It didn’t win our public vote, predictably. And that’s because, despite those notable highs, the standard road-going versions didn’t exactly set pulses racing. The Corolla has always just been sort of… there. As a result, when the Corolla disappeared from the UK in 2006 – replaced by the Auris hatchback – it didn’t attract the attention you’d expect from the loss of such a long-running nameplate. People shrugged, and moved on.
And now it’s back. But people aren’t shrugging nonchalantly any more. Because the new Corolla looks really very nice. It’s stylish and dramatic, and underpinned with on-trend tech and plenty of nice flourishes. It’s actually quite interesting. It really is, I think, a little bit exciting.
But is that excitement genuine and merited, or is it merely the result of the intrigue of Toyota attaching a previously moribund nameplate to a moderately dramatic family hatch? That’s what I’m aiming to find out in the coming months.
Certainly, first impressions are good: the Corolla’s styling reflects Toyota’s recent trends, with a mix of sharp edges and rounded elements. It’s slightly less dramatic in execution than the Prius or C-HR, but the result is probably a better balance: it would stand out in a line-up of family hatches, but it’s not so extreme that it’s going to scare anyone off. Still, it undeniably has presence and character – not something you could say about some previous versions of the Corolla.
That this Corolla – representing the 12th generation of the model – is different from its titular predecessor is of little surprise. The world has changed since 2006 (the iPhone didn’t exist back then, for one thing…). But it’s also a substantial step forward from the Auris it directly succeeds in the UK (this car was first unveiled as the new Auris before a late name change).
It’s built on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, and is being offered in the UK with a choice of two versions of the firm’s long-established hybrid powertrain (or self-charging hybrid, as Toyota’s marketing department would have it – a controversial turn of phrase we’ll discuss further in a future report). Having sampled the 1.8-litre unit several times in the past – it’s taken from the Prius, and also featured in a C-HR we had on our fleet last year – we’ve opted for the new system featuring a 2.0-litre petrol engine, with an output of 178bhp.
It’s the powertrain our road testers have favoured, and from initial impressions I can see why: it’s quiet and impressively refined, with near-seamless switching between electric and combustion power. Plus, from our early runs, we’ve been getting pleasingly close to the official 54.3mpg WLTP-rated fuel economy. As well as that powertrain, we’ve opted for the top-spec Excel trim, which comes with plenty of kit as standard, including a reversing camera and sensors, LED lights, park assist and Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of driver assistance systems.