Toyota Corolla


Debut: 2012
Maker: Toyota
Predecessor: Corolla Mk10



 Published on 12 Sep 2013
All rights reserved. 


The world's most popular nameplate has reached another milestone! In July, Toyota built the 40 millionth Corolla, leaving Volkswagen Golf (30 million units) further behind. 40 million people can't be wrong, so this must be the world's best affordable car? Of course not. As you might have observed, the world's most popular car is also the least popular among automotive journalists. When was the last time you heard it topped a comparison test? 1966 I think? Yes, the Corolla is that hateful to car journalists. The fact that it sells so well is purely down to its low cost, high practicality and reliability as well as Toyota's good after sales services. Its success has nothing to do with how the car looks, sounds and feels, because it has long been known for conservative, boring and dynamically mediocre. Like a white appliance, you talk about functions and price rather than fun or desirability.

How about the latest, 11th generation Corolla? To answer this question, we must first identify which Corolla you mean. Unlike before, this generation actually consists of 2 different cars. The Japanese version, sold in only its home market and (unfortunately) Hong Kong, is a smaller and cheaper car. The world version, to be available in America, Europe, China and South East Asia among others, is larger and probably a bit more interesting. We will leave the latter to another article later on. Now let's concentrate on the domestic version.



Two things you may observe from these pictures. First, the new Japanese Corolla looks even more boring than the last generation. Its glasshouse is more upright, losing the sleekness that the last generation introduced. Its front grille, headlights and taillights have no style to speak of. The body sides lack any kinds of crease lines or shoulders. It is so bland that you can't help feeling it gets cheap – both cheaper to design and cheaper to build. Another thing you will find is that the car gets smaller. It is 50 mm shorter than the old Japanese version. Although the wheelbase remains unchanged at 2600 mm, it is now the shortest in the class. Ditto the 1695 mm body width, which is still dictated by the domestic tax rules. A new Volkswagen Golf, for example, is 104 mm wider. No wonder it cannot afford a proper shoulder line.

Both the reduced size and cheapened looks point to the opposite direction of market trend. I believe Toyota had a lot of boardroom debates before making the decision. In the last generation, it attempted to inject some sportiness to the design to lure back young drivers. Unfortunately, this did not work. Domestic sales numbers show that the Corolla slid to 5th place in the car sales chart excluding K-cars in 2011, registering just over 70,000 sales, while the best selling Prius outsold it by nearly 4 to 1. As a response, Toyota decided to skip the young people strategy and return to the no-frills philosophy. As there was little hope to improve its domestic sales, it decided to boost profit by cutting costs and building the 11th generation on the smaller B-platform which underpins small cars like Vitz / Yaris and Ractis. This explains why the new car looks downgraded in every way. It also signals a divorce from the overseas version, which continues to sit on C-segment platform.



Using the smaller platform means the new car no longer needs to reserve space for fitting double-wishbone rear suspension for certain models. In addition to the upright body profile and thinner seatbacks, it manages to squeeze out an additional 40 mm of rear legroom. There is plenty of head and legroom for four regular-size adults, especially thanks to the nearly flat rear floor. The 3-box saloon's ("Corolla Axio") 471-liter boot is also a lot larger than those of Golf and other family hatchbacks. The estate version (Corolla Fielder) is larger still. Nevertheless, the cabin looks just as cheap and boring as the exterior. The console looks so aftermarket, the switchgears feel cheap and the fake wood trims are dreadful. It sounds like orientated to emerging markets.

Predictably, such a no-frills, conservative car is not going to be exciting to drive. Its drivers, supposed to be in 40 or 50 years old, will be pleased with its light and calm (numb) steering, small turning circle and soft ride. It is as easy to drive as any small cars. On the downside, there is really no communication between the man and machine. Its body control, grip and brakes are to be rated near the bottom of the class. The powertrain also lacks sparkles. The entry-level model is equipped with 95 hp 1.3-liter Dual-VVT-i engine whose performance is marginal. Most people would choose the 109 hp 1.5-liter VVT-i, but this engine is rather old thus no longer shines in both output and refinement. Manual gearbox is available in Japan, but by far the majority will opt for the CVT, which is refined as long as you are light on throttle.



