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Skoda Octavia


Toyota Corolla

Summary

Skoda Octavia

The Skoda Octavia 2018 range offers buyers unparalleled pragmatism, and a broad range of options to suit varied budgets.

It may not be as attractive as it was prior to its most recent facelift, but there is plenty to like if you can look beyond the challenging front-end design.

There's the choice of a five-door hatchback (which looks like a sedan), or a five-door station wagon - and with Skoda buyers being pragmatic, the wagon is the more popular body style. So that's what we've got here, and in the new Sport trim line. 

Consider yourself intrigued? Read on to find out more.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency4.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Toyota Corolla

The all-new Toyota Corolla 2018 hatchback is here, and it has you in its sights.

Not literally. And not the car. Toyota, the brand that has been the number one seller in the country for the past 15 years straight, wants you to buy even more Corollas, because being the best-selling passenger car for the past few years in a row isn’t enough.

The story here, though, is that there’s less of a focus on fleet buyers, and more focus on everyday consumers. And to say that another way, the brand has pushed away from the base-model drive-away deal approach for the new Corolla, instead focusing on a higher-price-but-much-higher-spec way of thinking.

So, prices are up. There’s no base model equivalent anymore. And it comes loaded with equipment. Does that combination make the new-generation Corolla hatchback the best example of its type to date? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Skoda Octavia8/10

The Skoda Octavia 2018 Sport wagon may run the same 110TSI drivetrain as the regular base model car, but its chassis and design tweaks make it a worthwhile model to consider if you want something that stands out a little bit from the rest of the Octavia pack.

If you want an RS wagon but can't afford one, you really ought to take a look at this car. 

Would you consider a wagon over a hatchback? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.


Toyota Corolla8/10

A truly compelling Toyota Corolla? You bet - that’s exactly what the new-generation model delivers, and not just due to the fact it’s a good looking car - it’s also good value, has a strong focus on safety, and is now theoretically better to own than ever, too. If you need a really roomy hatchback you need to look elsewhere, but for a style statement - I can’t believe I’m writing this - the Corolla could be for you.

My personal pick of the range is the ZR hybrid, which has efficiency in terms of driving and space. But the pragmatist in me reckons you get a lot of Corolla in SX 2.0-litre guise - it's a value option that's hard to ignore.

Are you drawn to the new Toyota Corolla hatch? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Also check out Matt's video review from the Corolla's international launch:

Design

Skoda Octavia7/10

I didn't like the new look for the Octavia when Skoda revealed it early in 2017, and I wasn't alone. The once-handsome Czech mid-size model had been taken to with the ugly stick, with the dual-headlight look appearing to make the model look, well, nothing like a model.

In some colour combinations it's not too bad - a red RS245 with the black gloss grille, for example, looks tidy. But the Octavia Sport model you see here in white just looked a little bit… spidery, I'd say. Yeah, spidery.

The Sport model is accentuated by black pinstripes here and there, and look, I reckon the design of the wagon is a lot more becoming than the hatch. But if you value style as much as substance, consider the svelte Mazda6 is available for close to the same money…

The dimensions of the Skoda Octavia vary between the hatch and wagon, and the regular model vs the RS - yep, there's a bit of a size difference, but it's pretty miniscule. Here are the main numbers you need to know.

The hatch is 4670mm long (2686mm wheelbase), 1461mm tall and 1814mm wide. The regular wagon isn't as long at 4667mm (2686mm wheelbase), but sits a bit taller (1465mm) and is the same width (1814mm).

Thankfully the interior dimensions are accommodating, and the design in the cabin is very, very smart.


Toyota Corolla9/10

It’s the best looking Corolla, ever. Hands down. 

