By: Jason Woosey
Have you ever heard of Waku Doki? Your Japanese is probably as bad as mine, but according to Toyota's translators, it boils down to an anticipation of pleasure - the kind you might feel before a first date with Special Somebody.
Toyota aimed to infuse this kind of feeling into the 11th generation of the world's best-selling nameplate, just launched in South Africa this past week, and believes that as far as the rational side of the equation goes, it's also “reached full maturity”.
Well, let's get this straight - the new Corolla doesn't look or feel much like a sports sedan and it isn't going to get your pulse racing into hospital-admittance territory anytime soon, but they've certainly hit the bull's eye on the maturity board, while making it more interesting in the process.
For starters, it looks a lot more 'grown up' than any of its forebears. From that “thrusting nose” at the front end to its clean, squat and well-proportioned profile - it's as if it's just swopped its well-worn British Sky grey jacket for something somewhat closer to an Armani suit. On the flipside, it does perhaps look a bit too fussy in places.
Proportionally, they've massaged it in the right directions. Lowered by 5mm, lengthened by 75mm and widened by 15mm, the Corolla has more of a ground-hugging stance on the road. Its predecessor looked a bit boxy from the back end, but Toyota has resolved this with a longer C-pillar slope angle that gives the Corolla a more integrated look. But have they performed any miracles underneath it?
Nothing revolutionary to report on here - Corolla soldiers on with a revised version of the previous model's MacPherson strut front end and torsion beam rear suspension system. They've chipped away at an old-fashioned but successful formula and the results, felt after putting three versions through their paces in the Western Cape, is as you'd expect - a comfortable ride and safe-but-predictable road holding. You were expecting a sports car, weren't you?
FRUGAL NEW DIESEL
The biggest change to the engine line-up is the availability of an all-new 1.4-litre turbodiesel engine, which comes to the party with 66kW and twisting force of 205Nm when the needle hits the 1800-2800rpm range. Though less powerful than the previous two-litre D-4D, which is no longer offered, the motor earns a couple of distinctions in its economy exams, with Toyota claiming a combined figure of 4.5 litres per 100km. This diesel also comes in at a significantly lower price, starting at R237 900.
66kW doesn't sound like enough to power a car of this size, yet those 205 newtons make for a surprisingly strong performer and though it has no track-day ambitions, I never cursed it for being underpowered. It's got just enough muscle to tackle the open road comfortably and given its relatively accessible price, it looks poised to become the next big talking point at sales strategy meetings.
THREE PETROL ENGINES
Yet, the traditional choices are still there. The three normally aspirated petrol engines all feature Toyota's Dual Variable Valve Timing technology, along with Acoustic Induction Control.
This range kicks off with the familiar 73kW/128Nm 1.3-litre unit, starting at R214 900, which Toyota believes will appeal to fleet users. None were on offer on launch and I suspect these price-leaders might struggle at Highveld altitudes, but let's not even bother with this one as just R11 000 more gets you the rather competent “middle-mannetjie” - which is a 1.6-litre credited with a fairly healthy 90kW at 6000rpm and 154Nm at 5200rpm. Though this engine is carried over, a bit of tinkering has improved official fuel consumption to 6.6 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.
Finally, the biggest and 'baddest' engine you can get in the new Corolla is a 1.8-litre with 103kW produced at 6400rpm and 173Nm at 4000rpm.
I got some good wheel time in both and didn't notice a major performance difference between the two - both delivered really adequately. Yet while the 1.6 had a raspy tone and a sportier, more free-revving feel, the 1.8 just felt that bit more mature.
All engine versions can be mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and the 1.6 and 1.8 engines can be paired to Toyota's new Multidrive transmission - basically a continuously variable transmission that has seven 'stepped' shift points.
As for the experience from the helm, the new Corolla's design allows for a more inspiring driving position, thanks to a greater range of seat height adjustment and the steering column angle has been lowered by two degrees. After playing around with its various adjustments, I was quite happy behind the wheel.
To improve its role as a family hauler, Toyota lengthened the wheelbase by 100mm, and slimmed down the front seatback by 10mm to provide “best in class” rear legroom. Toyota also made the rear passenger floor flatter by re-routing exhaust pipe. After sitting behind my usual driving position I can tell you that there is plenty of stretching space in the back. As an average-sized adult, I had just enough head-room in the back, but taller humans will not be catered for here. There's more boot space too - 452 litres, or just enough to carry four golf bags.
Back to the helm, Toyota sought to achieve a “clean-cut” and “uncluttered” dashboard design and added some soft-touch surfaces to the upper section. While the dash does look a bit bulky and there are a few attention-to-detail blunders such as those covered-up missing switches on the console, Toyota has ultimately moved in the right direction here. The textures and materials feel of a decent quality and there's a sensation of rock-solid durability in the way everything's put together. Would you expect anything less in a Corolla?
Depending on the engine selected, Corolla buyers are pretty much spoiled for choice with four specification flavours: Esteem, Prestige, Sprinter and Exclusive.
As the most affordable model in the range, the Esteem comes with all the basic luxuries such as air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, remote central locking and an aux/USB sound system.
Next up is Prestige, which treats you to leather seats, Bluetooth hands-free system, a leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, touch-screen CD/DVD/MP3 player with reverse camera and 16” alloys.
The Sprinter reverts back to half-leather seats and that conventional audio system but gains automatic climate control, 'smoked' (darkened) alloy wheels and a rear spoiler.
Finally, the range-topping Exclusive gets all the good stuff you find in the Prestige, as well as cruise control, climate control, keyless start, TFT multi-information display, rain-sensing wipers and an electrochromatic interior mirror.
As a locally manufactured vehicle, built here in high volumes for local consumption and export, Toyota has come up with rather competitive pricing for its new sedan.
It's a really solid car that's gained some refinement and class in its transition into its latest generation. If its predecessors (excluding the GLIs and RSis) could have veered towards Comfortably Numb, this one's a whole lot closer to Comfortably Elegant.
1.3 Esteem - R214 900
1.3 Prestige - R232 900
1.4 D Esteem - R237 900
1.4 D Prestige - R249 900
1.6 Esteem - R225 900
1.6 Prestige - R241 900
1.6 Prestige Multidrive S - R252 900
1.6 Sprinter - R248 900
1.8 Prestige - R251 900
1.8 Exclusive - R272 900
1.8 Exclusive Multidrive S - R283 900