SECOND COMING

CAN THE COROLLA BOUNCE BACK FROM ITS EARL COTY EXIT?

CAMERON KIRBY

TOYOTA COROLLA

Price as tested: $26,870

This month: 646km @ 6.67L/100km

IT’S a strange sensation, knowing something you’re about to take delivery of is going to be put through its COTY paces.

Imagine buying a new mattress, for example, and then discovering the store staff would be spending the week before delivery jumping on it.

But so it was with my new Corolla, which had something of a brutal introduction to the Wheels garage.

After picking it up, I had it on regular duties for just three days before it was whisked away for COTY 2019, where it was subjected to our gruelling testing process alongside its Ascent Sport manual and ZR hybrid siblings.

It was odd watching what was to be ‘my’ Corolla subjected to such enthusiastic judging. Needless to say, 026-YGM was in desperate need of a good scrub after seven runs through the dirt loop.

You’ve no doubt already read how the Corolla fared earlier in this issue, but there can be more to a car’s life than a COTY examination, and if any vehicle deserves a shot at redemption as a long-termer, it’s what will surely be Australia’s best-selling passenger car.

So, what’s new? Firstly, the dimensions have changed, growing in length by 45mm, with 40mm added to the wheelbase. It’s also wider (+30mm), and lower (-40mm), giving the car a more hunkered-down appearance.

THE GOOD GEAR

One of the critical mechanical changes for this all-new Corolla is the introduction of a ‘launch’ gear for petrol CVT variants. Toyota’s engineers have installed a direct gear for improved acceleration, before the transmission reverts to its normal CVT operation. Theoretically the end result is a more enjoyable experience off the line that mimics a traditional automatic, and loses the typical CVT ‘rubber-band’ effect when accelerating from a standstill.

The model grades have also been revised, with Toyota’s shift away from its longstanding fleet-sales focus meaning there is no base model equivalent to the outgoing generation. This leaves the Ascent Sport, SX, and ZR variants in the three-strong line-up.

The SX petrol, which is what I’ll be driving for the next few months, is expected to do much of the heavy lifting in terms of sales for this new 12th-generation Corolla. If current trends continue, Toyota’s stalwart hatch will continue to sit atop the best-selling passenger-car throne, albeit looking up at the dual-cab interlopers that now rule outright.

Some back-of-napkin math dictates that, by virtue of being the most popular variant of the most popular car, the SX petrol will be the best-selling individual spec for passenger cars in Oz.

While undecided on the paint choice, I’m an unapologetic fan of the new Corolla’s styling. While polarising (with the division, anecdotally drawn, across generational lines), I’d go as far as saying this is the best-looking Corolla Toyota has made to date.

One of Wheels’ major gripes with the new ’Rolla from our recent comparison was the boot space, which is one of the poorest in the class at a mere 217 litres. While disappointing to read on the spec sheet, this oversight hasn’t proven to be a major pain yet.

One of the Corolla’s first duties as a long-termer was to transport enough food to feed the 21-person COTY team for three days at Ford’s You Yangs proving ground. Three cartons of water and four large bags of groceries fit neatly in the boot without having to first remove the parcel shelf.

That’s all for my brief jaunt with 026- YGM. As I write this, the methanolguzzling crew at Street Machine have borrowed the keys in order to use it as a support vehicle for their five-day Drag Challenge road trip. And you thought COTY testing was tough...

CAMERON KIRBY