There’s no point trying to argue otherwise, because the exterior design - particularly for the ZR model - somehow manages to look like a hot-hatch with its body kit comprised of side skirts, a low front spoiler, a rear diffuser and tailgate-mounted rear spoiler. The 18-inch alloys look terrific, and even the lower-grade versions on 16s with a more sedate design look pretty smart. Remember, this is a Toyota Corolla

Rather than looking bloated in size, the sculpted lines and angular edges help tame the dimensions of the new Corolla hatch. It is bigger than its predecessor, with the body measuring 4375mm long (+45mm) and the wheelbase’s extra 40mm (now 2640mm) helping look more planted and substantial than before. The extra width - now 1790mm, up 30mm - and the lower roof (height: 1435mm, down 40mm).

It looks low and wide, sleek and muscled. It’s a chunky little number, and I really think it looks good no matter the grade. What a shame Toyota hasn’t decided to bring the bigger rear spoiler that was fitted to US cars, because it completed the look - particularly for a high-spec car on 18s.

I love that Toyota has made LED headlights standard across the range, too, and the ZR gets even higher-spec bi-LEDs. Some brands still offer halogens in their entry cars, and HID headlights, projector headlights or xenon lights. LEDs are not only longer-lasting, their lower energy consumption and lower replacement cost makes them a logical inclusion. Good on you, Toyota.

I’ll get to the interior dimensions in the next section, but have a look at the interior images and let us know if you prefer the leather trim, or the cloth… I think the latter could be the pick.

Practicality

Skoda Octavia9/10

Skoda is a marvel when it comes to interior packaging, and the Octavia is perhaps the most impressive exponent of this. It really packs a lot in to relatively compact dimensions.

Boot space is perhaps one of the biggest advantages to the Octavia, with the hatch's luggage capacity spanning 568 litres, and the wagon offering up 588L (that measurement is to the window line). There's a spare wheel under the boot floor (you get a space-saver in RS models) and the back end features a dual-sided mat so you can put damp items in the back without damaging the carpet. 

Of course there's a couple of clever inclusions like flip-down shopping bag hooks, remote release levers for the split fold seats (they go down in a 60:40 fashion, and there's a clever ski-port for loading through longer items), and there's a dual-action cargo blind. You get a mesh net system, a removable torch and an umbrella, too. 

Plus the space on offer for occupants is very good. A family of five, plus luggage, will fit in here easily, with the back seat offering enough rear legroom, headroom and shoulder room for adults, too. With the driver's seat in my driving position (I'm 182cm) I had easily enough room to sit comfortably. 

Storage is well thought out, too, with bottle holders in all four doors, map pockets in the back, rear air-vents and a flip-down armrest with cupholders. The materials aren't as plush as you'll find in a Volkswagen Golf or a Mazda6, but they're not scratchy or harsh. 

Up front there are big door pockets, a pair of shallow cupholders, a good sized box in front of the gearshifter for your phone and wallet, and a reasonable glove box. 

The media system in our test vehicle was the upgraded 9.2-inch unit, which is crisp to look at an offers good resolution, plus the added usability that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can't be ignored. But the lack of a volume knob is frustrating, and it can be hard to figure out if you should be pressing Home or Menu when navigating through the systems array of pages.


Toyota Corolla7/10

You can’t mistake the new model for the old one, which is more than we can say for some small hatchbacks.

There’s an all-new dashboard design, with less of a slabby look to it and more of a premium appearance. The dimensions state the new Corolla hatch is wider, and it feels like a more open space than the predecessor car. 

The cabin is really nice, well designed and with quality materials throughout. The ZR gets sportier looking seats, but in all models the seats are a big step forward for Toyota - even if you can’t get electric adjustment or memory settings in any grade.  

The fact there’s an electric park brake adds to the simple smartness of the cockpit, and the storage is cleverly dealt with, too - there is not one cupholder but two between the front seats, and there are bottle holders in all the doors, and a deep covered centre bin plus a cubby for your phone in front of the shifter. 

Every model in the range comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, but you only get sat nav built-in on the mid- and high-grade models, and none come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. That’s annoying.

But there’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, plus USB connectivity. And in the SX and ZR, you get a rear USB port. 

