Everyone has a Corolla memory, but the new one is nothing like the car you know
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PRETORIA - It’s a Corolla no, really it is.
When it comes to cars South Africa has largely been defined by there two vehicles that will forever be etched into our collective motoring memories.
Both are out of the same stable and on either end of the scale in terms of segment but both legendary. On one hand the Hilux and on the other the Toyota Corolla.
Both have often been described as appliances, especially in white, due to their humdrum design but also because no matter what, one twist of the key purrs them into life no matter the age or mileage.
Almost everyone I know has some Corolla story to tell and most of it revolves around reliability.
As a student I worked in the night office of a morning daily long before unique users, click bate, jpegs, wi-fi and smartphones. It was still old school journalism and that required a lot of driving both long distances and speedy trips to crime scenes.
Outside was a fleet of brownish custard coloured box-style Corollas and you haven’t experienced fear if you haven’t sat in the passenger seat with a hyped-up photographer gunning a little 1.3-litre car to the industrial suburbs at the edge of the city. No warming up, no gentle stops and pull-offs, just full throttle and screeching tyres.
This little drama would play out almost every night and I know that one of the Corollas had done well over 400000km when it was eventually sold. The brown plastic and vinyl interior looked like a hand grenade had exploded in it but the engine and drive train was faultless.
They didn’t skip a beat and I’ve heard stories of companies trading in their Corolla fleet cars for an alternative only to return to the tried and trusted.
Which all brings us to the current 12th generation Toyota Corolla, which as I said earlier really is a Corolla sans the appliance moniker.
Twice I was stopped by guys to ask about the car; one was a taxi driver who couldn’t get over the design, large boot and interior of the car and the other a Hilux driver (what else?) who wanted a closer look because he was weighing it up as a second car for his wife and kids.
While buyers are still going gaga over SUVs which has seen a proportionate decline of sedan sales and, in some cases, their local demise, the Corolla continues to buck the trend.
A large trapezoidal lower grille, with black-moulded border and large mesh pattern gives it an aggressive stance, not something associated with previous models.
The new model sits 20mm lower, the bonnet edge 35mm lower and the front overhang 25mm shorter while the front and rear tread have been increased by 11mm and 22mm respectively.
The one on test was the range-topping XR model which has the 2.0 litre Dynamic Force TNGA slotted under the bonnet, which also does duty in the RAV4.
It’s good for 125kW and 200Nm and is fitted to either a six-speed manual transmission, which we had on test, or a 10-speed CVT.
The XR models are shod with 18-inch alloys and rubber.
The interior keeps up the lively look and feel of the Corolla with soft touch surfaces and brushed metal accents and blue stitching making it very much a premium place to spend your time behind the wheel.
The switchgear and instrument panel are illuminated blue which certainly adds an air of class when driving at night.
No car on the market today is likely to get any traction unless there’s technological connectivity and here the Corolla is no different.
It’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connected via an easy to use touchscreen which thankfully also includes a volume control button.
There’s also a reverse camera, power seat adjustment, keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering adjustment as well as a dimming rear view mirror.
Driving the Corolla it behaves exactly as you would expect. There’s no fuss, very little road or wind noise and rear passengers have ample room, even for long drives.
The engine doesn’t mind to be given a bit of stick even though performance was never going to be blistering given that it’s more suited for comfortable trips rather than screaming around corners.
Not that it minds as I found out on a round trip through the Cradle of Humankind. Gear changes were effortless but again, because of the nature of the car, steering was rather neutral and to be honest I doubt very much that any owner is going to have an issue with it.
I averaged 6.9l/100km over the week that I drove it, which isn’t far off the claimed 6.5l/100km.
While the world may be turning its back on sedans, I still believe that it has a place in the motoring landscape and I hope that years from now people will still be able to tell endearing stories of their time with a Corolla.
With colours such as crimson red, moonlight ocean, scarlet and dark blue metallic, long gone are the days of the mundane.