– Wallace du Plessis. Above: The brand-new Corolla 161 Sedan. Photo: Supplied.

Who would have thought 54 years ago that Corolla would become the biggest nameplate in the car world?

The fact is more Corollas (43 million) have been built than any other car in history, beating the Ford’s Model-T and F-150 (both bakkies) and Escourt, VW’s Beetle and Golf (30 million), Fiat 124 also built as the Vaz 2101 and Lada, Honda Civic (15 million). Interesting. Over one million Corollas have been sold in South Africa and are now accounting for 70% of sales in the segment.

For this reason, it’s big news when a new Corolla makes its appearance.


The dashboard of the new Corolla.

The dashboard of the new Corolla. Photo: Supplied.

The outgoing Corolla will still be with us as the seriously well priced Quest from R249 900 (1.8 Quest Manual R249 900) to R317 700 (1.8 Quest Exclusive CVT) and built in South Africa, at TSAM’s facility in Durban. The version that I think hits the sweet spot is the 1.8 Quest Prestige CVT and at R296 800, it is a bargain.

 The new 2020 Corolla is a revelation. Toyota says the customer wants luxury high performance and styling. Judging from pictures it is more sophisticated, more stylish, and smarter than ever before. I doubt there is a better value and more practical mid-sized full specification up-to-date C-section sedan on our roads. It sets the bar for the sector and must be a contender for the 2020/21 car of the year crown on paper. Because of Covid-19 I have not driven the new car yet, so I will only be able to give you driving impressions in a month or two.

According to Ueda-san, Corolla Chief Engineer: “One of the big merits of the new platform is that it allows designers more freedom to create a dynamic exterior.”

He adds that all variants in the Corolla family are now visually distinctive and feature an individual look with a lower stance and more appealing proportions. “We’ve also ensured better all-around visibility for the driver by implementing thinner A-pillars and a lowered dashboard and bonnet,” said Ueda-san.

So what does it look like? In one word – slinky. From the front the Bi-LED lamps, wide but flat grill, and cheeky ‘grinning’ running lights make quite a statement. The rear is very well executed and looks upmarket. From the side the car looks aerodynamic and almost coupe-like. Snazzy.

The interior is simple and minimalist. Personally, I am not mad about the 8” display sticking out of the dash like Mercedes has been doing, but the 7” display in front of the driver looks good. Blue contrast stitching harmonises with blue illumination for the switchgear and instrument panel. A new-age synthesized fabric called RezatecTM is used, with the comfort of fabric with the feel of leather. The XR offers a choice of blue or grey accent trim colours.

There are two engine options available. A 1.8 petrol unit with 103kW and 171Nm (the XS) and the 2.0L XR putting out 125kW and 200Nm. No diesel for now. You get a choice of six-speed manual or 10-speed sequential automatic CVT box.
The two trim levels mean the 1.8 XS is the base model, while the 2.0 XR is the fancy version. The standard equipment level in the 1.8 is good and includes cruise control, auto aircon, leather seats, and daytime running lights among others. The XR adds more high-tech drive and safety modes.

The big price difference shows just how differently these models are pitched. I think the 1.8 is geared to fleet buyers and reps on the road and the XR to private buyers:
1.8 XS CVT R380 200
2.0 XR manual R420 500
2.0 XR CVT R433 700

The sector includes cars of the ilk of the Mazda3, Audi A3, Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza and the now discontinued Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus.