New Toyota Corolla pricing vs rivals: These are the 5 cars it must beat

By Jason Woosey Time of article published Mar 26, 2020

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Johannesburg - Toyota was meant to launch its 12th-generation Corolla sedan in South Africa this week, but given the Covid-19 crisis the company has opted introduce it to us digitally.

Since we won’t get to experience the Corolla for the time being, we decided to take a closer look at the new sedan and how it compares, price and value wise, to its rivals.

First a quick glance at what it’s all about. 

For starters, the Corolla sports a far more daring design than any of its predecessors, but the changes are not just skin deep - the 12th-gen four-door is built on an entirely new platform, this being the TNGA architecture that also underpins the latest Rav4.

The redesigned Corolla is more rewarding to drive than ever, something we can attest to having driven the hatch version, and much of this comes down to its lower centre of gravity, 60-percent-better body rigidity and a sophisticated new double-wishbone rear suspension system.

Unfortunately, unlike its hatch sibling the Corolla sedan has not thrust itself into the turbo age, but it does get a more sophisticated flagship engine in the form of Toyota’s redesigned 2-litre ‘Dynamic Force’ TNGA normally aspirated engine with direct injection. As first introduced in the Rav4, the 2-litre motor produces 125kW and 200Nm, and can be paired with either a six-speed manual or ‘10-step’ CVT gearbox. The other engine option is a 1.8-litre carry-over unit that’s good for 103kW and 171Nm, and mated to a ‘seven-step’ CVT.

On the spec front, the new Corolla is lavishly equipped across the board. Even the 1.8 XS base model has a bloated spec sheet, boasting 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, new bucket-style seats with leather upholstery, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel and a touchscreen infotainment system with reverse camera and Android Auto / CarPlay connectivity. 

The 2.0 XR gains 18-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, electrochromatic rearview mirror, Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Departure Alert and the brake-synchronised Pre-Crash system. 

But how does its pricing compare with the opposition?

The table below shows where it fits in, versus its closest rivals, and although the new Corolla range tops out at R425 200, we stretched the comparison to the R500 000 mark to give you a bigger picture of what’s out there, while also including the much cheaper Corolla Quest at the lower end to give more perspective.

What struck us about this comparison is just how few rivals the Corolla actually has these days. A decade ago you wouldn’t have counted them on two hands but today there are just five model ranges that qualify as Corolla competitors. Nameplates like Cruze, Focus, Jetta and Cerato have disappeared from the local scene as buyers stampede towards SUVs and double cabs.

New Toyota Corolla: Pricing versus rivals

Toyota Corolla Quest 1.8 manual 103kW/173Nm R249 900
Toyota Corolla Quest 1.8 CVT 103kW/173Nm R270 400
Toyota Corolla Quest 1.8 Prestige manual 103kW/173Nm R286 500
Toyota Corolla Quest 1.8 Prestige CVT 103kW/173Nm R296 800
Toyota Corolla Quest 1.8 Exclusive manual 103kW/173Nm R307 400
Toyota Corolla Quest 1.8 Exclusive CVT 103kW/173Nm R317 700
Mazda3 sedan 1.5 Active manual 88kW/153Nm R357 000
Mazda3 sedan 1.5 Dynamic manual 88kW/153Nm R371 300
Toyota Corolla (NEW) 1.8 XS CVT 103kW/171Nm R372 700
Mazda3 sedan 1.5 Dynamic auto 88kW/153Nm R384 100
Subaru Impreza 2.0i CVT 115kW/196Nm R392 000
Toyota Corolla (NEW) 2.0 XR manual 125kW/200Nm R412 300
Honda Civic 1.8 Elegance CVT 104kW/174Nm R416 700
Mazda3 1.5 Individual manual 88kW/153Nm R418 800
Mazda3 1.5 Individual auto 88kW/153Nm R431 600
Toyota Corolla (NEW) 2.0 XR CVT 125kW/200Nm R425 200
Subaru Impreza 2.0i S-ES CVT 115kW/196Nm R450 000
Audi A3 Sedan 30 TFSI DSG 85kW/200Nm R464 410
Mazda3 2.0 Astina auto 121kW/213Nm R470 800
Honda Civic 1.5T Sport CVT 127kW/220Nm R484 200

Let’s take a closer look at the cars it has to beat

Toyota Corolla Quest

The new Corolla’s biggest threat comes from within its own family. Although Toyota is aiming the two at completely different audiences, with the new Corolla pitched at more image conscious and tech savvy consumers who want the latest and the best, the value-driven Quest is sure to be the better seller, thanks to its 120 grand lower starting price.

Now based on the outgoing 11th-generation Corolla, the new Quest is more stylish than its predecessor, while also upgrading to a 103kW 1.8-litre engine. It’s somewhat more luxurious too, particularly if you opt for the new flagship model.

That said, you don’t get all the tech that new Corolla offers, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity as well as those aforementioned driver assistance gadgets.

But if you’re looking for an honest, agreeable and comfortable sedan at the best possible price, there is no beating the Corolla Quest.


Like the new Corolla, the Mazda3 makes a far bolder statement than its forebear, although the sedan is notably more conservative than the hatch model. 

Its road manners have improved too, and it’s rather entertaining to push through the bends, but as with the Corolla you’re going to find yourself wishing for a turbocharger. There are only two normally aspirated options in the form of an 88kW 1.5, which struggles at altitude, and a 121kW 2-litre. Both are available with six-speed auto transmissions.

In keeping with its more upmarket positioning, this Mazda is also far better equipped than before, with items like head-up display, push-button start, seven airbags and touchscreen infotainment with CarPlay and Android Auto, fitted across the board.

Honda Civic

Much of what we’ve already said about the Corolla and Mazda3 applies to the latest Honda Civic sedan, which has distinctive styling, decent spec and impressive on-road sophistication.

Unlike its key rivals, you can also have the Civic with turbo power, in this case an impressive 1.5-litre unit with 127kW, but if you want this version you’re not going to get much change for 500 grand. Settle for the 103kW 1.8-litre NA engine, though, and you can have a Civic within the Corolla’s price range.

The 1.8 Comfort has all the luxury basics like leather seats, climate control and infotainment, but you’ll have to stretch to the 1.5T Executive at R517 800 to get modern driver assistance gadgets like Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Camera.

Subaru Impreza

Here’s one you don’t see on the roads very often. Relaunched in 2017, the new-generation Impreza is built on a fresh platform and impresses with its comfy ride and quiet road manners. 

As the only car here with all-wheel-drive, you also get that acclaimed Subaru road holding, but a high performance rally car it is not. Like its key rivals, power comes from a 2-litre normally aspirated petrol engine, which in this case produces 115kW and 196Nm, and it’s paired with a CVT gearbox.

The base model comes with a touchscreen featuring CarPlay and AA, but there isn’t much else in the way of luxury and tech unless you opt for the more expensive, but comparatively lavish, 2.0i S-ES.

Audi A3 Sedan

This one’s not exactly a direct rival to the Corolla but since the base model comes within R40 000 of the Toyota flagship, it could be considered an alternative, at a push.

The Audi is set to be replaced in the not-too-distant future, with the next-generation hatch version already unveiled at this year’s ‘mock’ Geneva show, but the current A3 four-door is still a stylish option with a cabin that simply oozes class. That said, you’re not going to get a lot of fancy tech unless you raid the options list.

The Audi does have an ace up its sleeve for those seeking turbo power, although only the 85kW 1-litre unit is available for under R500 000. 

IOL Motoring

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