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Toyota Corolla Ascent sedan 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
6.8
The Corolla is the Milk Arrowroot biscuit of the car world. It's not decadent or racy, but it's a popular staple that's been with us for what seems like forever.

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The Corolla is the Milk Arrowroot biscuit of the car world. It's not decadent or racy, but it's a popular staple that's been with us for what seems like forever. And it's hard to imagine life without it.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Corolla, and to celebrate that milestone Toyota gave its sedan a makeover, and added some excellent, advanced safety equipment.

Times have moved on though and the Corolla is up against the fiercest competition from other small sedans it's ever seen.

So, is a car that's renowned for being reliable and offering value-for-money, still worthy of that reputation, and how does it compare to rivals such as the Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra and Holden Astra sedans? And is there any advantage to buying the sedan over the more popular hatch?

We test drove the entry car in the Corolla sedan range - the Ascent, with a CVT auto.

Toyota Corolla 2017: Ascent
Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$14,473

Is there anything interesting about its design?   6/10

Small sedans at this price point aren't known for being sexy. The Mazda3 and Elantra are the standout good lookers, while the Corolla and Astra sedan have more 'generic car' styling.

The update in early 2017 saw Toyota make some cosmetic changes to the Corolla which has improved the looks with new styling to the headlights and front bumper, while the tail-lights and rear bumper have also been redesigned.

The interior gets a new touchscreen, instrument cluster, and TFT screen. (image credit: Richard Berry) The interior gets a new touchscreen, instrument cluster, and TFT screen. (image credit: Richard Berry)

But not even that can stop it from looking like it belongs to a government employee, especially if it has white paint. 'Glacier White' is a free colour. Premium paint such as the 'Silver Ash' our car wore is $450. Other premium colours include 'Moonlight', 'Wildfire' and 'Blue Mist'.

The sedan is 4620mm from bumper to bumper, 1775mm wide and 1460mm tall, which compared to the hatch version, makes it 290mm longer, 15mm wider but 15mm shorter in stature.

The Corolla sedan's interior was also refreshed at the beginning of 2017 with that touchscreen, a new instrument cluster and TFT screen, plus 'piano black' centre console trim, as well as redesigned air vents and air-conditioning controls.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The sedan version of the Corolla is longer than the hatch and that means better legroom – much better. I'm 191cm and have about 5cm of space to spare between my knees and the seat back when I sit behind my driving position. In the hatch I could just clear the seat back.

There are three grades of Corolla sedan and the Ascent is the entry point. (image credit: Richard Berry) There are three grades of Corolla sedan and the Ascent is the entry point. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The sedan's boot is also 120 litres bigger at 470 litres. That's bigger than the 445-litre boot in the Astra sedan

Cabin storage is good with four cupholders (two up front and two in the back), there are cupholders in all the doors and a deep centre console storage bin.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

There are three grades of Corolla sedan and the Ascent is the entry point into that line-up at $23,490. Ours was the CVT auto which is $2250 more than the Ascent with the manual gearbox. What would you shop it against? There's the base-spec Astra sedan, which lists for $21,490, the Mazda3 Neo is $22,490, and the Hyundai Elantra is $24,250.

I'm 191cm and have about 5cm of space to spare in the back. (image credit: Richard Berry) I'm 191cm and have about 5cm of space to spare in the back. (image credit: Richard Berry)

That puts the Corolla Ascent at the more expensive end of the small sedan spectrum. But is it good value?

Well, imagine the disappointment of buying a 2016 Corolla Ascent only to find out that in 2017 Toyota would fit it with fancier, bigger touchscreen. That said, the new car is $500 more than the old one and that replacement of the 6.1-inch screen with a new media unit and 7.0-inch display was the only major change.

The standard features list stayed much the same and includes 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlights, air-conditioning, and a six-way manually adjustable driver seat.

The Astra and Elantra come with Apple CarPlay and Android auto, while the Mazda3 and Corolla don't. If you've used these apps you'll know they mirror your maps, message and music from your phone, making it a huge help.

