2012 Toyota Corolla Reveiw and First Drive

by under Review on 22 Oct 2012 02:11:53 PM22 Oct 2012
Price Range
$19,990 - $31,990
Fuel Consumption
6.6L - 7.7L/100km


“The world’s biggest-selling car from the world’s biggest-selling automotive brand”, was how Toyota’s Matthew Callachor introduced the all-new Corolla. Intimidating stuff, but the bottom line in Australia is the current Corolla has been handily beaten in the sales race by the Mazda3. 


So Toyota had to get the all-new Corolla right on a number of fronts – not least of which is its position in Europe where the Corolla is the Japanese giant’s Toyota’s lynchpin model. No surprises then that the new model leaned heavily on Toyota’s European styling studios to deliver a totally new look which is very sharp.

And talking of sharp, Toyota Australia has delivered with the all-new Corolla starting at $19,990 – the same price as Nissan’s all-new Pulsar which is about to be launched.

Toyota Corolla Overview

Toyota has launched the all-new Corolla in its familiar models grades – entry model Ascent, Ascent Sport, Levin SX and Levin ZR. All are powered by an improved 1.8-litre engine driving through either a six-speed manual transmission or the new MultiDrive S CVT automatic.

Roomer inside and safer (seven SRS airbags as standard), the all-new Corolla is comprehensively equipped with all models featuring cruise control and, from the Ascent Sport upwards, a reversing camera. 


And while the range-topping Toyota Corolla Levin ZR remains priced at $28,490, all others have come down by up to $1,500.

The lineup looks like this:

Ascent $19,990 (-$1,000)
Ascent Sport $20,990 (-$1500)
Levin SX $23,990 (-$1,100)
Levin ZR $28,490
(Add $2,000 for the CVT auto).

Toyota Corolla Engine

While the 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine is carried-over there are many detail changes. Heading the list is Toyota’s ACIS acoustic-controlled induction system which varies the induction tract length (a long tract at low speeds to boost torque and short tract at higher engine speeds).

Power is up slightly to 103kW at 6400rpm, while torque is down slightly to 173Nm - but the maximum is delivered 400rpm lower in the rev-range at 4000rpm. 


All-new Toyota Corolla is 55kgs lighter and this, combined with its slippery new body, has paid dividends in fuel consumption – down by 12 per-cent to as low as 6.6l/100kms (automatic).

All-new Corolla debuts Toyota’s new seven-speed Sport MultiDrive S-CVT automatic transmission with some models gaining steering wheel paddle shifters for the manual mode.

The manual is a six-speeder.

Toyota Corolla The Interior

We must admit the previous model Toyota Corolla wasn’t a standout when it came to interior style. This time, Toyota has transformed things – a (mostly) much better design and higher quality materials throughout. We just deduct points for the centre panel housing the audio system which looks a bit plain compared to the rest. 


Throughout, all-new Toyota Corolla features excellent soft-touch materials (including the dashboard), a slimmer look and the new-design seats are winners with nice form bolsters for lateral support highlighting the sports seats in Levin models (leather trimmed in Levin ZR). You sit lower in the latest Toyota Corolla (part of the sportier dynamic) and with more adjustment for the steering wheel (height and reach) a better driving position is noticeable.

Metallic-look trim highlights contribute to the overall up-scale look and nice, modern white lettering features on the instruments. Levin models go further with honeycomb details providing a sporty look. 


On the audio front there are three systems – all with six speakers and the usual connectivity. Levin models go to an AVN system with a 6.1-inch LCD touch-screen for satellite navigation with the SUNA Traffic Channel.

Rear seat space feels impressive for all three occupants – in fact knee-room has been boosted by 20mm.

Out-back there’s 280-litres of luggage space and the luggage floor is lower. Loading-up is easier with the rear hatch some 75 mm wider.

Toyota Corolla Exterior & Styling

Toyota Corolla’s chief engineer Hiroya Fujita visited Australia for the new model’s launch and admitted his first challenge was not insubstantial. Under the umbrella of the Toyota 86 sports car, Toyota chief Akio Toyoda outlined the company’s new philosophy very simply: “If it’s not fun, it’s not a car.”

But clearly Corolla buyers have different ‘not-negotiables’ to sports car buyers – practicality and ease of entry spring to mind. With that, the Toyota Corolla design team (driven by Toyota Europe) pursued ‘Smart Dynamism’ as their overall theme. 


So the all-new Corolla gets a ‘Keen Look’ (Toyota-speak) punctuated by an ‘arrow-head’ front end, six-window side profile with strong character lines, flared wheel-arches and a sophisticated rear hatch. Overall, all-new Toyota Corolla is 55mm lower that the outgoing model and just a smidge longer.

