REVIEW | The 2020 Toyota Corolla has more swag than ever before

01 July 2020 - 09:12
By Brenwin Naidu
The new Toyota Corolla.
Image: Supplied The new Toyota Corolla.

It is often said nothing lasts forever. While that may be true in most instances, there are many Toyota Corolla owners who would disagree. You know, those drivers whose odometers read like telephone numbers.

Just the other day a rather well-kept Corolla E30 (not be confused with the BMW) caught my attention. That was the one launched in 1974. Its cheerful yellow paint was in decent condition for a steed of such vintage, albeit with a patinated look that makes things of this nature so endearing.

The happy vibe of the shade was bested only by the introductory copy of the frayed but completely legible operating manual.

The paragraphs were peppered liberally with exclamation marks, congratulating the owner on the purchase, and assuring them of faithful service ahead.

Let me tell you, that old book was not lying, because when the custodian of this car turned the key, it started without the slightest hesitation. What a thing.

Maybe, just maybe, 46 years from now when a curious car-lover like me hits the push-to-start button on a 2020 Corolla sedan, it too will elicit a feeling of similar appreciation. One thing is certain: this generation of the breed will go down as the turning point in the aesthetic language that defined the nameplate.

Th interior is lifted from the Corolla Hatch and is comfortable, ergonomic and well-appointed.
Image: Supplied Th interior is lifted from the Corolla Hatch and is comfortable, ergonomic and well-appointed.

Goodbye appliance-like, generic features and nondescript three-box physique. Taking cue from its hatchback counterpart launched in 2019, the sedan looks utterly striking any way you cut it. Inevitably, your next question will be: does the go match the show?

In short — and this is not a euphemism for a flat-out “no” — we would recommend you manage your expectations. You see, the Corolla delivers on the same characteristics that made its forebears universally well-accepted.

This is the fruition of decades’ worth of feedback, a distillation of data averages, an ease-of-use aimed at pandering to every driver who might encounter a Corolla, whether 18 years old or 65. There is absolutely no aspect of its temperament that is unpredictable: it stops firmly when you hit the brakes, and it goes exactly where you point it.

In fact, it will keep you on a steady course even if you are a little slack about pointing it. The steering assistant in the XR model we drove gently nudges the vehicle between the painted lines of the road. Semi-autonomy in a Corolla?

My grandad would have been astounded. What is a little unfortunate is that you cannot have the boosted engine that features in the hatchback. Instead, you have a pair of normally-aspirated units, both with four cylinders, with either a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre displacement.

The most stylish Corolla ever? The author certainly thinks so.
Image: Supplied The most stylish Corolla ever? The author certainly thinks so.

We sampled the latter, paired with a six-speed manual. Output on paper is 125kW and 200Nm. Power is sent to the front wheels, of course. The 0-100km/h dash is promised in eight seconds flat. Claimed consumption is 6.5l/100km, but in reality, over my 400km stint, that was more like 9.8l/100km.

Now, while we might bemoan the distinct lack of forced induction, it cannot be forgotten that there are buyers who favour the simplicity of a car without a turbocharger. They are happy to forego the additional punch and better fuel economy for the perceived longevity of an engine with natural aspiration.

The new Corolla sedan, is an interesting juxtaposition of style and technology — and obstinance in the engine department.

Prices start at R380,200. The 2.0 XR tested here is R420,500.