To save the game, Toyota added Hybrid version to Corolla last month. Its whole powetrain, consisting of an Atkinson-cycle 1.5-liter engine, electric motor, CVT and boot-mounted NiMH battery, is transplanted straight from Aqua (Prius C), so performance and fuel consumption should be close. The Aqua looks funkier and have a useful hatchback, while the Corolla Hybrid might appeal to conservative buyers and fleets. That said, I don't think it can offset the inherent problems of the car. Having seen it many times on streets, I still can't get over its cheap and ugly appearance. It could be a big strategic mistake.
Verdict: 
 Published on 16 Sep 2013
All rights reserved. 
Corolla (World)

US version Corolla

Globalization has become the industrial norm during the past decade. Many manufacturers that used to build different cars for different continents turned to unite their offerings globally in order to reduce cost. The money saved can be put into the development program again, to add contents or to upgrade build quality. The results are better products and higher competitiveness. Globalization has its drawbacks though. You can't satisfy the conflicting requirements of different markets. If the conflicts get too big, you are likely to lose the favour of one or more markets. Now Toyota finds it face this situation with Corolla. While the domestic market increasingly favours small cars, overseas markets, especially America and China, has been shifting to larger "compact" cars (they are redefining the word "Compact" every day). For example, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra and Dodge Dart have their wheelbase stretched to 2700 mm, while Honda Civic is not far away at 2670 mm. Their body widths have long exceeded 1700 mm, which would fall into a higher tax band in Japan. In the last generation (Mk10) Corolla, Toyota deliberately made the overseas version wider than the domestic version, but this alone failed to answer all the criticisms of overseas buyers, especially about the lack of rear seat legroom. This time around, it simply splits the domestic and overseas versions into different platforms.



While the Japanese Corolla is built on the smaller B-segment platform that underpins Vitz (Yaris) and Ractis, the overseas version sits on the larger MC-platform that gave birth to the old car as well as Prius, Auris, Lexus CT, Avensis, Sai (Lexus HS), Scion tC etc. Unsurprisingly, it rides on a 2700 mm wheelbase like most of these cars. The larger platform also enables the body width to be stretched to 1775 mm. Compare with the Japanese version, it is 280 mm longer and 80 mm wider overall. The extra 100 mm wheelbase allows a near class-leading rear legroom. Now a passenger of 6 feet 4 inches tall can sit behind a driver of the same size, a sharp contrast to the old car!

Now you might question what a Corolla really is. If Toyota can badge two practically different cars the same name, then we will have no doubt that the Corolla will continue to be the world's best selling car for… probably forever! Just like the increasingly misused "Prius" nameplate, one day we might see the Corolla name to appear on half a dozen models with no relationship, just to make up the numbers!


European version

Yes, the World version is very different from the domestic model, not just dimensionally but also the exterior design. It looks much sharper and sportier. There are virtually no genes shared with the Japanese car, which is a good thing actually. Although it is still not exactly a beautiful design, I would say it is a lot more interesting, washing away the dullness and conservatism that we used to perceive about Corolla.

The American version and European version differ in nose and tail design, but otherwise they are the same car. Their 2.5-box profile, achieved by a shorter trunk and faster rear screen, should appeal more to European customers.

Inside, the dashboard is clearly donated by Auris. Its design is a lot less convincing than the exterior. The center console looks a mess and the plastics are not exactly top-notch compared with most European rivals. The interior looks dark and boring. Fortunately, there is an easy-to-use infotainment system to save the game. You can download Apps to add gadgets. The amount of space is impressive, as is the trunk. The front seats are much improved from the old car's, being more supportive.



Despite of the spiced-up exterior, the car remains as boring to drive as before. Two words sum it up: Slow and Numb.