Aerodynamics are obvious with the steeply raked bonnet, stepped roof, standard roof spoiler at the rear and even aero fins on the rear lights and exterior mirrors. Out of sight underneath are under-body panels middle and rear. The drag cD is down to 0.29.

Ascent, Ascent Sport and Levin SX run projector lamp headlights while range-topping Levin ZR goes to Bi-HID headlights with automatic high beam and adaptive front lighting system.

Toyota Corolla Ascent runs 16-inch steel wheels while Ascent Sport steps-up to 16-inch alloy wheels and Levin models gain 17-inch 10-spoke alloys.

Toyota Corolla On The Road

Keen to highlight the on-road prowess of the all-new Corolla, Toyota sent us over the windy roads of the NSW Hawkesbury Valley and Central Coast and even tossed-in some high-speed test-circuit laps. Over the day, Car Showroom drove both the entry-grade Ascent manual and the sporty Levin.

And there’s no doubt the all-new Toyota Corolla is a more engaging drive. For starters there’s the new electric power steering, it’s 55kgs lighter, 10-per-cent stiffer and the suspension has been tweaked – revised springs and dampers, and new mounts for the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear. 


But for us, the ‘Light Bulb’ moment came when we nailed the accelerator in the automatic Corolla Levin – Toyota’s seven-step K331 MultiDrive S CVT is a pearler, in fact we can’t think of a better CVT. Over the twisty stuff we swapped to manual mode and used the steering wheel paddle shifters to great effect with precise, instantaneous shifts into and out of corners – just how enthusiast drivers like their transmissions to respond.

And while the 1.8-litre engine has lost a few Nms of torque, the maximum (173Nm) is delivered 400rpm lower at 4000rpm for enhanced driveability.

Our hot laps around Toyota’s test track highlighted improved dynamics. Toyota Corolla isn’t quite as firm as the Germans (Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf), and there’s still a little too much body roll, but the transformation from the previous model is noticeable.

Heading back to Sydney on the Pacific Highway, the all-new Toyota Corolla exhibited its other breakthrough – much improved quietness and refinement at all speeds.

Toyota Corolla Challenges

We were surprised the all-new Corolla didn’t get an all-new engine but 103kW/173Nm and fuel consumption as low as 6.6l/100kms…well the ‘carried-over’ 1.8-litre still holds its own. And still no diesel in Australia (it stays in Europe).

No sedan model in the all-new lineup - for the time being. Toyota says the Corolla sedan is a different model line and it’s still 12 months away.


Toyota Corolla Verdict

Sure there have been 39 million Corollas sold since 1966, but Toyota needed to fire the big guns to resume a competitive position in the knockout fight which is the small car market. And Toyota’s done just that – the all-new Corolla is a beauty, no doubt about it.

We like the looks – in one model change Toyota has cast aside the rather plain old model Corolla and delivered a slick, contemporary exterior style which is matched by the equally sharp interior. 


And we like the driving dynamics. The 17-inch wheels and extra rubber on the Levin models are worth the extra in terms of on-road sportiness but even the entry-grade Ascent is a good thing in the twisty stuff.

As for price, well Toyota has delivered the Corolla Ascent at the sub-$20,000 sticker required to match Nissan’s all-new (not yet launched) Pulsar and slip under the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. For us the Toyota Corolla Levin SX is the one – priced from $23,990 it’s $1,100 less than the previous model and undercuts the Mazda3 Maxx Sport.

Toyota Corolla The Competition

Nissan revealed the all-new Pulsar sedan and hatchback at the Australian International Motor Show. While the Pulsar hasn’t been launched so we haven’t driven it, looks are good, pricing is sharp (starting at $19,990) and the interior space sets a new benchmark in this class.

Toyota and Nissan both need to conquest sales from the all-conquering Mazda3 – a Car Showroom favourite - which will likely finish 2012 as Australia’s best-selling passenger car. 3’s popularity is understandable – it looks good, drives great, is loaded with features and is sharply priced.


Ford Focus is also a Car Showroom favourite but there’s no denying the entry-level 92kW/159Nm 1.6-litre is a tad underdone compared to Toyota Corolla’s 1.8-litre and the Mazda 3’s 2.0-litre. Focus scores for its German styling/quality and segment-best driving dynamics.

It’s a similar story for the Volkswagen Golf (our other Car Showroom favourite small car). German quality, technology and driving dynamics but only 77kW/175Nm from the entry grade turbocharged 1.2-litre powerplant.

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