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Hatchback benchmarks: How does the updated Toyota Corolla compare to rivals?

The Toyota Corolla has just been updated, but cars like the Hyundai i30 are a threat to its small car dominance.

The Toyota Corolla, the world’s best-selling nameplate, is currently in a post-update glow after receiving a revamp for Australia in early November, but is it still the benchmark hatchback for buyers?

The Corolla has rivals like the Hyundai i30 at its heels, while the Kia Cerato and Mazda3 continue to lure significant numbers of buyers away from Toyota’s enduring hatchback.

Though the update for the Corolla was relatively mild, it upgraded useful elements of the car like its multimedia system, which takes over from the ageing last-gen, while the Corolla’s hybrid system has been given a boost, and new safety features have been added.

The multimedia with an 8.0-inch touchscreen is now designed from the go to work with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with additional features like built-in sat nav for grades above the base Ascent petrol.

The Corolla’s hybrid system now features newly developed batteries that are 14 per cent lighter, Toyota says, and have 103kW - up by 13kW over previous Hybrid grades.

Updated cameras and sensors, as well as the addition of some features like blind-spot monitoring across the range, have put the Corolla up a step or two, but do its rivals offer more?

The closest competitor is the Hyundai i30, which sells almost as well as the Corolla. The thing about i30, as with the other competition, is that there’s no hybrid offering.

The i30 does, however, offer two different advantages: a lower entry price at $23,720 before on-road costs compared to Corolla’s $28,130, plus the i30 offers keen drivers a little more in terms of power and performance at the higher end of the range, with the N and even N-Line.

An entry-level i30 isn’t as well-equipped as an entry Corolla, but the price is the payoff. At the other end of the range, while the Corolla’s TNGA platform provides a well-liked chassis and handling performance, the Corolla doesn’t have the same drivetrain punchiness as the i30’s turbocharged 1.6-litre engine.

In third place for the small car/hatchback segment is the i30’s cousin, the Kia Cerato.

One of the major advantages of the Cerato over its South Korean relative is Kia’s seven-year warranty over the five offered by rivals, while remaining at a similar entry point and with relatively similar features. 

The Cerato S comes in at $25,990 drive-away at a relatively basic spec, and while the ownership in terms of warranty and servicing is a step above, remains a fairly standard car in terms of features.

The top of the Cerato range is the slightly different Cerato GT, which is similar to Hyundai’s i30 N-Line in its unique suspension setup and more powerful engine, though it costs more than the top Corolla ZR at $35,790 before on-road costs.

While Corolla might have the Cerato and i30 beat for comfort, it’s the Mazda3 that gives the Corolla a run for its money in the ‘plush’ game.

With a more upmarket design and euro-rivalling interior, the Mazda3 attempts to lure buyers out of the top-end of the Corolla range with more engine options (a 2.0- or 2.5-litre four-cylinder) across a sedan and hatch shape, and with a mild-hybrid version

The Mazda3 range does, however, reach the $40,000 mark for the G25 Astina, probably nudging as luxurious as you can get in hatchback without looking at German rivals.

A car that’s leather-clad inside and pleasant to drive has temped many buyers to Mazda dealerships, but it hasn’t proven itself to have the broad appeal that the do-it-all Corolla has.

For now, it seems the Corolla is holding onto its position as the leader in affordable and appealing hatchback benchmarks.