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Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
6.9
This is really interesting. You're pin-pointing your new vehicle search down to not only the top-selling car in Australia – the Corolla – but the most popular type – the Ascent Sport hatch.

This is really interesting. You're pin-pointing your new vehicle search down to not only the top-selling car in Australia – the Corolla – but the most popular type – the Ascent Sport hatch.

Being an Aussie favourite doesn't necessarily make it better than its competitors, or right for you.

But have you, through your own powers of clever deduction and investigation, already discovered the true value-for-money sweet spot in the Corolla range?

Toyota Corolla 2017: Ascent Sport
Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$14,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

This current Corolla has been around five years and it still looks great thanks to a good initial design and successful styling updates along the way.

I like the sharp nose, the sleek headlights, the profile, even the ‘egg splat' tail-lights. The hatch is so much more attractive than the sedan, but struggles a bit in the beauty stakes against the new Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.

Measuring 4330mm end to end, 1475mm tall and 1760mm wide, the Corolla hatch is 290mm shorter, 15mm narrower but 15mm taller than the sedan.

The cabin has barely changed in years, but I'm still a big fan of its design. (image credit: Richard Berry) The cabin has barely changed in years, but I'm still a big fan of its design. (image credit: Richard Berry)

Inside, the cabin has barely changed in years, but I'm still a big fan of its swooping dash and clean design. The new touchscreen modernises the interior, the instrument cluster is clear, grown up and stylish, while the blue lighting throughout is a great ambient touch.

There are eight paint colours to choose from for the Ascent Sport (only four for the Ascent). As mentioned our car was 'Inferno' (a burnt orange) but there are seven other colours to choose from including 'Blue Gem', 'Citrus', 'Crystal Pearl', 'Silver Pearl', 'Ink' (black), 'Wildfire' (bushfire blonde) and 'Glacier White', which I happen to like the most, and not just because it's free.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Wondering if the Corolla hatch is more practical than the sedan? No, of course you weren't. So, consider it trivia that the hatch has far less rear legroom (at 191cm tall I can just squeeze in behind my driving position) but more headroom back there.

The centre console is deep but not large, as the handbrake eats into the space. (image credit: Richard Berry) The centre console is deep but not large, as the handbrake eats into the space. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The boot is smallish at 310 litres (110 litres less than the sedan), but it will fit the CarsGuide pram, just. The hatch tailgate gives you a bigger opening than a sedan boot and by folding the seats forward the car is better for cargo carrying.

Storage inside is not bad with two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest in the back, and two more up front, plus bottle holders in all of the doors. The centre console bin upfront is deep but, not large because the handbrake eats into the space. There's also a small hidey hole in the dash under aircon dials for bits and pieces.

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

There are five types of Corolla hatch, and the Ascent Sport, with a list price of $23,250 for the automatic (the manual is $21,210), is the second rung up that ladder. That's only $980 more than the entry-level Ascent. So what's the point of the Ascent Sport?

The point is, by paying the extra grand you get 16-inch alloy wheels and a 7.0-inch touchscreen, plus the ability to option sat nav (as our car had) which you can't get on the Ascent with its 6.1-inch screen. Other standard features include a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, a six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity and halogen headlights.

Consider it trivia that the hatch has far less rear legroom. (image credit: Richard Berry) Consider it trivia that the hatch has far less rear legroom. (image credit: Richard Berry)

The value is good and the rivals are a close match. The Mazda3, for example, is $24,890, but comes with built-in sat nav. The exception to the rule, though, is the new Hyundai i30 hatch. The base spec i30 has the same list price as the Corolla Ascent Sport, but comes with an 8.0-inch screen, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Outstanding.

The update also brought a new advanced safety package. It's the best $750 you'll ever spend (read more about what cool tech this brings below).

Also optioned on our test car was sat nav ($1000) and 'Inferno' premium paint ($450).

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

All Corollas, sedan or hatch, regardless of grade, come with the same engine. It's a petrol, a 1.8-litre four-cylinder with a power output of 103kW (torque is 173Nm). Actually that's not true. There's a petrol-electric hybrid Corolla hatch. Did you know that? Here, read my road test.

