2016 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport CVT Quick Review

By Tony O’Kane, 01 Nov 2016 Car Reviews

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Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport

It’s popular, but is it any good? We take a look at one of the cheaper variants of Toyota’s volume-selling hatch, the Corolla Ascent Sport.

When it comes to grocery-getting hatchbacks, they don’t come any more ubiquitous than the Toyota Corolla.

The Corolla has been a consistent top-seller in Australia, with its blend of value and dependability resonating with tens of thousands of motorists. However, its mechanicals are far from cutting edge and the hatch is now two-thirds of the way through its lifespan. In such a competitive segment, how does the Corolla stack up?

Toyota Corolla Ascent

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR

The Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport is one rung up from the base-grade Ascent, and boasts features like 17-inch alloys, front foglamps, a leather-bound steering wheel and a 7-inch colour touchscreen to help elevate it above the entry level model.

Available with a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed CVT automatic, the Ascent Sport is powered by a 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder engine producing a modest 103kW of power and 173Nm of torque. Priced at $23,250, it’s one of the more affordable small hatch options on the market today.

STRENGTHS

  • Interior space is more than adequate for four adult passengers. Even though the Corolla’s wheelbase doesn’t endow it with huge rear legroom, relatively high seating positions reduce the need for drivers and passengers to kick their legs out ahead of them.
  • Though CVTs have a reputation for sluggish response, the Toyota Corolla’s transmission isn’t actually that bad. Floor the throttle and it will step through seven virtual “ratios” (which eliminates the single-RPM drone that CVTs are known for), while it quietly and seamlessly keeps the engine operating at its most economical during more sedate driving.
  • It handles quite well considering it’s not pitched as a sports model. The steering is light and accurate, and the Corolla will hang on tight in a corner – and that’s important for safety.
  • While the Toyota badge carries a promise of rock-solid reliability, owners will also no doubt appreciate the capped-price servicing scheme offered for the Corolla. Prices for the first six logbook services are locked at $140 – though the service intervals are set at a relatively short 6 months/10,000km.

Toyota Corolla Ascent

WEAKNESSES

  • Interior design is dull, and the Corolla’s near-vertical dashboard is imposing and not terribly welcoming. It makes for a cabin that feels more tight and hemmed-in than it actually is.
  • The Corolla may be a safe choice, but it certainly doesn’t push any boundaries. While other manufacturers are offering more with bigger engines, stop-start systems, turbocharging and advanced in-cabin technology, the Corolla sticks to older tech.
  • Corolla’s ride can be sharp at times, with a crashy rather than cushy quality over big bumps and potholes.
  • While a three-year/100,000km warranty is by no means stingy, there are more competitive warranties out there from manufacturers like Kia, Hyundai, Citroen, Mazda, Renault and Mitsubishi.
  • No sat-nav or smartphone mirroring means there’s no way to have built-in navigation system operated through the Corolla Ascent Sport’s 7-inch touchscreen. That might not have been a sticking point a few years ago, but with the recent proliferation of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring it reveals just how behind-the-times Toyota can be.

Toyota Corolla Ascent

ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?

There’s no shortage of options if you’re shopping for a small five-door hatchback. The Corolla’s key competitors include the Mazda3, Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Ford Focus, Kia Cerato and the soon-to-arrive Holden Astra, and all of them represent keen value.