Speaking of the back seat, there’s only just enough space for me to sit behind my own position, because those front seats - as comfy as they are - have big backs to them and they eat in to the space.

It’s not the benchmark in terms of rear legroom and shoulder space, but it certainly is capable of dealing with a young family of four, if not a family with growing teens. Headroom is questionable in the back for taller occupants, with the ceiling side sections impinging on the space to an uncomfortable degree if you’re my size (182cm).

Plus the fact there is only a black headliner available makes if feel quite cosy in the cabin. Some might say claustrophobic, in fact… Another concern is that the high-spec model gets rear-seat air-vents, but the two lower grades don’t. And the ZR gets nicer door plastics, where the Ascent Sport and SX have cheaper feeling hard plastics.

If you want the most practical hatch out there in terms of boot space and luggage capacity, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. The ZR hybrid model gets the biggest boot size of the range because it has a tyre repair kit instead of a spare tyre. The storage space is 333 litres (VDA), as opposed to 217L in all other variants, whether they have a full-size spare (Ascent Sport petrol) or not (all others).

At least there’s a retractable cargo cover, and you can get a cargo barrier fitted if you prefer to lower the 60/40 split-fold rear seats and turn it into a compact van. Hey, some people do! And those people might also want to get a cargo liner to stop the carpet from getting wrecked.

There are no models with roof rails, but an 'Eclectic Blue' ZR model with a roof rack set-up would look very cool.

Price and features

Skoda Octavia8/10

One of the main reasons you might be drawn to the Skoda Octavia is its attractive pricing. So, how much does the the mid-size model cost? 

Without running through the full price list of the Skoda Octavia models sold in Australia, we can tell you that Skoda prefers to deal in drive-away pricing, so that's what you see here.

Kicking off the range is the Octavia, which is priced at $25,490 for the manual hatchback, and $26,990 for the manual wagon. Stepping up to a dual-clutch (DSG) automatic adds $2500 in both instances.

The base model Octavia is pretty well equipped, with niceties such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a cooled glovebox, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

The wagon model has silver roof rails, but sadly, there's a chrome strip at the nose end, and this model comes with halogen headlights but the tail-lights are LED units. Standard-spec Octavias come with 17-inch alloy wheels, and all Octavias get front fog lights.

The Sport model costs more, with the hatchback version listing at $32,990 drive-away, and the wagon priced at $34,490 drive-away. Both of these are auto-only, though. 

In comparison to the entry-grade model, the Sport adds auto LED headlights with adaptive lighting and LED daytime running lights, auto wipers, an extra pair of airbags (for rear side protection) and it rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels. 

Sport models have different front seats with integrated headrests (still manually adjustable), privacy glass, and the seatbelts feature a tightening feature if the car's computer predicts a crash (the windows wind up, and if there's a sunroof, it'll close). 

Plus the Sport has a black pack, including black door mirror caps, plus side and tailgate decals, there's a rear spoiler (black for the hatch model and body-colour for the wagon), and it rides on a lower sports suspension set-up. The Sport wagon has black roof rails.

If you're interested, the RS model line-up consists of a few different variants. The petrol manual hatch costs $41,990 drive-away, the petrol auto hatch is $44,490 drive-away, and the diesel auto hatch is $45,590 drive-away. Add $1500 for a wagon.

Then there are the top of the range RS245 models, with extra punch and more kit again. The sporty petrol-only RS245 model costs $46,490 for the manual hatch, and $48,990 for the auto hatch. Wagon versions add $1500.

Some notable elements: you need to option keyless entry and push-button start, no matter the model you choose, and a sunroof will cost you $1500 for the hatchback and $1700 for the wagon. You can get a power tailgate as an option on all trim grades of the wagon, too, at $500.

Now, option packs.