We don't expect a compact family sedan to be a hot hatch, but still, the Corolla's average engines do not haul the relatively heavy car with the enthusiasm you would find in a Golf or Focus. In America, Toyota offers either a 132 hp 1.8-liter Dual-VVT-i or 140 hp 1.8-liter Valvematic engine. Both lack low-down torque and needs to be revved hard. The Valvematic is best to be seen as the equivalent of Valvetronic instead of VTEC, serving to save fuel rather than enhancing power. You won't feel the extra 8 ponies on the road, no wonder Toyota installs it into the "Eco" model and pairs with CVT only. Both engines take more than 9 seconds to do 0-60 sprint. By American standard, that is really slow.

A 6-speed manual is served, but by far most buyers will choose the new CVT. It has 7 simulated ratios operated via paddles. Like Nissan's Xtronic CVT, it is as good a CVT can get, being reasonably refined and intelligent unless you prefer an aggressive driving style (note: Toyota obviously think you don't).

In Europe, the engine options includes 90hp 1.4D-4D turbo diesel, 99 hp 1.33 Dual-VVT-i, 122 hp 1.6 Dual-VVT-i, 132 hp 1.6 Valvematic and 140 hp 1.8 Dual-VVT-i. This mean performance is no better than the American version.


Slow aside, the Corolla is not a bit interesting to drive. Its electrical power steering serves better than others to filter all kinds of road feel. It feels numb on-center. Its feels numb all the way to locks. You have no idea what the front wheels are doing and when they are going to give up. Moreover, the assistance is not consistent, thus you need constant correction during cornering. It is hard to name a worse steering in recent memory.

The NVH is definitely improved, and the chassis feels more solid, just like most new rivals. However, the handling does not match the class average, let alone the high standard set by the likes of Focus, Golf or Giulietta. The 215/45R17 tires generate less grip than you would expect for their size. They give up early and the car tends to understeer. The body rolls noticeably if you press the car in corner, blame to the relatively soft suspension setting. The brakes on most models still rely on drums at the back, no wonder braking performance is poor. In terms of driving dynamics, the Corolla can be rated near the bottom of the class, at least among the key players.

Space and exterior styling aside, the Corolla doesn't have many strengths to offset its vast array of weaknesses. Yes, some people don't care about driving pleasure, but with so many better and more versatile rivals to choose from, there is little point to choose the Toyota – unless you are proud to own the world's best selling car.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine

Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power


Max torque

Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Corolla Axio 1.3
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4360 / 1695 / 1460 mm
2600 mm
Inline-4

1329 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
-
95 hp


89 lbft

CVT
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
175/65R15
1050 kg
105 mph (est)
13 (est)
-
Corolla Axio 1.5
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4360 / 1695 / 1460 mm
2600 mm
Inline-4

1496 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
-
-
109 hp


100 lbft

CVT
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
175/65R15
1090 kg
112 mph (est)
11.5 (est)
-
Corolla Axio Hybrid
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4360 / 1695 / 1460 mm
2600 mm
Inline-4, Atkinson-cyle + electric motor
1496 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
-
-
Engine: 74 hp
Motor: 61 hp
Combined: 100 hp
Engine: 82 lbft
Motor: 125 lbft
CVT
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
175/65R15
1140 kg
105 mph (est)
11 (est)
-




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed

0-60 mph (sec)

0-100 mph (sec)
Corolla (US) 1.8
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4640 / 1775 / 1455 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1797 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
-
132 hp
128 lbft
CVT or 6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
215/45R17
1270 kg (6M) / 1295 kg (CVT)
6M: 124 mph (est)
CVT: 118 mph (est)
6M: 9.0 (est)
CVT: 9.5* / 9.7**
CVT: 28.7*
Corolla (US) 1.8 Valvematic
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4640 / 1775 / 1455 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
-
-
140 hp
126 lbft
CVT
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1295 kg
120 mph (est)

9.5*

27.1*
Corolla (EU) 1.6 Valvematic
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4620 / 1775 / 1465 mm
2700 mm
Inline-4
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
-
-
132 hp
118 lbft
CVT or 6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55R16
1250 kg (6M) / 1270 kg (CVT)
6M: 124 mph (c)
CVT: 118 mph (c)
6M: 9.4 (est)
CVT: 10.4 (est)
-




Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT





AutoZine Rating

Corolla (Japan)


Corolla (World)



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