Keep it secret: 2019 Toyota Corolla Xs Hatch

2019-07-24 06:02
PHOTO: sourced

PHOTO: sourced

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THERE’S a hot and dirty little secret I suggest you withhold from your boss, your partner or anyone else who wields the power of veto, or stamp of approval, over your choice of office car or grocery-getter.

Play along. Let them believe you’re prepared to accept, rather than really want, a new Corolla. You might suggest that you get a hatchback this time; Toyota resurrected the Auris and renamed it Corolla Hatch. Show them you aren’t completely ignorant. Say it’s so you can more easily load extra stuff when the back seat isn’t being used. But whatever you do, don’t reveal the truth.

And that is, that this is no longer your common rep’s car or mom’s shopping cart. By liberally applying science, they re-jigged Corolla into a Midlife Crisis Machine. You can have it without spending a shipload of money or arousing unwanted suspicion.

Toyota did it by fitting a hot-blooded, 1200 cc turbo-motor — making its body longer, wider, lower and sexier; dropping its centre of gravity by 10 mm; stiffening the shell so it flexes less; installing sophisticated, Lexus-style dual-wishbone suspension at the back and tweaking the front McPherson struts like nobody’s business. The disc brakes at both ends are still there, as are its seven airbags and V-rated, medium-profile, Bridgestone Ecopia tyres. The headlamps are now auto-on LED units with automatic dipping and follow-me.

Then, when nobody was looking, Corolla’s logistics squad sneaked into the Lexus warehouse and made off with auto-engage-and-release for the electric parking brake, one-touch up and down for all windows, keyless entry and start, dual zone climate control and the 10-step CVT for automatic gearbox variants. Unconfirmed reports reckon one of them got into the design studio and made off with Lexus’ blueprints for its new, supremely comfortable and supportive, seat designs. They probably did.

You have three choices: Xs trim with either six-speed manual or the CVT mentioned above and slightly fancier Xr specification that offers CVT only. Prices range from R343 200 to R373 800. We got to drive the “basic” six-speed manual that offers all the above plus alloy wheels, cruise control, powered and warmed outside mirrors, touchscreen control unit with CarPlay and Android Auto, reversing camera, hill hold, speed-sensitive door locks, fog lamps and ABS brakes with EBD and VSC.

Xr level adds blind-spot monitoring, heated front sports seats in Alcantara and leather, lumbar adjuster for the driver and retractable mirrors.

The 85 kW, 185 Nm turbocharged engine comes from C-HR and together with the manual shifter, makes joyous music if you let it. Or you could drive like it’s just an Old Corolla and let its wide torque band shuffle you inconspicuously, between home and bored-room, exactly as it did. But where’s any Midlife Crisis alleviation in that?

Get yourself out onto a winding back road, dial in lots of revs, work those gears, do the three-pedal cha-cha-cha and be a kid again. Stomp on the gas to slingshot the little projectile between bends, let its new-found handling agility power you through them and learn, once more, that you don’t really need a Supra to have fun in a Toyota.

Getting back to reality: Corolla Hatch has a cavernous boot that can be extended by dropping seatbacks in the usual way to accept loads up to 1,5 metres long; the fully sized alloy spare is stored upside down so you can stash small stuff under the baseboard; the loading platform is roughly 70 cm high, about average, and it’s equipped with a light and lashing rings for convenience. Ambidextrous pull-down handles mean that lefties can feel comfortable while closing it.

Tall back seat passengers may find themselves a bit short of legroom but there’s headspace a-plenty. There’s an armrest with the expected pair of cup holders back there but no door bins; just two more cup holders.

Up front you will find an armrest box with a USB recharging point inside. Your storage USB plugs into a port hidden in a dark spot on the lower curve of the lower dash, so don’t try to use the wrong one. A small cubby, narrow bins, odd little storage spaces, a huge tablet-style screen, two lit visor mirrors and well-spaced foot pedals, that allow size-14 trainers past the clutch to rest on a proper pad, complete the picture. Except for that six-speed manual shifter. It’s as slick as a snake oil salesman and a must-have all on its own. Test unit from Toyota SA press fleet.

THE NUMBERS

Price: R343 200

Engine: 1197 cc, DOHC, 16-valve, Otto- and Atkinson cycle four-cylinder with turbocharger

Power: 85 kW between 5 200 and 5 600 rpm

Torque: 185 Nm between 1 500 and 4 000 rpm

Zero to 100 km/h: 9,5 seconds

Top speed: 200 km/h

Real life fuel consumption: About 7.0 l/100 km

Tank: 50 litres

Luggage, seatbacks up: 503 litres

Warranty: 3 years / 100 000 km

Services: Six services within 90 000 km, at annual or 15 000 km intervals

— Supplied.

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