You have two transmission choices: a six-speed manual and seven-speed CVT auto. (image credit: Richard Berry) You have two transmission choices: a six-speed manual and seven-speed CVT auto. (image credit: Richard Berry)

Okay, back to the Corolla Ascent Sport. You have two transmission choices: a six-speed manual and seven-speed CVT auto. Ours was the CVT, and if you're looking for something which shifts automatically and smoothly, go for this one. But if you're really into driving, you'll want the manual.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The Corolla Ascent Sport we tested had the seven-speed CVT auto. These transmissions are known for their efficiency, but lack a sporty personality. When you ask them for more acceleration, they tend to drone noisily, rather than dramatically increase your speed.

All Corollas, sedan or hatch, regardless of grade, come with the same engine. (image credit: Richard Berry) All Corollas, sedan or hatch, regardless of grade, come with the same engine. (image credit: Richard Berry)

Toyota says that the hatch with a CVT should consume 6.1L/100km of regular unleaded petrol for the combined (urban, extra-urban) fuel economy cycle. That's more efficient than the same engine in the sedan, which gets 6.6L/100km. We took our car on mainly urban adventures/chores and saw 11.5L/100km.

Being happy to drink the cheap 91 RON petrol should make filling the 50 litre tank easier on the budget, too.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

Surely if something has the word 'sport' in its name it has to be sporty, or connected to sport or performance in some way. You know deodorant, or a watch, or trousers. Not so with cars. Nope the Ascent Sport is in no way faster or higher-performance or sportier than the Ascent or any other Corolla grade. It doesn't even have a stripe down the side of it.

The boot is smallish at 310 litres, but it will fit the CarsGuide pram, just. (image credit: Richard Berry) The boot is smallish at 310 litres, but it will fit the CarsGuide pram, just. (image credit: Richard Berry)

So, if you're buying it because you want performance or better handling, forget it, and buy a Toyota 86, which doesn't have the word sport in its name at all, but is possibly the best sports cars for Corolla money on the planet.

Driving the Ascent Sport is easy: easy to park, easy to see out of, easy to use, with enough power to overtake easily. The ride is comfortable and the handling is good for a small car. I'll be honest with you though, the Mazda3 Maxx is more fun to drive, and so is the Hyundai i30.

That's mainly because both have traditional autos, which feel more responsive, and it's also down to small tactile things, which make a big difference, such as the steering wheel shape. The Mazda and Hyundai's felt fitted to my hands, while the Corolla's is hard to grip comfortably. Handling is not bad, but it's not as agile as the Mazda3.

Under the boot floor you'll find a full sized spare wheel. (image credit: Richard Berry) Under the boot floor you'll find a full sized spare wheel. (image credit: Richard Berry)

Then there are those the headlights. They're halogen, and adequate, but 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 Ascent Sport hatch has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but nearly every new car does now, and while the score is a good place to start take a look at the advanced safety equipment offered – that's what really separates the safe from the safer.

The 2017 update to the Corolla Ascent Sport hatch brought an optional safety package which is well worth the $750 asking price. The pack includes AEB, lane departure alert and auto high beams. Of all the options you could go for this one can save your life.

There are two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the back row for child seats, and under the boot floor you'll find a full sized spare wheel.

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

The Corolla Ascent Sport hatch 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 Sport hatch's looks, driveability, and optional advanced safety equipment mean that despite the fact it's older than most of its rivals, it's still a great buy.

Pricing Guides

$17,260
Based on 2277 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$13,995
Highest Price
$29,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Ascent 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $13,995 – 19,999 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 Ascent Pricing and Specs
Ascent Sport 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $14,990 – 21,980 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 Ascent Sport Pricing and Specs
Hybrid 1.8L, Hyb/PULP, CVT AUTO $21,470 – 26,990 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 Hybrid Pricing and Specs
SX 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $21,888 – 22,998 2017 TOYOTA COROLLA 2017 SX Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.9
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Driving6
Safety7
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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