TOYOTA COROLLA ASCENT SPORT
As Hyundai and others do battle at the super-sharp $20,000 price point, Toyota aims to lure buyers up to $23,990 drive-away for a Corolla auto with some extra fruit. Over the standard model the Ascent Sport comes with 16-inch alloys, fog lights, privacy glass and a leather steering wheel and gear shift lever. Capped price servicing over three years is $840, among the cheapest in the business. Warranty is three years/100,000km. A minor makeover last year added a sleeker headlight and bumper design and new tail-lights. But the big news is the interior — the more modern dashboard has a large touchscreen display (although, as with the Suzuki, no volume dial). Cabin and cargo space are smaller than in the Suzuki but this model Corolla has a full-size (steel) spare versus the Vitara’s space-saver. The 1.8-litre four-cylinder (103kW/173Nm) is matched to a CVT with seven presets. It’s spritely enough for most people’s needs and has more oomph than the Suzuki. It uses a little more fuel though (6.7L/100km says the label, expect 11.0L around town) but, as with the Vitara, it takes regular unleaded. Seven airbags — also including one for the driver’s knee — and fivestar safety rating. The rear camera is one of the sharpest and clearest around (Holden, Jeep and Honda, for example, have milky displays and are heavily pixelated at night), although the guiding lines don’t turn with the steering (as with the Suzuki). The updated Corolla drives better than when this generation arrived in 2012. It shifts smoothly, steers nicely and the brakes have a reassuring bite. It trails the Suzuki in cabin space and lacks its taller view. That may not seem a fair comparison but the reality is buyers are cross-shopping these types of cars.