The 'Tech Pack' consists of the upgrade to the 9.2-inch screen with nav, LED headlights, semi-automated parking, adaptive chassis control (on RS and RS245 models only), keyless entry and push-button start, 10-speaker Canton audio, drive mode select (already on RS and RS245 models), manoeuvre braking assist (auto braking in reverse), and a driver profile set-up (already on RS and RS245 models).

The Tech Pack costs $4900 for the entry-grade car, $3900 for the Sport model, and $2300 for RS versions.

The other main pack is the 'Luxury Pack', which adds leather trim (base car; N/A Sport) and electric seat adjustment (base model and RS; N/A Sport), Alcantara/leather trim (RS; N/A Sport), heated front and rear seats, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, the added rear airbags (base model only), and auto folding door mirrors with dimming and puddle lights. This pack costs $4200 for the base grade, $1600 for the Sport model  $2800 for the RS, $1500 for RS245.

For those playing along at home, the model you see in these images is the Octavia 110TSI Sport wagon, fitted with the Tech Pack and an electric sunroof.

The other choice you'll need to make is on colours, with metallic paint adding $500. Check out Skoda's configurator to see if you like it in red, white, silver, blue, grey, green or black. There's no gold, brown or yellow, but there's a lightish beige hue called 'Cappuccino', which you can't get on higher-spec versions.


Toyota Corolla8/10

How much can you expect today for the new-generation Toyota Corolla? This price list should help guide you through the range of models on offer, and what each will cost.

The entry-level Ascent Sport is available with a 2.0-litre petrol six-speed manual at $22,870 (RRP - that’s the list price, not a drive-away price), a 2.0-litre petrol with new 10-speed CVT auto at $24,370, or a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid with CVT auto at $25,870. Toyota expects the Ascent Sport to make up the bulk of sales, as it did for the previous model (more than 60 per cent).

The next step up is the SX, which is available with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder CVT at $26,870, or a hybrid CVT for just $1500 more ($28,370).

The range-topping model is the ZR, again available with the 2.0-litre CVT drivetrain ($30,370), or as a hybrid at $31,870. That’s pretty affordable for a flagship hatchback - many competitors sit in the mid-to-high $30k range.

To make it easier to do your own models comparison, here’s the spec breakdown for each of the trim levels: Ascent Sport vs SX vs ZR.

The Ascent Sport has LED headlights (with auto high-beam), LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touch screen multimedia system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, voice recognition, USB/auxiliary connectivity and a six-speaker stereo. You’ll need to choose the hybrid model if you want push-button start, keyless entry and dual-zone climate control (you get manual air conditioning in non-hybrid Ascent Sport versions).

All Ascent Sport models come with a plastic steering wheel with audio controls, but at least there’s an electric park brake and a 4.2-inch colour info display for the driver. You can option sat nav and privacy glass on this grade for an extra $1000.

The next step up is the SX, which adds fog lights, tinted windows, a ‘premium steering wheel’, a wireless phone charger, DAB+/DAB digital radio and a navigation system with GPS live traffic updates. The SX has two USB ports (one front, one rear). It has a smart key no matter the drivetrain.

Flagship ZR grade versions look the sportiest of the lot, with a set of 18-inch rims adding some presence. Inside there are heated front sports seats, 'ultrasuede' and leather seats, driver’s lumbar adjustment, a 7.0-inch driver info display, ambient lighting, a head-up display and a JBL sound system with eight speakers (no subwoofer, though). ZR models also gain an electro-chromatic (auto-dimming) rear-view mirror and high-grade bi-LED headlamps.

Other standard features include expected items like power windows for all four doors and a power mirror for each of the front doors, a digital clock, central locking with automatic door lock, and a detailed trip computer. In the boot you’ll find a tool kit to help you change a tyre if you need.

Sadly, unlike some competitor top-spec models, there’s no panoramic sunroof (even as an option), and you can’t get electric seat adjustment on any grade, or a heated steering wheel, either. Models from Kia and Hyundai have those bits, plus ventilated (cooled) front seats on their high-spec wares… but the price is pretty appealing on this flagship Corolla. 

