The Toyota Corolla is one of those cars that slots into your life, carries you and your family around quietly and inexpensively, and never causes a fuss. It could be tempting to dismiss the car as little more than an appliance. That would do the vehicle a huge disservice and potentially deny you a fabulously easy ownership experience.
The manufacturer has got its design language on point because there’s little chance you’ll mistake the Corolla for anything but a Toyota. The huge trapezoidal opening for the radiator grille is one clue, as are the enormously wide but slim headlights, which extend much of the way from the front wings to the Toyota badge in the centre of the front end.
Behind that, there’s a large and steeply-raked windscreen that offers a great view out and a side glass area that rises towards the rear to give an impression of forward motion. The doors themselves are a good size and open wide to offer unhindered access to the cabin.
At the rear, the lights bisect a tailgate that is neither the tallest nor the widest, but which extends to a comparatively low bumper.
There’s little chance you’ll mistake the Corolla for anything but a Toyota.
What’s it like to drive?
If you’re a diesel fan then move along, there’s nothing to see here - Toyota doesn’t do a diesel. The only powertrains available in the Corolla are a couple of petrol hybrids.
The lower-powered one is a 1.8-litre affair that’s perfectly adequate for most people’s motoring needs. It’ll get you to where you need to be without stress or fuss, and it does an official average of 62.7mpg. There’s also a 2.0-litre unit that is quite rapid, and cruises even more easily on the motorway. It should do an average of 57.6mpg.
Both are at their very best in town, where they show a pleasing willingness to switch off the engine and use battery power wherever possible. Using the brakes in town also recharges the battery, so the car becomes even more willing to use electric power. It’s a win-win.
Soft suspension means comfort is the name of the Corolla’s game, so it’ll soothe you through every journey, although fun is probably off the menu. Still, light controls make it easy to manoeuvre and park.
Both are at their very best in town, where they show a pleasing willingness to switch off the engine and use battery power wherever possible.
As we’ve mentioned, the doors on the Corolla open up a long way to let you get in and out easily. In some cars, opening the door fully can place the handle annoyingly out of reach when you’re in the driver’s seat. Not here, as the handle is right at the front of the door. Thoughtful.
The dashboard that faces you is a mixture of conventional and hi-tech. On entry-level Icon models this has an entirely normal set of gauges with needles. Any trim above this replaces the speedometer gauge with a digital display that shows your speed, as well as plenty of other driving information, including average speed, economy and fuel tank range.
The steering wheel, meanwhile, has comparatively few buttons on it. The ones that are there control the audio and telephone system.
To the left of this is a large infotainment screen that projects proudly from the top of the dashboard. Through this, you control the DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav (where fitted) and various other car settings. This also displays the feed from the standard-fit reversing camera. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The plastics used in the Toyota Corolla all feel luxuriantly dense, which immediately makes it seem more like a mini executive car. All of the switches work with a smooth action too.
Up front, even the tallest drivers will have enough space to stretch out without feeling cramped, and at the same time there’s more than enough adjustment for those of a more diminutive stature to get perfectly comfortable. You won’t feel like you’re banging elbows either.
The rear seat area is a bit less accommodating than the front, so you’ll need to either check whether your ever-lengthening teenagers will still fit, or be prepared to compromise your driving position slightly to offer them a bit more space.
The amount of boot space depends on which model you choose; the 1.8-litre hybrid has more, because the 2.0-litre version has its hybrid batteries under the boot floor.
Folding down the 60/40 split rear seats is simple, and entails pulling levers by the headrests, although you need to do this through the back doors. You can’t really do it when standing at the back of the car.
Running costs and reliability
This is where the Toyota Corolla knocks it out of the park. The 1.8-litre version does an official average of 62.7mpg, and the 2.0-litre model should do an average of 57.6mpg. Both are absolutely at their best in town, where they use very little fuel at all.
The Corolla is strong enough to have earned a five-star rating from crash test experts Euro NCAP, which helps with its insurance rating. It should be pretty cheap, with 1.8-litre cars in group 15 and 2.0-litre models in group 21.
What we love
The Toyota Corolla is simply such an easy car to live with. It’s like a partner who always wants what’s best for you, for whom nothing is ever too much trouble, and who never wants the limelight. It’s really well equipped, has a feeling of quality that wouldn’t be out of place in an executive car, and seems to get through the bulk of its life using just air and not petrol. There’s plenty of space up front, and the boot is a great size too, while folding the seats is a doddle. Add in the exceptionally high crash test rating and you’ve got almost the perfect family vehicle.
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The Toyota Corolla isn’t flash. It isn’t showy. It isn’t the sort of car that will get you noticed. And that’s precisely what many buyers want, and is why it sells so well. It’s certainly good-looking but is also the very epitome of subtle. It’s dependable, comfortable and should be cheap to run. Fabulous.
This review was