I COULD TELL you that I have the keys of the Corolla SX long termer because I’m eager to see if Toyota’s punt on a sportier, less-practical volume seller is likely to pay dividends for the world’s second-largest car company.
Or, I might claim I needed a break from the highly modified V8s that form my automotive diet as editor of muscle-car bible Street Machine.
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Neither suggestion would be true. Rather, I was on the bludge for sorely needed support vehicles for our annual Drag Challenge event. Kirby offered me the Corolla, on the condition that I’d document the experience.
Drag Challenge sees more than 200 of Australia’s quickest street-registered cars do battle over five days on five tracks. The road course exceeds 1500km, much of it on rural Victorian B-roads. It’s a hot, bumpy ride, with some night driving thrown in. In other words, perfect conditions for revealing the deeper qualities of an unfamiliar car.
Photographer Chris Thorogood and I agree that the SX looks sharp, but we’re not sure it is going to have the space for our gear. While the Corolla’s boot is inadequate for the job, folding back the 60/40 rear seat allows us to fit all of Chris’s camera cases, a couple of soft bags and a large Esky.
Once we find a group of competitors and a safe place to overtake, we move to the right to shoot tracking shots of the cars. I tuck in the side mirrors with a press of a button – lest they appear in the frame – and Chris swivels forwards and back, searching for the optimum mix of blur, light and shade.
The opportunities are brief and there are impatient civilians to contend with, so we’re grateful that the Corolla has sufficient poke to do the job safely, if somewhat noisily.
We learn later that the Corolla’s CVT gearbox is assisted by an actual first gear and torque converter, which explains the punch off the line. We’d much prefer a manual, but you can only get that on the base Ascent Sport. This would save $1500, but you’d miss out on a bunch of fruit. You’d still get a heap of active safety features, though – and a real spare tyre.
The new Corolla may indeed be a sportier thing to drive than its predecessor, but there was little opportunity for us to put that to the test on this event. What we can report is that it handles bumpy country roads with aplomb, has great air-con and effective sat-nav. The seats are comfy over a long haul and we loved the wireless charging dock. If you’re an active single or couple, you can order a Corolla knowing it has the Drag Challenge seal of approval.
Read more about our Toyota Corolla long termer:
- Part one: 2019 Toyota Corolla SX long term review