And on the topic of things the Corolla misses out on, there is no Apple CarPlay and no Android Auto - so you’ll have to just connect your iPhone (or other smartphone/mp3 player) via Bluetooth. And while some people think all cars should have a built-in DVD player, CD player or CD changer, that’s not the case here - no new Corolla has any of those things.

Who knows? Maybe Toyota will offer a premium package with some of those bits at a later date… If not that, then a black pack special edition or a sports edition is almost certain!

This model change has seen Toyota focus in on safety equipment - read the safety section to see what’s included on which models. Here’s an early hint, though: the electric power steering allows an active lane assist system, and all models have ESP (electronic stability program) with VSC (vehicle stability control), and manual models have a hill holder function. 

There are eight colours to choose from: there’s 'Glacier White', which is the only no-cost colour, or you will need to add $450 if you choose 'Crystal Pearl' (a nicer white), 'Volcanic Red' (which almost looks orange at times), 'Eclipse Black', 'Peacock Black', 'Eclectic Blue', 'Silver Pearl', and the very fetching 'Oxide Bronze' (which is like a mix of green and grey). 

One nice option for ZR customers is the choice between black or red interior leather highlights - the red looks good in combination with a white exterior paint colour, but in most other instances, the black has a bit more of an understated appearance. 

Accessories for the Corolla are set to include floor mats (ask the dealer to throw them in for free), and while some aftermarket suppliers may be able to fit a nudge bar, we don’t think a bull bar will do the styling any favours. 

How many seats in the Corolla hatch? Five is the answer.

Engine & trans

Skoda Octavia8/10

There are three drivetrains to choose from in the 2018 Octavia range, and the specifications step up as you move up the range.

Base grade models and the Sport variant have the 110TSI 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 110kW of power (5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm (1500-3500rpm). It is available with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission in the base grade, but the Sport model is auto only. If you want more horsepower from your motor, you'll need to go for the RS.

There is no diesel option for the lower grades, and every model in the Octavia range sold in Australia is front-wheel drive (FWD / 2WD). In some markets there are all wheel drive (AWD) models sold, but there isn't a proper 4x4 version with a low range transfer case in any market, though. There is no LPG model sold here, either. 

Now, if you think you might consider towing with your Octavia, you'll need to know its capabilities - and towing capacity varies across the range.

The 110TSI hatch has a 620kg un-braked trailer weight capacity or 1500kg for a braked trailer (manual or auto); the 110TSI manual wagon can deal with 630kg/1500kg, while the DSG wagon is good for 640kg/1500kg. 


Toyota Corolla8/10

Let’s talk engine specs. 

The entry-level engine size has jumped up from a 1.8-litre to a 2.0-litre - still a four-cylinder, but Toyota calls this engine the 'Dynamic Force' petrol engine, and while the name might suggest it’s a turbocharged motor, it’s not.

The direct-injection 2.0-litre’s output ratings have jumped, with power at 125kW (at 6600rpm) and torque pegged at 200Nm (from 4400-4800rpm). The horsepower output is up 21 per cent, while torque is up 15 per cent.

Only in the Ascent Sport grade can you play the ‘manual vs automatic’ game - that spec allows you to choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a newly-developed CVT automatic transmission. The rest have CVT only,  but the manual gearbox has a rev-matching feature. Sporty!

It’s some CVT, though - a 10-speed sequential unit with a ‘launch gear’, which essentially is a conventional first gear like you’d find in a torque converter automatic, and enables “brisk take off”, unlike a regular CVT which can whirr and buzz.

The other option is a 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid four-cylinder. As always, things are confusing in terms of power ratings: the engine can produce 72kW (at 5200rpm), and 142Nm (at 3600rpm), the electric motor is capable of 53kW and 190Nm, and the maximum output from the drivetrain is 90kW. It uses an 'e-CVT' automatic.

