We got to test the new Corolla in 1.4-diesel guise. For me, the small-capacity diesel engine was the most attention-grabbing aspect of the new Corolla range, seeing that Toyota has not been big on the whole downsizing thing, instead sticking to naturally aspirated petrol engines and large-capacity diesels. The hybrid technology has upped Toyota’s green credentials though.
First of all, I looked at the fuel tank capacity (55 litres) as well as the claimed fuel consumption (4.5 litres/100km) and realised that you could go over 1 200km on a tank. Unfortunately I was not able to replicate that figure, but still managed 5.6 litres/100km, which was still a commendable figure considering the stop/go nature of the Johannesburg commute.
The engine itself, with its 66kW and 205Nm, is no tower of power, but at the same time nobody would expect it to be. When in boost, the powertrain feels lively and even has a reasonable amount of overtaking ability. The six-speed gearbox feels great with a reassuring metallic feel and easy shift action.
The one area where its smaller capacity is evident is when driving in urban situations where a quick turn of speed is needed, like to cross a junction or when accelerating in gear. It often requires a bit of down-changing and more clutch and gear activity than usually required.
Previous Corollas have always been victims of dull design, but the new model is different. Up front you get a slightly sharper-looking nose – as seen on its Auris sibling - while in side profile it looks more sporty thanks to a 5mm reduction in height. The rear wide tail lights complete what I think is the best-looking Corolla to date.
Inside there is more space than in its predecessor (which wasn’t exactly a Turkish prison anyway) thanks to a 100mm longer wheelbase and a thinner front seat design as well as by moving the rear passenger hip point back some 75mm for a total of 92mm of extra rear leg space. Boot space is up to 452 litres.
The ergonomics and interior feel is much improved too, with additional sound-proofing work done to enhance refinement. The design is simple, uncluttered and easy to use. The addition of soft-touch materials and gloss black trim inserts in the right areas make the product feel more premium.
The mid-range 1.4D Prestige offers leather seats, multi-function steering wheel and the impressive display audio system which has USB, auxiliary, Bluetooth and even a screen-mirroring function for your smartphone. The one function I feel should be standard is cruise control, especially on a frugal diesel model.
The Toyota Corolla 1.4D Prestige retails for R249 900 which includes a 3-year/100 000km warranty and 5-year/90 000km service plan, endowing the Corolla with fantastic value.