What stands out?

The Toyota Corolla is an easy to live with, solid small car with an excellent auto transmission, whether you go for the sportier hatch or the more spacious sedan. Toyota concentrated on the basics and got most of them right. This review covers the Corolla range prior to June 2015.

What might bug me?

You might find the interior trim a bit bland and dark, and the response to small bumps a bit intrusive.

Nevertheless the suspension tune is more comfy than sporty, especially with the sedan.

What body styles are there?

Sedan and hatchback. The sedan is significantly longer, and therefore it is roomier and rides slightly more smoothly.

Both are front-wheel drive. The Corolla is classed as a small car, lower priced.

What features do all Corollas have?

Cruise control, and connectivity for Bluetooth devices.

All Corolla sedans (but not all hatches) also have a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, and touchscreen control of interior functions.

Electronic stability control, which helps the driver recover from skids. All new cars must have this feature.

Seven airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; one beside each front occupant protecting the body from side impacts; a curtain airbag on each side protecting the heads of front and rear occupants from side impacts; and finally an airbag at knee level for the driver.

All models are covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

All Corollas use a 1.8 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that revs happily. The engine is also fairly fuel-efficient, with automatic models returning 6.6 litres/100km in official tests.

Automatic Corollas now use a CVT, or continuously variable transmission. Rather than a set number of gear ratios, the Multidrive S-CVT - as Toyota calls it - has an infinite number. The idea is to give the driver better access to the engine’s best power. Unlike some other CVTs, the Corolla automatic does this very well.

Corollas fitted with the less popular six-ratio manual transmission use more fuel than the autos.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The base Ascent Hatch rolls on 16-inch wheels made of steel. The first step up is to the Ascent Sport Hatch, which has lighter wheels made from an alloy of aluminium, a reversing camera, foglights at the front, more chrome and a unique grille.

There’s an RZ model that ramps up the aesthetics with black alloy wheels and various exterior black trim elements. It also gets satellite navigation.

Spend more for the Levin SX Hatch and the alloy wheels grow to 17 inches and mount still wider and shallower tyres, which sharpens steering response and adds grip. You get satellite navigation, sports front seats (which have more side-support, for fast cornering), and various sporty visual elements, including an instrument cluster trim that imitates the charcoal coloured, woven look of expensive and lightweight carbon fibre.

The flagship hatchback, the Levin ZR, brings daytime running lights with long-lived LED bulbs, heating for the exterior mirrors, dual-zone air-conditioning, and heated front seats. The headlamps not only dip automatically for oncoming vehicles but also adjust their beams to help you see around corners. There is keyless entry: you can unlock the car while leaving the key safe in a pocket or handbag. The seats are trimmed in a combination of real leather and fake leather.

On the sedan side, the Ascent Sedan has smaller steel wheels than the base hatch, at 15 inches. Spend more for the SX Sedan and you get bigger, 16-inch alloy wheels. The SX also adds front parking sensors to the Ascent’s rear sensors, and is fitted with foglights. There is keyless entry. There is also Toyota Link, which works with smartphones to operate apps built in to the main display.

The ZR sedan picks up brighter, more efficient and longer lasting LED headlamps, automatic wipers that operate when a sensor detects rain on the windscreen, and a powered driver’s seat. (Unlike the Levin ZR Hatch, the ZR sedan has only single zone air-conditioning and its headlights do not adjust for corners.)

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The lower-profile tyres fitted to the larger wheels generally ride a little more roughly, and may cost more to replace.

The only standard colour is white. The other seven colours cost extra.

How comfortable is the Toyota Corolla?

Inside, the latest Corolla looks radically different from earlier models, with styling dominated by the upright, dark dashboard. There is a silver-laced instrument cluster, and binnacles for odds and ends.

The sedans and hatches share the look, but differ in trim materials and some details. For example, the touchscreen fitted to the sedans gets additional buttons, which make toggling between main functions easier than it is on touchscreen equipped hatches. Each gets modern looking finishes but with differences to the generally formal but elegant patterns. Some stitching on fake leather surfaces adds a touch of class.

The sedans ride more comfortably, due to their dimensions and setup. For example, the longer wheelbase gives them a natural advantage over speed humps and other imperfections. At most price points they ride on tyres with a slightly deeper profile than those on the comparable hatch, which means there is more cushioning air between the wheel and the road.

Small bumps can give a sharper than expected thump to the Corolla’s cabin, an effect emphasised on the bigger-wheeled hatches.

What about safety in a Corolla?

The Corolla is equipped with a full complement of airbags. All of the sedans have a reversing camera, as do all the hatches except for the least costly, the Ascent.

The Corolla does not offer the latest active safety features, such as automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning.

(To see a full list of the safety features on any model, select the car and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.)

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded the Corolla its maximum safety score of five stars.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Steering on all Corolla models is light and responsive. The hatches, in particular, have a feeling of athleticism about them that works well around town.

Body response over bigger bumps is quickly controlled, and the cars stay settled.

Acceleration is respectable without being exceptional. The engine feels willing, and happily revs higher when you need more thrust. The automatic transmission does a good job of extracting the most from the engine.

How is life in the rear seats?

It is rear-seat passengers who will notice the most marked interior difference between hatches and sedans. The sedans have 100mm more space between the front and rear wheels. Rear head room and leg room are significantly greater in the sedans than in the hatches, where they are on a par with main competitors.

However the hatch at least has a near-flat floor, making it easier for a middle passenger to place their feet. The sedans have a more pronounced hump in the middle of the rear floor.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Corolla hatches have clever hidey holes, including small compartments on either side of the luggage area and underfloor storage on some models.

The sedans miss out on some of that thoughtfulness but still get split-folding seats. Their boots are broader than those on the hatches, albeit with a bigger lip.

Where does Toyota make the Corolla?

Corolla hatchback models are built in Japan and the sedans in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

The Mazda3 offers more active safety features – such as automatic emergency braking – either as options, or standard on more expensive models.

Among other cars that might interest you are the Hyundai i30 and Elantra, both of which carry five-year warranties with no limit on distance. The Kia Cerato gets a seven-year warranty.

Other alternatives include the Volkswagen Golf, Honda Civic and Subaru Impreza.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Our reviewers like the Ascent Sedan. Its impressive interior space and standard reversing camera make it a tempting small car proposition.

When did Toyota update this Corolla?

The Corolla hatchback reviewed above went on sale late in 2012, and the sedan early in 2014. An updated hatchback arrived in mid-June 2015, and is the subject of a more recent WhichCar review. The update included a restyled body, a more comfortable ride, new central touchscreens, and the addition of a reversing camera to the least costly model. An update for the sedan was expected in 2016. An all-new Corolla was due about 2017.