The hybrid is the conventional type, with the battery pack recharging by way of regenerative braking. You can run on EV mode, but it’s not a plug-in hybrid, so you can’t recharge it at home - rather, you might recharge it on your way home. 

There are no diesel specifications to speak of, as there’s no oil-burner available. The statistics don’t lie - at the time of writing, less than two per cent of passenger car sales are diesel vehicles. Forget an LPG/gas dual fuel version for Australia, too.
 
In Australia, every Corolla is front-wheel drive (4x2). There is an all-wheel drive model (AWD) in markets where snow is more common, but it’s not a proper 4WD or 4x4. You can forget rear-wheel drive - that’s best left for the Toyota 86

The kerb weight of the Corolla hatch ranges between 1320kg and 1420kg, depending on the drivetrain and spec of the car. There is no gross vehicle weight figure given by Toyota.

Fuel consumption

Skoda Octavia8/10

Fuel economy is good for the 110TSI model we're testing, with claimed consumption rated at 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the DSG hatch and wagon, while the 110TSI manual hatch uses 5.4L/100km and the 110TSI manual wagon claims 5.5L/100km. 

Fuel tank capacity for all models is 50 litres, and your mileage will vary depending on how hard you drive. Based on my time in the 1.4-litre Sport wagon, I was going to do about 650km on a tank, with at the bowser fuel consumption measured at 7.3L/100km. The dashboard display was reading 7.2L/100km.

The Octavia requires 95RON premium unleaded fuel at a minimum.


Toyota Corolla8/10

The new Corolla hatch with the hybrid drivetrain is the most efficient non-diesel hatchback in its class, with fuel consumption claimed at 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres (if you prefer, that’s almost 23.8km/L). No three- or four-cylinder petrol engine can match that… But if you want the most frugal vehicle in the class, you can’t beat the diesel fuel consumption of the Peugeot 308 (4.0L/100km, or 25.0km/L). 

The 2.0-litre petrol automatic model has good fuel economy, too, using a claimed 6.0L/100km (16.7km/L) which is better than many non-turbo rivals, but not quite as good as the likes of an entry-grade VW Golf. An eco mode, sport mode and normal mode will likely effect the fuel use of the 2.0-litre CVT model.

The six-speed 2.0-litre manual is claimed to use a bit more than the auto: 6.3L/100km (15.9km/L)

Your mileage for the hybrid will be determined by fuel tank size - 43 litres - while the 2.0-litre has a 50-litre tank capacity. 

Now if you plan to fit a tow bar to your Corolla, you best not buy a hybrid version. The petrol-electric model has no towing capacity at all, because of the design of the car. Instead, you can opt for a petrol model with a capacity of up to 450kg for an un-braked trailer, or 1300kg braked.

Driving

Skoda Octavia8/10

What makes the Octavia Sport worthy of that much-lauded, oft-overused badge? 

Well, it feels pretty sporty to drive, with the MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension both getting the harder-edge tune and sitting a few mm lower to the ground as a result (be aware of the car's ground clearance - it is lower, but it's not suctioned to the ground like a sports car). 

The regular Octavia model was already at the pointy end of the segment for dynamics and comfort, but this Sport version is more dialled into the surface below, with the combination of the stiffer chassis and the bigger wheels with grippy Bridgestone Potenza 225/40/18 rubber rewarding the driver, albeit at a slight penalty in terms of outright ride comfort. You can link bends together with ease, and the turning circle is pretty tight, meaning parking moves are easy enough.

The way the Octavia Sport finds its way through corners, almost telepathically, will have you thinking you've got more grunt than the 110TSI's outputs suggest - that comes down to the refinement at speed, where the torque of the small engine keeps momentum as the dual-clutch auto shifts clinically between gears. There are no paddle-shifters, but there's a manual mode to flick up or down on the shifter, and there are a few drive modes to choose from, each adjusting the throttle response and gearing. Sport was great, but Normal was where I spent most of my time.

