First drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla launch review

Moving Well | Greg Hill | Posted on 12 December 2019

Greg Hill looks at the new Toyota Corolla sedan.

Toyota has broadened the appeal of its 12th-generation Corolla range with a smart-looking line-up of new sedan variants. The new version is a little bigger than the previous Corolla sedan (10 millimetres longer and five millimetres wider). It shares the same TNGA platform, engine and driveline options, suite of safety features and styling cues as the Australia’s Best Cars class-winning Corolla hatchback. For the first time in Australia, a hybrid option is now offered in the Corolla sedan. 

What do you get for the price?

Model grades, features and pricing also mirror those of the hatchback. Three spec grades, the Ascent Sport, SX and ZR (pictured), make up the Corolla range. All are available with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, while a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid is a $1500 option in the Ascent Sport and SX. Prices start from $23,335 plus on-road costs for the six-speed manual Ascent Sport. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) with 10-step manual mode adds another $1500 to the price in the Ascent Sport and is standard in all other variants, with the range-topping petrol-only ZR starting from $33,635 before on-road costs. (More: Australia's best cars for 2019 revealed)

How safe is it?

The sedan gets the same five-star ANCAP rating as the hatchback. As well as the extra strength of the TNGA platform, Toyota’s suite of Safety Sense features – which includes seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active cruise control, lane-departure warning, auto high beam and road speed-sign assist – are standard across the Corolla range. The SX adds blind-spot monitoring and the ZR gets a head-up display. (Toyota Corolla v Mazda3 v Hyundai i30: Which is the best?)

What’s it like inside?

The cabin has an open airy feel with the low-sweeping dash-line dominated by a centrally mounted eight-inch touchscreen featuring a new-generation multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. From the mid-range SX up, satellite navigation and digital radio are standard. The interior trim has a plain, neat, functional appearance while the ZR’s synthetic leather adds a more upmarket feel.

More interior space and better seats make the new Corolla roomier and far more comfortable than its predecessor. With the sedan, Toyota has addressed what is probably the main criticism of the hatchback – its tiny luggage compartment. The sedan, with a generous 470-litre boot, has more than twice the space of the hatch. The boot space is the same for the petrol and hybrid models, unlike early hybrids which lost space due to battery positioning.

Close up of Toyota Corolla mag wheel
Close up of Toyota Corolla steering wheel interior

Is it efficient?

Official fuel consumption for the manual sedan is 6.6L/100km and 6.0L/100km with the CVT. The hybrid is a frugal 3.5L/100km which, interestingly, is appreciably better than the hybrid hatch at 4.2L/100km. According to Toyota, the sedan has lower rolling-resistance tyres and is fractionally lighter. On a brief launch drive over some winding roads that were not conducive to the best fuel consumption, the trip computer reading on the hybrid was a pleasing 4.5L/100km, while the petrol automatic was a respectable 8.2L/100km.

How does it drive?

The Corolla hatch has proved to be a major step up from its predecessor and the sedan inherits a similar rewarding, easy-to-drive nature with a comfortable ride and surefooted handling. The two-litre petrol engine is one of the more powerful basic, mainstream units in the class, producing 120kW and 200Nm of torque to provide a good balance of performance and fuel economy. The 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid is not only a greener option with lower fuel consumption and emissions, it also delivers snappier low-speed response with a more progressive throttle feel and better driveability. It is also noticeably quieter. Major improvements to the chassis, suspension and steering deliver a rewarding driving experience, while maintaining a comfortable ride. 

Should I buy one?

While the hatchback is expected to account for around 75 per cent of Corolla sales, the sedan’s body, particularly with its larger boot capacity, will suit some people’s lifestyle better and it doesn’t sacrifice anything in terms of performance, dynamics, fuel consumption or safety. While the petrol version drives well, the hybrid is a better option and it is certainly worth considering spending the extra money.