Sportiness and cutting-edge technology aren’t attributes one would traditionally apply to the humble Corolla, but Toyota has pulled out all the stops for its clean-slate redesign of Australia’s most popular passenger car.
First off, the platform that underpins it is box-fresh. Toyota’s TNGA (or Toyota New Global Architecture) modular platform can already be found under the C-HR small SUV, Prius hybrid and Camry, and the benefits it brings to the new Corolla are manifold. For one, it replaces the old car’s torsion-beam rear suspension with a more sophisticated multi-link arrangement, while also offering a 60 percent improvement in body rigidity and a lower centre of gravity.
Translated into simple terms, it should feel more stable and secure on the road, while also boasting better comfort and sharper handling. Weight-saving measures such as a plastic tailgate see overall kerb weight rise just 30kg in manual form, despite the new Corolla being 45mm longer and 30mm wider than the car it replaces. Other dimensional tweaks include a 2640mm wheelbase that measures 40mm longer to boost cabin space, and a 40mm reduction in height for a sportier look.
The standard petrol engine is just as new. Displacing 2.0 litres and built on an all-alloy architecture that makes it lighter than the outgoing hatch’s 1.8-litre, the new Corolla’s naturally-aspirated engine generates 125kW and 200Nm, with Toyota claiming “world leading thermal efficiency” of 40 percent – that is, 40 percent of the latent energy in the fuel being burned ends up going to the car’s transmission rather than being lost as heat. To put it into perspective, the Mazda 3 generates 114kW and the same torque from 2.0 litres, while the Hyundai i30’s 2.0-litre atmo option produces 120kW and 203Nm.
The Corolla’s 2.0-litre engine is available with a six-speed manual gearbox on the Ascent Sport grade (which also brings downshift rev-matching), while a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard-issue on the mid-grade SX and flagship ZR. Toyota promises the CVT loses the sluggish feel of the previous car’s auto option by adopting a mechanical launch gear for more direct power transmission from a standing start. Meanwhile, 10 fixed ratios can be sequentially selected when the CVT is put in its manual shift mode.
The addition of brake torque vectoring is another nod to keen drivers, gently braking the inside wheels during hard cornering to help reduce understeer.
Unlike the previous generation, the Corolla hybrid is no longer a standalone variant. The new Corolla range spearhead’s Toyota’s strategy of offering a hybrid powertrain option at every level of specification, with the super-frugal hybrid powertrain now available across the range at a $1500 premium over the cost of the equivalent conventional petrol model.
For that extra outlay, the 2.0-litre petrol gets replaced by a 1.8-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol, which also boasts a 40 percent thermal efficiency. Power output gets reduced to 72kW and 142Nm from the engine alone (90kW and 163Nm when the electric assistance motor is also in play), but fuel economy on the combined cycle is a frugal 4.2L/100km. The 2.0L, meanwhile, burns 6.0L/100km with the CVT automatic, or 6.3L/100km with the manual.
Read next: 2015-2018 Toyota Corolla Range Review
Standout features on the 2018 Corolla include the range-wide fitment of active cruise control, lane departure warning, auto high-beam, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection (the latter only working in daytime), and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen display. Opt for a CVT-equipped model, and you also gain lane-keep assist.
Move further up to the mid-level SX grade and blind spot monitoring, satellite navigation, wireless phone charging, digital radio, front foglights and a rear USB port become standard, while the range-topping ZR brings a colour head-up display, leather/suede upholstery, more heavily-contoured front seats, an eight-speaker premium audio system, in-cabin ambient lighting, self-dimming rear-view mirrors and uprated bi-LED headlamps.
Keen Corolla-spotters will note that the Ascent grade has been culled from the line-up, leaving the Ascent Sport to open the Corolla range. The price of entry consequently rises, now sitting at $22,870 for the Ascent Sport manual.
However, with the introduction of hybrid options on all three spec grades the Corolla hatch family continues to boast seven individual variants.
Prices have generally risen across the board, a reflection of the extra equipment that’s now fitted as standard. Given the outgoing ZR was already fairly well-equipped, that model undergoes the smallest price hike of just $350 in petrol automatic form. Full pricing is as follows:
- Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport petrol manual - $22,870
- Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport petrol CVT - $24,370
- Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport hybrid CVT - $25,870
- Toyota Corolla SX petrol CVT - $26,870
- Toyota Corolla SX hybrid CVT - $28,370
- Toyota Corolla ZR petrol CVT - $30,370
- Toyota Corolla ZR hybrid CVT - $31,870