In Normal mode there's a bit of stuttering at lower speeds when you're on and off the throttle, but it isn't as much of a deal-breaker as it might have been with earlier iterations of dual-clutch autos. Just make sure that if you're considering the Octavia (or any new car, for that matter!), that you test drive the car extensively, and try to put it through your regular day-to-day routine. 

As with many examples of cars built on the Volkswagen MQB modular architecture, there is some road noise - especially on coarse-chip surfaces. I didn't find it hard to live with - I just turned up the volume on the sound system. 

Over a week of commuting, driving in and around Sydney and more than a few hours on the city's motorways, I came away convinced that if I couldn't stretch to the RS, I'd be pretty happy in the Sport model.

Need more? Want a quicker 0-100 acceleration time, more speed, and better performance figures, and independent rear suspension? You really ought to read my review of the RS245 wagon.


Toyota Corolla8/10

As with every model the company has built on the new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), the Corolla is better to drive than the model it replaces. And in this car’s case, it’s a quantum leap forward.

Admittedly it’s not the fastest hatchback out there - 0-100 acceleration speed takes a back seat to fuel efficiency, for example - but the performance is better than we’ve known from the Corolla for some time.

A lot of that comes down to the new Dynamic Force engine and its very clever CVT auto transmission. There isn’t a huge amount of power, but there’s definitely more than ample grunt to get things going, and the CVT’s clever launch gear really does make stop-start traffic and green light acceleration less annoying than it used to be. It offers much more zesty engine response than the engine outputs suggest, although it can be a little noisy under hard acceleration.

Of course, the hybrid drivetrain is a tried and tested (you can read that as ‘old’, if you like) unit, and while it doesn’t move the game on for tech, it is usable, fuss free, and largely well refined. You can expect to run about 2.0km on electric power alone. 

The new platform means the entire body of the car - including the centre of gravity, overall height and the ground clearance (135mm) - is lower than before. And it handles like it’s more hunkered down, too.

The chassis is all-new, with MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link independent rear suspension set-up - with a clear emphasis on cornering body control and ride comfort.

There is a slight difference in terms of ride quality depending on the size of the alloy wheels you’re driving atop. The lower-grade variants with 16-inch wheels are slightly more pliant, while the 18 inch alloys have a slightly terser edge to them, particularly over sharp bumps. 

It’s nice to see a big jump in wheel sizes between low/middle and top-spec versions - there are no 15-inch or 17-inch rims, and thankfully no chrome wheels, either…

You will notice, though, there’s more road noise on the bigger wheels (not that the 16s offer the most muted drive, with noticeable tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces), and there’s an impact on the car’s park-friendliness, too. 

The ZR has an 11.4m turning circle (5.7m radius) compared with the 11.0m turning circle (5.5m radius) but the ZR has a slightly different steering ratio, (13.6 compared to 13.5), and what that translates to is a slightly more direct rack in the ZR, and fewer turns lock to lock (2.65 compared with 2.76). 

In short, the ZR feels more sporty to drive. It has a warm-hatch feel to it, gripping better than the lower-spec cars thanks to better, wider Dunlop tyres. It’s genuinely enjoyable to push through corners.

Stopping power is pretty impressive in the petrol, and fine in the hybrid. Both have ABS brakes (anti-lock brakes) and brake assist, so you will stop in a timely and straight fashion, but the pedal feel of the hybrid model’s brakes proved a bit squishy.

We didn’t do any off-road driving, so there’s no comment to be made there. But hey, if you want a compact model with AWD, you’d be best served to check out the C-HR.

Safety

Skoda Octavia8/10

All Skoda Octavia models currently on sale are still covered by the car's 2016 five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating. 

Safety features across all models include a reversing camera and rear parking sensors (with a visual park assist display), auto emergency braking (AEB), multi-collision brake, tyre pressure monitoring, fatigue detection and adaptive cruise control.

Of course, every model in the range comes with outboard ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the back seats, and there are three top-tether attachment points, too.

