LONG-TERM UPDATE 2 | Our Toyota Corolla Sedan makes an escape to the Cape
Things were getting dicey up in Johannesburg. The third wave was beginning to crest and the hospitals were, going on various media reports, struggling to cope with the alarming Covid-19 resurgence.
I’d already had an uncomfortably close call and, after two negative antigen tests (and a few “Hail Marys”) I decided to pack a bag and flee for the comparative safety of the Karoo until things calmed down. I was going to take my Fiat 500 but Sowetan Motoring editor, Brenwin Naidu, said I could keep the key to our new Toyota Corolla Sedan.
I hit the N1 early on Saturday, June 26 (good timing, because the Level 4 lockdown was implemented the next evening) and was immediately taken by this Japanese saloon’s highway manners.
Clearly stealing a few pages from Lexus’ R&D book, the Toyota engineers have steered refinement levels to impressive new heights and as a result the Corolla Sedan makes a surprisingly agreeable long-distance travelling partner.
Wind noise is practically non-existent at the national limit while road noise remains suitably suppressed – although I did find some grades of asphalt do make those large 18-inch tyres sing an octave or two higher. Still, the cabin of the Corolla remains a relaxing place to be and you can cover several hundred kilometres before feeling the need to stop for a break.
Adding to its fatigue-busting ways is a set of electronically adjustable front seats that, upholstered in a mix of leather and fabric offer a near perfect blend of comfort and support. You can also fine-tune the lumbar region, which is a welcome feature for those of us who suffer from back issues.
Long road trips always put a car’s “stashing space” to the test and here the Corolla sedan does well, with generously-sized door pockets, two deep-dished cupholders in the centre console, plus a useful, partially-enclosed storage binnacle positioned ahead of the gear lever.
Flip up the centre armrest and you’ll discover another handy bin in which you can deposit valuables or anything else that might attract prying eyes. It also hides a second USB port (the main one is located on the bottom left hand side of the dashboard) plus a 12-volt power socket.
What is somewhat disappointing here though is that said armrest isn’t adjustable – unlike in the Prius or our previous long-term Corolla Hatch, you can’t slide it forward to better suit the length of your arm.
Standard tech levels are good and you’ll find all the things you need to better wash the miles away: a large touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and – for when the sun disappears – a really great pair of Bi-LED headlamps that cut through the Karoo darkness like a laser beam. They also have Toyota’s switchable automatic high beam system that works notably better than it does in the Prius.
So how did the Corolla perform? Well from a power point of view, that crisp little 2.0-litre engine offers more than enough shove to dispatch with bold overtaking manoeuvres. In a world of turbochargers and hybrid drive systems I thought it might feel a bit anaemic out on the open road, but in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Drop down a cog or two, smash the throttle to the floor and this Toyota surges forward with a muscly confidence – exactly what you need when tackling those long rows of lumbering pantechnicon trucks that forever haunt the N1.
The cogs in the slick-shifting “intelligent” manual transmission are nicely stacked and sixth gear is long enough for you to maintain easy cruising speeds at low revs: you’re looking at an indicated 130km/h at 3000rpm.
In terms of fuel economy, I was expecting the Corolla Sedan to perform better than it actually did. Toyota claims 6.5l/100km on the combined cycle yet the best I could muster was 7.0l/100km. Not terrible but not great either.
TOYOTA COROLLA SEDAN 2.0 XR MANUAL: UPDATE 2
ODOMETER ON DELIVERY: 9,249km
CURRENT ODOMETER: 13,171km
AVERAGE CONSUMPTION: 7.0l/100km
PRAISES: Excellent on the open road, well equipped, still getting compliments wherever I go
GRIPES: Fuel consumption could be better, centre armrest isn’t adjustable