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Toyota in Europe recently revealed a sleek new panel van based on what might be one of the most stylish wagons available anywhere on the planet right now.
Not officially, anyway, though boatloads of the Corolla Fielder Hybrid have already made their way to willing buyers in this country recently as affordable grey-market second-hand imports, highlighting an obvious demand out there.
Here we explore six brand-new Corollas absent from your local Toyota dealer.
Unveiled a little after the current E210 hatch launched in 2018, the Corolla wagon is made in the UK as well as in Japan, with premium specifications, hybrid engines, multi-link independent rear suspension and an elegant design.
Small wagons are still big business in Europe, fuelled by favourable economy and emissions levels that brings price and tax benefits compared to heavier crossovers and SUVs. They make perfect sense.
Of course, no such incentives apply locally (yet), but with our dizzying adoption of hybrids of late combined with the Touring Sports’ striking styling, sophisticated engineering and beautiful interior, we reckon the local outfit could be on yet another surprise winner. Especially with its (EU-rated, to the roof) 691-litre cargo capacity, compared to the hatch’s meagre 217L.
There’s even a Suzuki-badged version sold in the UK and Europe, known as the Swace.
A mainstay of the range during the rear-drive years, Corolla vans were a thing in Australia, offered and built alongside the related wagon from the KE10-based two-door original launched here in July, 1968 right up through to the demise of the KE70 in 1985.
It’s been AWOL since, but those canny Europeans do love their small vans, so just a few weeks ago Toyota in the UK announced that it will add a two-seater, four-door, flat-floored, blacked-out rear windows version of its sleek Touring Sports wagon from mid next year to tap into strong demand for such vehicles.
Besides very car-like design and dynamics, the Corolla Commercial breaks ground by being “…the first full hybrid electric van in its class”, bringing ultra-low running costs and proven Toyota reliability for business owners to enjoy.
Essentially a larger, sedan version of the previous-generation Yaris, yet looking nothing like it, the E160 Corolla Axio is the sort of narrow yet roomy compact family car that Toyota has built for decades, primarily for the Japanese domestic market (JDM).
Launched in 2012 as part of the 11th-generation Corolla cycle, but more recently becoming a fleet-only special, it’s been sold in 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre petrol and hybrid guises, with the latter also powering the related Toyota Prius C.
The appeal of the Corolla Axio is two-fold: on one hand, it oozes anti-design kitsch that gives it an ironic coolness; but – in an age where the cheapest Yaris is now $26,000 drive-away – it’s also a refreshing throwback to a time when Toyota was all about simple, homely and affordable family cars.
Just like 11 generations of Corollas were right up to the current Corolla. How times have changed…
In some cities around Australia, a fresh breed of grey import has started plying urban streets – the Toyota E160 Corolla Fielder.
Basically a boxy wagon version of the Corolla Axio, its pleasant if dorky proportions hide something special – an optional 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that’s served generations of Priuses over the years. Practical and parsimonious.
Nearing its 10th birthday, the Fielder has followed the Axio as fleet-only fodder, yet has the same, indestructible look and feel of lamented, bygone Camry wagons. Ex-JDM hybrids with fewer than 50,000km can be had for around $15,000. Bargain in our books.
The Fielder is exactly the sort of affordable small family wagon Toyota has moved away from. At least the enterprising grey importers are finding a ready and willing market for this old-school Corolla flavour.
The actual Corolla panel van that served generations of florists, pizza delivery shops and scores of other businesses the world over since the latter 1960s morphed into the stripped-down, high-roof Probox some 20 years ago.
Available in two-seater or four-seater four-door wagon configurations, this (previous-generation) Corolla Axio/Fielder-based, Yaris-platformed, front-wheel drive professional box on wheels is nowadays a permanent fixture throughout Japan, keeping its economy going as the nation’s workhorse.
Cool, clean and chunky, the current XP160 design only surfaced in 2014, and – with an available 1.5-litre hybrid – would give the diesel-powered Euro compact vans like the VW Caddy, Renault Kangoo and Peugeot Partner a real run for their money.
Fun fact: for all you old-school 323 fans, since 2018 Mazda has sold a rebadged version (pictured) as the Familia Van.
Go on, Toyota Australia, make our day. Pass us a Probox.
Over in South Africa, the attractive, previous-generation (E170) Corolla sedan that was available in Australia from early 2014 to 2019 is still being assembled, providing inexpensive yet contemporary entry into new Toyota passenger car ownership.
Called the Corolla Quest, it features the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine familiar to many Australians, and is sold alongside the current E210 Corolla range.
Toyota Australia has history re-releasing discontinued models in our market in the past – does anybody remember the 1993-1996 Spacia van that was based on the 1983-1990 R20 Tarago? – and South African-built Corollas were imported for a time during the 2000s, so there's another precedent too.
However, it’s highly unlikely we’d ever see the previous Corolla sedan exhumed for us this time around. Good to know the E170 still exists, though, should Australia’s economy plummet.