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Toyota Corolla 2012 review: snapshot

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There's two built and sold every minute somewhere in the world which explains total Toyota Corolla sales of 39 million since gen' one back in 1966. Toyota's iconic small car has been here for 46 years and this week moves into the 11th generation. It's been built here in the past but new Corolla now comes out of Japan.

BRAND

The Corolla "brand" is built on quality, reliability and durability none of which change with the new, more attractive car that owes plenty to Europe in terms of style and dynamism. It remains practical and "sensible" but this time around marks the arrival of a good measure of sass.

The car looks sexy and sporty inside and out even if it retains an inner conservative nature in the way it drives. It's no sporty hatch but is perfectly suited to the multiple applications to which Corolla owners put their cars. 

Toyota has made it easier to get into and out of by reducing seat height, they've given it better acceleration without upping outright power or torque by much at all. And it is more fuel efficient into the bargain.

THE LOOK

But what you and I will notice first is the new and attractive exterior styling that sets Corolla apart from other players in the small car segment it's a real grown-up look completely different from the small people mover look of the previous model. 

The longer snout and V shaped grill treatment has family Toyota design cues - keen looking, a lot like a Tarago or the new Camry while the rear looks uncannily similar to the new (and equally handsome) Hyundai i30. There are sharp character lines down the sides and it has a low centre of gravity and low aerodynamic drag due in part to under body cladding. Weight has been cut by up to 55kg helping both performance and economy. 

The body might not be that much bigger on the outside but better design sees more room for up to five passengers and a decent load space. The stylish interior features a nearly flat top dash, bold shapes, soft feel surfaces and a host of easy to use controls.

PRICE

In something of a coup, the starting price is $19,990 same as 11 years ago. Other models are equally sharp priced. We get four grades; Ascent, Ascent Sport, Levin SX and Levin ZR. Standard equipment is generous on all models with the two mid-level cars being arguably the best value. A small complaint. Routine servicing is capped at $130 a time for the first 100,000km. CVT auto adds $2000 to the price.

MECHANICAL

Power comes from a carryover 1.8-litre petrol engine with mild changes to the previous unit. It's more efficient than before and is rated at 103kW/173Nm about average for the segment and uses 91 RON petrol. This is the only engine available in new Corolla no sports model, no diesel. The big news is a six speed manual transmission or optional seven step CVT auto more economical than the manual at 6.6-litres/100km.

Naturally, the ride/handling package has been calibrated locally to deliver the best compromise between comfort and handling governed by our relatively poor roads. It's a strut front/ torsion beam rear system. A new electric steering system makes its first appearance contributing to a more engaging drive feel. New Corolla gets a five star Green Vehicle Guide rating and features an "eco' mode for economical driving.

SAFETY

Safety is rated at five stars by ANCAP thanks in part to seven air bags and stability control as well as a stronger body/chassis.

DRIVING

On the road, the new Corolla is, well, like a Corolla capable, predictable, economical and safe. It's no sports hatch but acquits itself well in the rough and tumble of modern Australian driving. Point it a poorly made bitumen road and Corolla sails over it easily soaking up big bumps.

Hook harder than usual into a set of tight corners and Corolla sails around with a surprising degree of steering accuracy. Brakes hard, rides well, accelerates well spoiled a tad on the manuals by throttle flair between changes where the engine holds revs too long.

VERDICT

We like new Corolla. We love the price, the features and the look from all angles. It's a cracking good car in the small car class and is certain to give all other contenders a serious case of heartburn.

Pricing Guides

$12,145
Based on 296 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$7,900
Highest Price
$16,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Ascent 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $10,500 – 13,990 2012 Toyota Corolla 2012 Ascent Pricing and Specs
Ascent Sport 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $7,900 – 14,995 2012 Toyota Corolla 2012 Ascent Sport Pricing and Specs
Conquest 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $12,888 – 15,157 2012 Toyota Corolla 2012 Conquest Pricing and Specs
Levin SX 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $12,990 – 14,660 2012 Toyota Corolla 2012 Levin SX Pricing and Specs

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image of Honda Civic Compare to the Toyota Corolla Book A Test Drive Locate A Dealer