That Levin feel­ing

Weall know what $19,990 buys. Nine grand more gets ev­ery­thing

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

HAROLD Holt suc­ceeds Sir Robert Men­zies, Jack Brab­ham is Aus­tralian of the Year, St Kilda beat Colling­wood by a point in the VFL grand fi­nal, a royal named Charles goes to school in Gee­long and Toy­ota en­ters the small car mar­ket.

It was 1966. While St Kilda have yet to reach those heights again, al­most 50 mil­lion Corol­las have been sold in the five decades since. Now in its 11th gen­er­a­tion, it’s fight­ing the Mazda3 for small car— and to­tal mar­ket— supremacy.

VALUE

The Levin ZR is the Corolla hatch flag­ship, start­ing at $28,490 (the same as the su­per­seded car) and adding $2000 for the con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic.

The test car also has the ful­l­length glass roof with elec­tric slid­ing cover, which adds $1500 and is great at night— but far from ideal in Aus­tralian sum­mer day­light.

The top-spec model has no short­age of gear. It sits on 17-inch al­loys, has a touch­screen, six-speaker sound sys­tem with Blue­tooth and USB (although I couldn’t get it to work for the mu­sic player), sat­nav, trip com­puter, leather trim, cruise con­trol, re­vers­ing cam­era, adap­tive front bi-xenon head­lights with auto-dip­ping high beam, heated front seats, key­less en­try and ig­ni­tion and and heated ex­te­rior mir­rors.

TECH­NOL­OGY

In con­trast to the graphic ex­te­rior changes, the car­ry­over 1.8-litre

four-cylin­der petrol en­gine gains all of 3kW and has less torque. But it is more flex­i­ble now and that means kinder fuel con­sump­tion.

The man­ual gear­box on to­ken of­fer re­mains a sixspeeder but the veteran four­speed auto has been ditched in favour of a con­tin­u­ously vari­able auto with a sev­en­speed man­ual mode con­trolled by pad­dleshifters.

The CVT claims 6.6L/100km on the com­bined cy­cle— down from 7.4L in the old auto, 0.5L bet­ter than the man­ual and 1.0L down around town.

There’s an ag­gres­sive sport mode; the en­gine is will­ing but doesn’t al­ways sound en­thu­si­as­tic.

Kerb weight has dropped by as much as 55kg, which also af­fects fuel econ­omy.

DE­SIGN

‘‘ Nice car, mate’’ is not some­thing I’ve of­ten heard through the driver’s win­dow of a Toy­ota, ex­cept the 86 sports coupe. The ex­te­rior of the new Corolla prompted that re­mark from a se­cu­rity guard on the gate at the Clip­sal 500. Need we say more?

We shall. The Corolla’s ex­te­rior shares much with the Lexus CT200h, sharp-edged looks and poise on the road. There’s nar­rowed head­lights and air in­take, part of the new ‘‘ Keen Look’’ styling strat­egy.

It’s got a bit more shape to it, which turns heads on the road. There’s a qual­ity feel to the cabin, with com­fort­able seat­ing and eas­ily op­er­a­ble switchgear. It’s let down by the up­right and in-your-face dash­board that erodes the spa­cious feel a lit­tle.

An­other dis­trac­tion is the nar­row rear vi­sion. You need that rearview cam­era.

SAFETY

No short­age of ul­tra-high­strength steel within the body struc­ture has helped score five stars in the NCAP test­ing regime, as well as seven airbags (in­clud­ing a driver’s knee bag).

The au­to­matic high-beam, head­lights and dim­ming cen­tre mir­ror all con­trib­ute, although rain-sens­ing wipers wouldn’t be out of place.

DRIV­ING

I’mnot a fan of the way CVTs flare, revving like a car with a slip­ping clutch, when all is asked of the pow­er­plant.

The Corolla’s not the worst but nor is it the best at turn­ing noise into mo­tion, although its progress on part-throt­tle is bet­ter than you might ex­pect. Smooth­ness, quiet­ness and an ad­mirable thirst are all ben­e­fits.

It looks sharp but doesn’t ride that way. The base model that ran in Cars­guide’s Car of The Year im­pressed with its ride qual­ity and de­spite the taller, lower-pro­file wheel-tyre package, the ZR also im­pressed with its road man­ners.

It’s no hot hatch, although it be­haves ad­mirably when pressed. There’s no mass of body­roll, nor are there screams from the front wheels through cor­ners, but the ‘‘ oth­ers to con­sider’’ list has a cou­ple of con­tenders that amuse more in the bends.

A brief so­journ on an un­sealed road didn’t de­tract from the good ride im­pres­sion but Toy­ota’s elec­tronic safety sys­tems can still be con­founded on dirt,

tak­ing a long time to al­low the driver to ac­cel­er­ate again, even when the sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol were, sup­pos­edly, off.

The driver gets plenty of gear and in­for­ma­tion, although there’s no dig­i­tal speed read­out in the cen­tre dis­play.

VER­DICT

The brand and the name­plate will bring the hordes run­ning when a new model ar­rives, so it’s not likely Toy­ota will have a prob­lem sell­ing Corolla. But re­newed com­pe­ti­tion from Nis­san and Volk­swa­gen will mean this com­fort­able and ca­pa­ble hatch­back is set for a much heav­ier work­load than it has yet to shoul­der.

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