An entry-level small car no longer means a poverty pack. Two top sellers are separated by PAUL POTTINGER
Entry-level small cars no longer mean a poverty pack. We match Toyota’s Corolla Ascent and Holden’s Cruze Equipe
This looked good last year, but now . . . $2K over the $19,990 entry manual gets a continuously variable auto but not a lot of booty besides Bluetooth. You get cruise but have to make do with 16-inch steel wheels. The $1K dearer Ascent Sport gets alloys and reversing camera. Capped servicing but it’s twice yearly.
The carryover but updated 1.8-litre four makes 103kW/173Nm with top torque arriving lower, where it’s sorely needed. The CVT helps it to 6.6L/100km, better than the six-speed manual no one would buy. It’s one of the better such transmissions, a vast improvement on the old four-speed auto.
The cardigan car cautiously embraces style with accents from the 86 sports coupe that it otherwise in no way resembles. ‘‘Wedgy and a bit edgy,’’ Gover calls it. Inside it beats the Cruze for touch and feel but is so far behind in terms of kit it hurts. Big, comfortable seats front and back.
Life-saving technology such as stability control was not even optional until too recently but now the car sets the standard. Seven airbags — one more than most — and the driver’s knee protection should be emulated by all. The crash rating is, of course, five stars.
No one expects dynamic fulfilment of the visual promise, so it’s churlish to carp. Toyota’s latest car makes steps, not strides, in this direction, another area in which the small car game has passed it. Yet it’s unfussed and undemanding, as is its likely buyer.