The Toyota Corolla may have topped the Australian sales charts for the past two years, but does this mean it’s the best small car you can buy?
It competes with plenty of other celebrated models, like the Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and Volkswagen Golf, but the Corolla remains Australia’s favourite. Are we making the right choice?
The Toyota Corolla Levin ZR tested here sits at the top of the Corolla hatch lineup, above the Ascent, Ascent Sport and Levin SX.
The ZR is the only model in the hatch lineup to come with luxury features like leather trim, dual-zone climate control, front seat heaters, active headlights, proximity keys and heated and folding door mirrors.
The Levin SX just beneath the Levin ZR is hardly spartan though, with standard satnav and reversing camera, sports seats and 17 inch alloys.
All Corollas carry a five star safety rating, but front and rear parking sensors are still optional on the hatch.
The Levin ZR’s interior design is far more adventurous than Corollas of the past
The Levin ZR’s interior design is far more adventurous than Corollas of the past, and while the materials aren’t quite up to the semi-luxury level of the Mazda3 or Volkswagen Golf, they do feel as hardwearing as the Corolla’s reputation suggests.
The sports seats up the front are impressively comfortable and supportive, and there’s plenty of room on the back seats for two adults with good headroom.
The boot will hold a reasonable 280-litres, and like most hatches there’s a spacesaver spare under the boot floor. Several rivals have more cargo space, and the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato pack a full-size spare.
Like all current Corollas, the Levin ZR comes with a 103kW/173Nm 1.8-litre petrol engine, and our example was paired with the optional CVT auto.
The CVT does buzz a bit under acceleration, but the wide spread of ratios makes it quite nimble off the mark and quite zippy in heavy traffic.
The CVT also helps fuel efficiency, with a reasonable 6.6L/100km official combined figure consuming half a litre less than when paired with the standard six-speed manual.
The 1.8-litre Corolla isn’t as quick as the 2.5-litre in the Mazda 3 for similar money, but it does the job for general duties, and will cruise on the highway all day long.
The Corolla Levin ZR does a good job overall
The Corolla isn’t a bad little handler either, with nice steering and an overall feeling of lightness. The rear suspension deals well with bumps despite being a relatively basic torsion beam setup. Several rivals use the same design, but this is ultimately less sophisticated than the independent setups on the Mazda3 and the Golf.
The ride with the Corolla Levin’s big 17-inch wheels is a bit busy on all but smooth roads, but most will prefer the looks of the bigger wheels anyway.
The Corolla hatch is a safe bet if you’re looking for a small car, and carries a reputation for reliability that is second to none.