Now in it its eleventh generation, the Corolla has grown up, physically and in terms of keeping up with the times. I recently had a go in the top-of-the-range 1.8 Exclusive.
Softie for soft drinks?
The Corolla is like buying a soft drink from Coca- Cola, it’s almost the default go-to option if you’re uncertain and need something from which you know what to expect.
So when at a restaurant, which I’m using as a euphemism for purchasing a car, if you’re baffled by the diverse drinks menu on offer, the default answer is normally, “Oh, well I’ll just have a Coke.”
The Corolla is the automotive equivalent of that Coke, or at least it has been since the arrival of hatchbacks and SUV’s into the local market.
Sedan for the times
Sadly, if we look at market trends, it would appear that the days of the sedan are slowly coming to an end as people move towards high-riding SUVs and crossover-style vehicles.
However, it’s not like the Corolla is struggling within a local context, with over 2 000 unit sales on average per month albeit combined with the Corolla Quest and Auris models, it still sells well.
What about the update?
know it might be difficult to spot, but the Corolla did receive a mild refresh for 2017 and indeed, for the model’s 50th birthday, which is why I had a chance to drive one for the first time since its initial launch in 2014. The styling updates are minor with updated headlamps, reshaped bonnet, updated bumper, revised grille and LED daytime running lights on the more highly specified models.
At the rear there are LED taillights and chrome touches rounding off the updates. As conservative as it might be, there’s no denying that the new Corolla is a far more enticing visual proposition than its predecessors.
Inside for a ride
The interior of a Corolla is perhaps not the most interesting place to spend your time in, but it’s just so inoffensive, much like the rest of the car, that you just get on with the business of getting where you need to be. I noted the new instrument binnacle and updated climate control system as both are worth mentioning in terms of interior upgrades.
My tester was a very liberally specified example, being the top-spec and all. There were leather seats, cruise control, infotainment system with Bluetooth/ USB, reverse camera and a multi-function steering wheel to name a few.
Being the flagship Corolla model, motivation came from Toyota’s trusty 1.8-litre 103kW/173Nm naturally aspirated petrol motor, thankfully mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as opposed to the monotonous CVT.
The manual provides sweet shifts which, when combined with a surprisingly adept chassis, provides for more driving fun than you’d expect from a Corolla.
Again, as with the exterior and interior styling, there’s nothing to really complain about; the car isn’t particularly brisk, yet it isn’t slow either, it isn’t particularly heavy on fuel, nor is it offensively heavy. I was averaging around 9.1-litres/100km on a predominantly urban driving cycle.
At R336 300, the 1.8 Exclusive is perhaps not the most value-filled proposition within the Corolla range. However, it is certainly the most complete with reasonable power, good standard features, acceptable consumption and an overall impression that you’re driving something that is going to last forever.