Road Review – Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.2 Xs

When the Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.2T Xs 6MT arrived for testing, it was my first ‘in-the-flesh’ encounter with a car that piqued my interest when I first saw images of the concept and immediately felt this would be a great candidate for a Gazoo Racing makeover.

I love the looks of the car as all the lines, curls, swerves and sweeps work seamlessly together to form a cohesive whole that, in Corolla terms, is quite adventurous.

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Admittedly, technically speaking, it is not really a Corolla but an Auris – a nameplate being dropped locally in favour of the Corolla Hatch title.

The Corolla is one of the most successful brand names in South African automotive history and has served the company exceedingly well over the years. Toyota was a pioneer in recognising the true extent and buying power of the corporate or fleet market and invested heavily in making it their domain.

This they did with the Corolla that, over the years, has not strayed much from its basic concept of being dependable, reliable and cost effective transport. Corolla poured into corporate fleets because of that, backed up by a motivated and extensive dealer network and the fact the sedans were never radical designs that would age faster than reps could rack up the mileage.

Sure, there were some deviations such as the delightful 20-valve Corolla and then the 16-valve screamers, Conquest and Avante but, the basics never changed.

With the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) chassis as its basis, the Corolla is longer, lower and sleeker than its Auris predecessor. The nose features all-LED lamp clusters, with integral daytime running lights beneath the curved edge of a flatter, clamshell bonnet and narrow upper grille.

Beneath that, trapezoidal lower grille features a new mesh design and a frame that projects forwards with a grille surround that generates Toyota’s signature ‘catamaran shape’ at the front corners of the car.

It emphasises the car’s width and gives the Corolla an aggressive and sporting stance.

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Like the front, the rear styling is more rounded than before and a 14-degree increase in the angle of the rear screen and muscular haunches above the rear wheel arches combine to give the car a more compact appearance.

All-LED light clusters, located as far to the two corners as possible emphasise the car’s width, while the rear bumper styling echoes the ‘catamaran’ look of the front. A lower rear lip features a blackout design and all versions of the hatchback feature a roof spoiler and shark fin antenna.

All of that harks back to my earlier comment about this being an ideal shape for a serious sporty set of tweaks.

Inside is a spacious, modern and cohesive cabin with new textures, colours and trims that are both ergonomically practical and eye-catchingly styled. The slim instrument panel, for example, is not only key to generating a sense of spaciousness, but it improves forward visibility, while still allowing for the driver to be positioned lower and closer to the car’s centre of gravity for a more engaging driving position.

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The driver’s cockpit has that real wrap-around feel and the sporty nature is echoed in a front seat design that optimises comfort and reduces fatigue on long journeys.

The revised rear seats feature a new seat cushion material that allows for more even distribution of the occupant’s weight and, as standard, all rear seats can be folded using a remote lever to create a fully flat extension to the load space.

The TNGA platform is torsionally stiffer (by 60%) and lighter, as well as offering a lower centre of gravity.

Not only does a new multilink rear suspension mean there is less intrusion in the load space, allowing for an increase in load volume, but also handling stability, steering response and ride comfort are notably improved. The latter is also thanks to a new shock absorber valve design in both front and rear suspension systems also reduces friction by 40% resulting in a smoother and more comfortable ride.

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And yes, it handles. The hatch invites spirited driving and responds well to being pressed hard into tight corners. The steering is light, yet accurate and feedback to the driver is instant.

Under the bonnet is a 1,2-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that delivers 85 kW and a constant torque curve of 185 Nm between 1 500 r/min and 4 000 r/min through a 6-speed manual gearbox. The engine is the same power unit found in the Toyota C-HR and it is good for a brisk 0 to 100 km/h of 9,5 seconds and a top speed of 200 km/h.

Fuel consumption has been pegged at 6,1 l/100 km and I found this a touch conservative (for a change) with my own overall average for the test cycle coming in at 5,9 l/100 km.

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The Corolla Hatch has seven crash bags – driver and passenger, along with two side and curtain, as well as one for the driver’s knee – plus Vehicle Stability Control, along with the full suite of electronic aids (anti-lock braking, EBD, Brake Assist and Hill-assist Control). It also comes standard with ISOFIX attachment points for child seats.

All Corolla Hatch models come standard with a 6-services/90 000 km Service Plan and 3-year/100 000 km warranty. Service intervals are set at 12 months/15 000 km.

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