Johannesburg - I read an interesting revelation recently around Toyota SA’s previous and rather successful “everything keeps going right” advertising campaign.
The well-known tagline was mentioned in local motoring-industry guru Brand Pretorius’ biography, wherein he describes how Colin Adcock – a previous Toyota executive – spotted the catchy phrase in a newspaper ad while holidaying in the UK. A small dealership there had used it to advertise its aftersales offering. Adcock got permission from said dealership to use it, and like Cremora’s famous “it’s not inside, it’s on top” campaign, Toyota’s catchy jingle would forever be recorded in our memory.
Tootling around in Toyota’s newcomer, the Quest, got me thinking about the old ad campaign. In reality the Quest is simply a revisit of the previous, tenth-generation Corolla – and it’s like the Toyota SA product-planners and bean-counters wanted to just keep everything going right with a winning formula. This is especially so when you consider that the Corolla is in fact the best-selling car on the planet, and that the Quest’s 1 009 sales in SA last month just about matched that of its all-new replacement.
At R174 900 for the 1.6-litre entry-level Quest – versus R214 900 for the entry-level 1.3-litre Esteem in the 11th-generation Corolla range, or R225 900 for the 1.6 Esteem (should you be looking for similar cubic capacity) – you can understand why the Quest is such a hot showroom commodity.
NOT EXACTLY WATERED DOWN
And before you start thinking that the huge saving translates to a watered-down product, it doesn’t.
The visual differences between the Quest and the previous-gen Corolla include new head and tail lights; side indicator lamps which have moved from the mirrors to the fenders; and the grille and numberplate garnish which are now finished in a matt black.
But here’s a little fact that some of you may already know: the new Corolla, Quest and Hilux are all proudly crafted by the cuzzies down in Durbs, and this plays a big part in why a) there’s a little “relationship” between the Quest and the other two products, and b) keeping the previous-gen Corolla going in SA was always a possibility.
Drill down further and you’ll find that the Quest shares things like its carpeting and roof-lining material with the Hilux, and gets its seats from the latest Corolla – while sacrificed in the Quest, versus the previous Corolla, is the overhead storage console and the sun-visor vanity lamp. There’s some cost-cutting here and there, and the fact that the rear seat no longer folds – as it does in both previous and current-gen Corollas – means you have to buy a towbar and trailer if you want to lug any bulky objects.
Other than that it’s generally hunky-dory, with even the entry-level Quest scoring niceties like aircon, remote central locking, rake and reach steering adjustment, dual front airbags and ABS brakes. Little interior bugbears we picked up included that only front windows are electric; and the central locking button isn’t illuminated like the rest of the driver’s door switchgear (which makes for fumbling in the dark).
The bootlid not having a release latch was also a bit annoying (it only opens using the key slot or the release lever inside the car).
We picked up two small issues with the clutch too – the first being its spring action and the dinging sound the clutch pedal makes on release; and the second that if you don’t push the clutch all – and by all we mean flat to the floor – the Quest won’t start up. Oh, and the driver’s seat was broken – on arrival it wouldn’t slide forward or back.
Other than that this family sedan does very little wrong, and feels more current in function than it may sound in form. Piloting it around Jozi was a very comfy experience, with the word soft coming to mind with everything from the gearbox and steering action to the car’s general ride quality.
The 90kW and 154Nm outputs from the 1.6-litre VVT-I petrol engine (the only powerplant in the range) may feel well-hidden at times, requiring some man-handling to get a reaction – but by and large the power delivery is sufficient for the task at hand. Where the Quest excels is in its superb build quality and ability to, well, keep everything going right. I thought our 8.3l/100km average consumption was fair, even with all the engine “coercing” we did, with the six-speed manual ‘box keeping revs on the quieter side.
The sting in the tail, though, surfaces should you want the auto – which is an old-school four-speed torque convertor and costs a significant 24 grand more (R198 900) than the entry-level manual. The third model in the range is the Plus spec (manual only), which for 23 grand more than the entry-level Quest throws in a radio, alloy wheels and colour-coded door handles.
All models include a three-year/45 000km service plan, but it’s obvious that the basic Quest offers the best value proposition.
Rebadged previous-generation cars are not a new thing in SA – Ford’s Figo and VW’s Polo Vivo (Toyota’s now-discontinued Tazz was another example) follow the same recipe as the Quest, and like the Quest both these ranges are well-received locally. Sure, the recipe wouldn’t work generically – some cars reach their sell-by dates quicker than others and deserve the Highway to Heaven on-ramp. The Quest isn’t one of these – it’s a car still modern, pleasant and relevant enough to warrant its own slice of the SA sales-chart pie. Especially at the price. -Star Motoring
Toyota Corolla Quest
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Power: 90kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 154Nm @ 5200rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 10.4 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 192km/h
Price: R174 900 - R198 900
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Service plan: Three-year/45 000km
Geely Emgrand 1.8 GL Luxury (102kW/172Nm) - R164 990
Honda Ballade 1.5 Trend (88kW/145Nm) - R195 900
Hyundai Accent 1.5 Motion (91kW/156Nm) - R195 900
Nissan Almera 1.5 Acenta (73kW/134Nm) - R173 100