All the Corollas get the same engine. (image credit: Richard Berry) All the Corollas get the same engine. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The update also made some advanced safety equipment available. For $1500 you'll get AEB, lane departure alert and automatic high beam headlights.

With that 'Safety Pack' (get it, forget the paint protection up-sell) the Ascent is good value for money.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

All Corollas, regardless of bodystyle or grade, come with the same engine - a petrol, a 1.8-litre four-cylinder with a power output of 103kW (torque is 173Nm).

You have two choices of transmission: a six-speed manual and a seven-speed CVT.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Our car was fitted with the CVT auto, and while these aren't known for sporty responsiveness, they are fuel efficient. Toyota says that with the CVT the Corolla sedan will use fuel at a rate of 6.6L/100km on the combined (urban, extra-urban) fuel economy cycle.

The Corolla Ascent sedan requires only 91 RON petrol – the cheap one. (image credit: Richard Berry) The Corolla Ascent sedan requires only 91 RON petrol – the cheap one. (image credit: Richard Berry)

I can rarely hit these official combined figures because I spend most of my time driving in the city with the occasional motorway trip. That combination saw our test car use 9.1L/100km.

The Corolla Ascent sedan requires only 91 RON petrol, too – the cheap one. And for those that need to know everything, the tank has a 50-litre capacity.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

The Corolla Ascent sedan is easy to pilot. The sedan is 30cm longer than the hatch, but is still small compared to a Camry, and easy to park in the city. Visibility is not bad, although the heavily sloped windscreen means those long A-pillars can obstruct forward vision at times.

The sedan's boot capacity is 470 litres. (image credit: Richard Berry) The sedan's boot capacity is 470 litres. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The 1.8-litre has just the right amount of grunt, but the CVT does what nearly all CVTs do, and that is drone under heavier acceleration, and that acceleration is underwhelming.

Put the Corolla into Reverse and it'll beep at you – not once, but continuously until you shift into Drive or Park. Yes, like a truck, but not beeping on the outside to warn people – on the inside, to warn you that you're reversing. It's a Japanese safety function, and it's annoying.

The Corolla Ascent sedan's ride is good – but not as comfortable as the Astra sedan or Elantra. Similarly, the handling is not bad, but the Corolla isn't as agile as the Mazda3.

Thankfully, the Corolla gets a full sized spare. (image credit: Richard Berry) Thankfully, the Corolla gets a full sized spare. (image credit: Richard Berry)

A big flat wheel, that didn't fit my hands, and heavier than expected steering weight topped off a driving experience that wasn't exactly memorable. At least those front seats are big enough to fit a large human being like me.

Finally, the headlights. They're the halogen type, and while adequate, they could be brighter. The LED headlights on the ZR grade are excellent, but you'll have to pay more to step up to that spec to get them.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Corolla sedan has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but most cars do now, and this score should only be a starting point for you. Take a look the advanced safety equipment on the car – there may be none at all.

The 2017 update to the Corolla sedan brought an optional $1500 safety package, which is well worth buying. The pack includes AEB, lane departure alert and auto high beam, plus 15-inch alloy wheels. It's lifesaving stuff.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The Corolla Ascent sedan is covered by a three year/100,000km warranty. Servicing is recommended every six months or 10,000km and is capped at $140 per visit up to 36 months or 60,000km.

Verdict

The Corolla Ascent sedan is well priced, good value and comes with Toyota's reputation for reliability and quality construction. The sedan's boot is bigger than the hatch's and rear legroom is excellent for the class.

Pricing Guides

$17,980
Based on 2015 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,473
Highest Price
$27,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Ascent 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $14,473 – 19,999 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 Ascent Pricing and Specs
Ascent Sport 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $15,870 – 21,990 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 Ascent Sport Pricing and Specs
Hybrid 1.8L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $21,950 – 27,999 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 Hybrid Pricing and Specs
SX 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $18,771 – 25,990 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 SX Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Design6
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Driving6
Safety7
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$13,977

Lowest price, based on 67 car listings in the last 6 months

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