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The world's favourite car is better than it was, but still has a few flaws. The starting sticker, though, is a winner. "I'd rather spend five years in the i30 than three years in the Corolla,'' Paul Pottinger said at the COTY judging.

And the cabin reflects a totally different design approach. It's still Toyota efficient, but it breaks away from the blandness with the potential for some personalisation.

Visibility is great, despite a slightly pinched view through the rear window, but the real delight comes in the new driving position. Toyota has finally recognised that people don't like to sit with their hair brushing the roof or jammed up against the dash, which means you can sit back in comfort and also enjoy front seats that are nicely shaped and padding that's just right.

The steering is light, the car is easy to park and even thought the boot is no bigger it is easier to load. It's also good to find. Full sized spare in the starting price car. So, how does it drive? It's very, very good for a Corolla, and good for a Japanese car.

But I've just been spoiled by Golf 7. The Corolla gets along nicely enough, promises great fuel economy and is pretty quiet on all but the worst surfaces. But it doesn't have the limo-like cushiness or the library-quiet cabin of the Volkswagen.

Now we come to the gearbox... And I have to say that CVTs are about as popular as brussel sprouts with the Carsguide crew. But Toyota's engineers have added bearnaise sauce with a system that almost -- but not quite --eliminates the horrible flaring and slipping clutch sound while also giving a seven-speed drivers mode that's not as bad as a fake manual.

The overall impression is a car that's more complete, and returns the Corolla to the top of the small car heap.

Toyota Corolla Ascent auto

Price: from $21,990
Engine: 1.8-litre 16-valve four-cylinder
Transmission: CVT (with seven-speed “manual” mode), front wheel drive
Power: 103kW @ 6400rpm
Torque: 173Nm @ 4000rpm
Fuel use/emissions: 6.6 l/100km, tank 50 litres 91RON ULP; 152g/km
Brakes/safety systems: Driver and front passenger airbags, front seat side, driver’s knee and curtain airbags, stability control (Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control).
Dimensions: Length 4275mm, width 1760mm, height 1460mm, wheelbase 2600mm, cargo volume 280 litres, weight 1270kg
Wheels/tyres: 16in steel wheels

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Paul Gover
Paul Gover is a former CarsGuide contributor. During decades of experience as a motoring journalist, he has acted as chief reporter of News Corp Australia. Paul is an all-round automotive expert and specialises in motorsport.
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