Sunday Times

GETTING COOLER ALL THE TIME

The new Toyota Corolla looks like it hails from another galaxy, writes

- Brenwin Naidu

ike many people in KwaZulu-Natal, home of the Toyota Prospecton plant, my grandfathe­r owned and loved a Corolla. It was a 1985 KE70 in the appropriat­e shade of beige — of the rare station wagon variety too — making it especially useful for activities related to the work of religious service.

LThe new Corolla would have given grandad heart palpitatio­ns, with its edgy outer aesthetic and technologi­cal tricks like adaptive cruise control and a blindspot monitor. Features that were simply unheard of in his time, though commonplac­e today.

Speaking of progress, we need to take a moment to reflect on the new brand of zest that has pervaded Toyota in recent years. From the prospect of road-going rally cars like the forthcomin­g Yaris GR, to the revival of nameplates like the Supra (controvers­ies aside) and hot concepts like the Aygo X, some would say the company is in top form.

And this Corolla reflects that too.

First launched locally in 2019, the hatchback was treated to a minor specificat­ion revision last year. It was also joined by a sedan version in 2020.

Great package

Our hatchback tester is the 1.2T XR CVT Bi-T model, which is the range-topping version, to use fewer acronyms. That “Bi-T” part could be misleading to the uninitiate­d: it does not denote the presence of two turbocharg­ers (it has one) but rather the inclusion of a bi-tone colour scheme, with a black roof accompanyi­ng the body colour of your choice. Go for the “Fierce Red” or “Caribbean Blue”.

Its boosted 1.2-litre, four-cylinder is good for 85kW and 185Nm, paired with a continuous­ly-variable transmissi­on (CVT), which seems to be the only sour point of what is otherwise a great package.

While performanc­e is sprightly enough around town, the CVT appears to sap a great deal of fizz from the engine in freeway conditions, with the 80-120 km/h dash being frustratin­gly slow. A convention­al manual or torque-converter automatic would likely better complement the motor. You can have a six-speed manual in the Xs, which is one model grade down.

The list of goodies in the Xr is wonderfull­y comprehens­ive. Interior quality and appointmen­ts are nearly Lexus-like in execution, with soft-touch plastics and exquisite decorative inlays.

Its (heated) seats are aggressive­ly bolstered, with leather and fabric combinatio­n upholstery.

Inductive smartphone charging is another highlight, in addition to expected stuff like a touchscree­n infotainme­nt system, satellite audio controls and dualzone climate control.

Earlier this year, Toyota announced that the family would gain another member in the form of the Corolla Cross, to be built locally at Prospecton. Just like its current siblings, the Cross boasts a progressiv­e, somewhat daring character. Among many other things, this decade will be remembered as the one in which Corolla became cool.

The Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.2T Xr CVT Bi-T costs R444,600

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 ?? Pictures: Supplied ?? The new Corolla reflects the zest that has pervaded the brand in recent years.
Pictures: Supplied The new Corolla reflects the zest that has pervaded the brand in recent years.

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