Over the last month EFTM has sampled the latest and greatest Toyota Corolla hatch. As one of the world’s most popular nameplates it is indisputable the Corolla has something really going for it. But it also remains a car easy to bag with a reputation for ultra conservative design, vanilla driving dynamics and well basically being a dag. Chris Bowen has driven the latest 2016 Toyota Corolla hatch range.

The 10 Minute Test Drive

The Corolla hatch is split across three grades with the base being the Ascent and Ascent Sport followed by the more aggressive looking SX and ZR models. The latter score the edgy lines used by the US youth orientated brand Scion while Ascent examples are influenced by the European Auris. So a dual global sourcing effort has resulted in the most attractive Corolla to date.

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Be it the Citrus Yellow Ascent Sport or the wild blue of the ZR I found the latest updates to the range quite appealing. There’s plenty of brightwork across the front end of the Ascent Sport, with a chrome grill fanning out across the lower air intake and the edge of the bonnet. The more rounded Euro model still sports some daring lines for a Toyota. The rear end features angular shaped taillights that jut out from a distinctive rear end.

The SX and ZR are substantially more lairy with tasteful bodykits, blacked out grills and air intakes, unique alloys and an enhanced interior package.

But sit inside any of the three and immediately your attention is diverted to Toyota’s new 7.0-inch touchscreen media system. It sits flush into the dash and takes on the look of a tablet with all functions controlled via the glass surface. It’s one of the best integrated set ups I’ve seen and smashes out of the ball park the previous aftermarket look of what Toyota used to offer.

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Driving any of the Corolla range still won’t wet a keen driver’s appetite. There’s an obviously deliberate neutral feel to the set up. There’s a moderate level of feedback between the hands and front wheels, the ride comfort is adequately cushioned at all times and twisty bits are safely dealt with. Push hard and the basic underpinnings will certainly let you know this is no hot hatch.

The 6-speed manual I sampled on the Ascent Sport was hard to get along with. It has an unusually high clutch point which I never felt entirely happy with. The SX and ZR were fitted with the 7-step Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Toyota has done well producing a more traditional automatic feel to the box, the droning, over-revving nature of past CVT’s is now gone.

The interior is well thought out and features a modern sophisticated design across the main portion of the dash. Storage options are well laid out and the overall sense of quality is closer to hardwearing and durable as opposed to premium and luxurious.

Ins And Outs

It’s a one engine line-up for the Corolla hatch range and the 2016 model retains the old faithful 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. Capable of 103kW and 173Nm of torque the unit produces just enough up and go to score a pass mark in my book. In fact combined with the now improved CVT transmission it can hustle along at a proud rate without sounding too thrashy.

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The full spec ZR scores plenty of gear including an optional panoramic glass roof (which can’t actually be opened), bi-LED headlamps, new design 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, heated front seats with electric lumber support (all other adjustments are still manual), auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electronic folding mirrors, automatic headlights, keyless entry and push button start.

The SX misses out on most of the ZR luxury but does score the additional 4.2-inch colour info screen within the instrument cluster. It also scores satellite navigation that the Ascent model lacks.

The Ascent Sport rides on 16-inch alloys, has a premium steering wheel and benefits from the standard reversing camera, Bluetooth streaming, cruise control and privacy windows.

The Tech Inside.

You’d hardly call the Toyota a tech marvel, in fact the most disappointing criticism  that can be levelled is its complete lack of high-end safety features, even as options. Autonomous emergency breaking, head up displays, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control can be found at this price point, say hello to Mazda for example.

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That aside the ToyotaLink app-based system can provide info on weather conditions, how to find a fuel station, restaurants and handy business nearby. That combined with the sleek 7.0-touchscreen provide for a massive step up for Toyota.

The Hip Pocket.

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The Corolla range kicks off with the bare bones Ascent at $19,790 before on roads. The Ascent Sport costs an extra $1000 at $19,790, the SX $20,790 and the top flyer ZR at $28,990. It should be noted that all models start life with a 6-speed manual, you’ll need an extra $2000 for the CVT. Claimed fuel economy is 6.7L/100km for the manual and 6.1L/100km in CVT guise. I achieved 7.1L and 7.8L respectively. The 2016 Corolla hatch range is covered by three-year capped-price servicing of $140 for each trip to the dealer. Plus a three year 100,000km warranty.

EFTM Rubber Stamp.

Like all Toyota cars the positives far away the negatives. Compared to some rivals it’s overpriced, lacks a decent warranty and has a significant tech deficit. But it’s also great looking, feels and is very well made, offers commendable resale value and has that reliability reputation that has been built over decades. As a keen driver I’d never consider one but for throngs of astute buyers out there that need a dependable and practical modern runabout the Toyota Corolla hatch is well worth a look. I award it the EFTM Pass Rubber Stamp of Approval.

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