Airbags for the Octavia are seven for the regular model (dual front, front side, driver's knee and full-length curtain) and nine for RS models (added rear-side protection). The extra airbags can be added to entry-grade models as part of the Luxury Pack, which will also bring lane keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring. 


Toyota Corolla8/10

There’s no ANCAP crash test safety rating as yet for the Corolla hatch. But Toyota says it anticipates the maximum five-star ANCAP score.

The level of safety features offered on all Corolla models is very good. 

Every automatic Corolla is fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (day and night) and bicyclist detection (day), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist, speed sign recognition, active cornering control (torque vectoring by braking),

If you choose the Ascent Sport manual you miss out on fully adaptive cruise that works at all speeds, down to 0km/h - instead, it gets a ‘high-speed active cruise’ system. Plus the manual misses out on lane-keeping assist.

Corolla SX and ZR models add blind-spot monitoring, but there’s no rear cross-traffic alert. And while every Corolla has a reverse camera, but none come with a surround view camera, nor are there parking sensors fitted to any model as standard (front and rear sensors are available as an accessory option, fitted by the dealer). Unlike some competitors, there’s no semi-automated park assist, either - even in the high-grade.

All Corolla hatchback models have seven airbags, including dual front, front side airbags, driver’s knee and full-length curtain. Further, every Corolla hatchback has ISOFIX and top tether attachments, meaning fitting your baby car seat should be a breeze. 

It shouldn’t really matter where a car is made these days, but there are still people who will ask ‘where is the Toyota Corolla built?’ And the answer varies: for the hatchback models, it’s Japan; for sedans, it’s Thailand. 

Ownership

Skoda Octavia/10

The Skoda vehicle range is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is better than its parent company VW offers in Australia, and matches the likes of Mazda, which only recently upped its warranty plan. There's no extended warranty option, though.

The Czech brand allows customers to pre-pay their service costs by choosing one of its 'Service Packs, the cost of which can be bundled into finance or outright purchase price. The plans are three years/45,000km ($1150 no matter the model) or five years/75,000km ($2250 for non-RS models; $2700 for RS models).

The other option for customers is to pay for their maintenance as they go using capped price servicing for up to six years/90,000km. The average service cost for a standard Octavia is $416.50 and $453 for RS models, but that's before additional consumables like brake fluid. Also worth noting that the alarm system needs to be replaced every six years, at a cost of $411 - that might need to be considered in your resale value estimates. 

If you're concerned about common faults, problems or issues you may encounter check out our Skoda Octavia problems page. The value of a page like this is that it goes beyond standard features to give you a gauge of the reliability rating for the vehicle. 


Toyota Corolla8/10

Toyota persists with a three-year/100,000km warranty, which is below par these days. Rival brands Hyundai, Mazda, Ford and Holden all have five-year/unlimited kilometre plans, while Kia extends that out to seven years. 

If you fear the reliability rating for the Corolla won’t be terrific, there’s the option of an extended warranty plan - up to three additional years/150,000km total - which should put your durability doubts at ease. 

But the Corolla can now match the best of them for service intervals, with maintenance due every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. There’s a five-year/75,000km capped price servicing program for the new-generation Corolla, and the maintenance cost is capped at $175 per visit. That makes the service cost for Corolla hatch pretty much unbeatable.

It’s a big improvement over the existing Corolla, which had a three-year/60,000km service plan, and visits for the old model were due every six months/10,000km. You still don’t get included roadside assistance, but at $78 a year it’s not a budget-breaker.

Resale value on Corolla hatches has typically been stronger than some competitors - just be sure to keep your owners manual / logbook stamps up to date to make sure you get the best second hand price possible.

It’s hard to say if there will be any long-term reliability concerns with the new architecture and drivetrains applied in the Corolla range. Be sure to check out our Corolla problems page to see if any complaints, issues, automatic gearbox problems, clutch, suspension, engine or cruise control problems, or any other common problems.