AWSUM Wheels: 2019 Toyota Corolla 1.2T XS Auto tested
Words by Hanjo Stier
Every day spent with this new Corolla hatch made me like it more and more. For starters, I’ll now happily eat my own words about how boring Toyotas used to look. Even coated in deep-freeze white, this latest Corolla hatchback specimen looks modern, detailed and interesting. I even made fun of its multiple local name changes over the years but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this twelfth generation.
With the sedan and estate versions still to make their local debut, this hatchback flies the new Toyota flag while its regurgitated Quest sibling caters for those with a penchant for big boots. That is one of very few criticisms I have with this vehicle, its cargo area is comparably puny at just 294. The upside? It hides a full-size 205/55R16 spare wheel.
That generous amount of rubber translates into smooth slow-speed damping which transitions into wonderfully comfortable and predictable road holding at most speeds; no thanks to a front McPherson and rear dual-wishbone suspension layout. The brakes are also good, ditto for the turning radius and road noise levels.
Ground clearance is a tad low at 140mm, but you’re not supposed to go off-roading in a Corolla. I think that’s a warning sticker they hand out at Avis and Budget, right? Back in Namibian suburbia it just means that you have to mind high pavements and employ an extra degree of care when negotiating steep driveways.
Back on the bright side, this new Corolla continues its bold design on the inside with a cabin that could make a Hilux Legend owner faint at thirty paces. Gone are the oversized, ill-fitting surfaces of drab plastics and man-made textures… replaced by flowing forms, cool creases and shiny switch-gear. It looks amazing.
And the obligatory 1982 LCD nightstand clock with blinking dots and (H) (M) buttons? Gone. Good riddance, too. Other irritating Toyota hallmarks which have almost completely disappeared are that terribly hollow door shut sound, candles for headlights and utterly artificial seat covers.
In this Corolla? Soft rubber door seals, keyless entry and start system, super-bright LED headlights and half-Alcantara leather, thank you very much. Other items which impressed me were the instrument binnacle’s detailed colour information screen, sporty front seats with two-stage seat heaters and the car’s pleasing driveability.
A 1.2L in-line four-cylinder turbo-petrol of C-HR fame produced up to 85kW or 185Nm through another good example of why the CVT (continuously variable transmission) doesn’t deserve its bad reputation any longer. It ain’t a bag of fireworks but around town, on the highway, in traffic, it gets the job done very well.
Sure, there’s still a feeling of detachment when the ‘box yodels to whatever revs it likes but it does this for a good reason – to exploit the engine’s peak torque curve. Did I type exploit? I meant perfect. Even our full-bore acceleration tests were impressive; Toyota claims 0-100km/h in 10.4 seconds and our best was 10.16.
Manual interventions via the gear lever are hardly necessary, nor very rewarding, and I made a few more negative notes to prove that I wasn’t unnecessarily smitten with this car. The silver climate control buttons are hard to decipher at times, but nowhere near as vague as the infotainment systems.
You see? It’s not all sunshine and rose-tinted spectacles with one of my favourite new hatchbacks. I’m utterly pleased that it has a few flaws because these highlight the great bits about it and finally justify why people would buy these en masse. In a tragic fit of irony, I hope our SUV-mad public doesn’t prove me wrong…
When next someone tells me, they drive a white Toyota, at least now I can ask “is it the wonderful new Corolla?” This 1.2T XS Auto model currently retails for about R350,000 and comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty and six-interval/90,000km service plan. It’s also available in five other vibrant colours.