REVIEW | Despite one little gripe, could this new Toyota Corolla be the best one yet?


• New Corolla launched earlier in 2020.

• Corolla range now consist of three models.

• Corolla XR 2.0 manual retails for R420 500.

Toyota South Africa launched its new, twelfth-generation Corolla in South Africa under the cloud of lockdown. While the sedated aura under which the country now operates still hangs heavy in the air, the Corolla's arrival undoubtedly lifted the spirits.

And with good reason! The Corolla has been a part of the South African automotive scene since the 1970s and has carved out a unique following for itself. At one point, it was the first-choice vehicle when you were in the market for a new family car and automakers would try and replicate the Corolla's recipe - with varying degrees of success.

As with all preceding generations, Toyota again sets new standards in the Corolla's segment. And despite many of its rivals having pulled out of the market, there is no denying that the Corolla managed to raise the bar.

Toyota Corolla XR

2020 Toyota Corolla XR - Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

New, fresh design

In 2019, Toyota brought its new Corolla hatchback to our market. The car attracted attention with the new design Toyota headed in, as sharp and edgy lines dominated the body. While not as dynamic-looking as the hatchback, the Corolla sedan does its part to continue with the design language introduced on the hatch.

SEE: Here are a couple of rivals the new Toyota Corolla sedan has to take on in SA

At the front, the grille takes centre stage and impresses with black finishing around it. The lights, too, have a sharp design about them, and the daytime-running LEDs add a nice touch to it. These LEDs reach inward towards the Toyota badge. At the rear, a subtle lip hides underneath the black bumper, with the tip of the exhaust also visible when you make a real attempt of finding it.

A set of 18-inch tyres complete the looks, and in the boot you'll find a space-saving spare wheel.

Toyota Corolla XR

2020 Toyota Corolla XR - Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Interior and features

Our test unit is the 2.0 XR manual model and retails for a respectable R420 500. While the price may come as a shock at first, one's opinion on the car changes once you consider the overall package.

For starters, the seats – with their unique design – is covered in both cloth and leather, and features electric adjustment. Keyless entry and -start is standard, so too is adaptive cruise control, all-round electric windows, multifunction steering wheel, an onboard trip computer, and a rear-view camera.

READ: Toyota launches new Corolla in SA - Why it took so long for the car to be introduced

The overall layout of the interior is clean and uncluttered, and navigating through the dials and buttons is an easy task. The screen atop the dashboard features touch technology, and the buttons on either side of it ease usability. Satellite navigation is not standard, but the system is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Build quality on the new Corolla is damn near impeccable, but a kink in the car's armour came to the fore. The console between the front seats is not as sturdy as initially perceived. Pushing against it with the left knee (if you're the driver) will see it move by a considerable margin. On a Toyota, especially, the Corolla, one does not expect things to be loose-fitting. And while we know that not everything is perfect, this was the last thing we expected to be awry on a Corolla.

Toyota Corolla XR

2020 Toyota Corolla XR (MotorPress)

Comfortable ride quality

Two engines are available on the Corolla range, including the 2.0-litre found in the two Corolla XR models. This engine produces 125kW and 200Nm and is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox that sends power to the front wheels. The other gearbox available is a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).

The Corolla was not built for outright speed, but instead for open-road cruising and conquering the daily commute between points A and B. The car exceeds in its task and conjures a decent ride quality in any condition. The six-speed gearbox cogs over without trouble, and there is a sturdy feel to the throw-action. Acceleration and reaching speeds are gradual processes rather than a sprint, but one soon comes to appreciate the Corolla for what it is.

Toyota claims an economy of 6.5-litres/100km, which translates to 769km on the 50L fuel tank.

In summary

Toyota has genuinely managed to produce another quality product. And bar the iffy console between the front seats, everything else is way above par. That will go a long way in ensuring returning, and new customers will sign on the all-important dotted line.

The Corolla is the new benchmark in its segment. If Toyota had made it any better, it would have traversed into the next segment.

This twelfth-generation Corolla is a good car and will continue to be the standard-bearer for the next few years.

Toyota Corolla XR

2020 Toyota Corolla XR - Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond.

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