28,370 respectively, pushing them over $30,000 on the road. ZR petrol and Hybrid start at $30,370 and $31,870 respectively, plus ORC. 

Equipment levels have also improved in line with the price hike, most notably a comprehensive safety package that includes an advanced pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, auto high beam, reversing camera, and – for SX and ZR – blind-spot monitoring. 

Although Toyota continues with a conservative three-year warranty, fixed-price servicing is just $175 up to the first six services, which are scheduled at 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.

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Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid CVT

Price

$28,370 plus $4122 (est.) on-road costs

Specifications

Drivetrain: 1798cc in-line four. 72kW@5200rpm. 142Nm@3600rpm.
Hybrid combined: 90kw and 163Nm. 10-speed CVT-auto/front-wheel drive. 
Fuel: 4.2L/100km (govt figure). 91-Octane 43-litre capacity.
Wheels: 205/65 R16. Space-saver spare.
Kerb weight: 1400kg
Wheelbase: 2640mm

Safety

5-star ANCAP rating. 7 airbags. Reversing camera. Adaptive cruise control. Lane-keep assist. Blind-spot monitoring. ISOFIX.

Features

Sat-nav. Voice recognition multimedia. Dual-zone climate control. Wireless phone charging. DAB digital radio.

Warranty

3yr/unlimited km warranty.


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