If you are old enough to remember a time when most families bought sedans instead of SUVs, you'll also remember the Toyota Camry.
Throughout the mid-1990s this was an immensely popular South African family car, blending huge boot and cabin space, with a range of very frugal engines.
As Toyota's local product strategy evolved, Camry was replaced by Avensis, which in turn was eventually superseded by Fortuner.
There is an argument to be made that Fortuner, with its enormous success, has effectively become the 21st century Camry in South Africa – a market where the sixth-generation Camry isn't sold. But where does all this leave Toyota's new Corolla? South Africa is in the strange position that it is served by two generations of Corolla.
The Quest is a previous-generation Corolla, and then there is the new 12th-generation car too, which is now available to local buyers.
Why not turbocharged engines?
What is the core appeal of new Corolla, and how will it influence the shrinking local compact sedan market? The new car has 60% greater body rigidity, compared to a Quest, so that should mean lower noise levels, reduced road vibration into the cabin and better high-speed steering responses.
Toyota's engineers have also added a sophisticated double-wishbone rear suspension configuration to the Corolla. This should vastly improve its ride quality – something South African customers will appreciate on the country's less than ideal rural roads.
Engine options are conservative, being two naturally-aspirated petrol four-cylinder powerplants. The 1.8-litre is good for 103kW and 171Nm, while the 2.0-litre cranks 125kW and 200Nm. Why no turbos? Toyota's engineering logic is that an atmospheric engine runs more accurate to its claimed fuel consumption and has better long-term durability for most Corolla fleet customers, under local conditions.
This new Corolla is expectedly more sophisticated than a Quest, and between the two models, Toyota has an unrivalled price spread in the compact sedan market. Rivals are few.
What are your other choices?
A new Corolla 1.8 XS CVT is R372 700 and competes against the Mazda3 1.5 Dynamic auto sedan, at R384 100. The Mazda's 1.5-litre engine has 15kW less power, though. Subaru has a credible rival in its Impreza 2.0i CVT, which offers all-wheel drive and a 115kW engine, but prices at R392 000.
The lead derivative in Toyota's new Corolla range presents an even stronger value case, at R425 200. It undercuts all rivals, such as Honda's Civic 1.5T Sport (R484 200) and the Mazda3 2.0 Astina (470 800).
Image: Wheels24/Charlen Raymond
There was a time when both Hyundai and Kia were serious players in the South African compact sedan market, but both Korean brands have now strategized their product portfolios towards hatchbacks, crossovers and SUVs, at the cost of sedans. Hyundai still markets its Accent, but only with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine and in terms of size and performance, it is not a rival to new Corolla.
Without proper Korean competition, Toyota is set to dominate the domestic compact sedan market, with new Corolla perfectly complementing Quest.
And with its rivals unable to offer more performance or notably better features, even at a significantly higher price, Toyota has positioned the Corolla very cleverly.
If you like the lockable stowage security of a boot, instead of a tailgate, and don't have any use for those few additional millilitres of ground clearance available with a crossover… Well, this new Corolla is good enough to make you forget there is a global Camry you can't buy locally.