Class-leading technology in a respectable package.
When it comes to cars, change can take a while but in the 12 months that passed from 2017 to 2018 Toyota made some major changes to their big selling Toyota Corolla.
2017 the base model Corolla was maintaining status quo with driver assist technology like adaptive cruise control an optional extra. The interior was acceptable and it felt like we were just keeping up with the Hondas and Mazdas. One exception was the Hybrid line which had a few cosmetic cues to let everyone know you drove the petrol electric offering inside and out.
2018 and it seems there has been a shift in the attitude towards the Corolla. The fully revised interior saw the flashy touch-enabled surfaces and fiddly switches replaced with physical buttons and good old fashioned twisty knobs. Overall the body is a tad smaller with the back seat feeling a little cramped. More aggressive styling while not looking like the wing-fest of other hatchbacks wrapped up the looks department.
However the real difference is the driver assist package that runs through the entire range.
Adaptive cruise control not only holds a speed but will adjust to match the vehicle in front of you right down to a dead stop which makes the Perth freeway commute almost pleasurable. The lane departure alert also got an upgrade and now known as Lane Tracing Assist actually steers the car down the center of the lane no matter what the speed while the cruise control is activated. This level of driver assist while not quite reaching what you would call autonomous is a tremendous safety feature. Like another set of eyes on the road conditions ready to brake or adjust lane position when needed, you travel safer and arrive less fatigued.
A side benefit is that when I found myself next to another commuter in a Tesla Model X P90D I cheerfully gave him a double-handed wave knowing that the Corolla had as much functional tech in play as his electro-SUV did at that time as we both traveled down the freeway with minimal input from either of us.
Sadly he didn’t catch on why I was so excited.
Another stand out feature is the chatty voice assistant who not only provides turn by turn directions but warns you of upcoming school zones, fixed speed cameras, red light cameras and even reads speed signs to remind you to obey all traffic regulations when you creep over the posted limit. This is great for jolting drivers out of a potential daydream that have no place behind the wheel.
The entertainment system is very capable with bluetooth, aux audio, handsfree calling, Apple Car Play compatibility, mirrorcast connectivity, DAB radio, reversing camera and voice commands all giving you a wide range of options in staying connected and aware of your surroundings. The only notable item missing is Android Auto possibly one my most used apps.
Performance comes from a 2 liter engine that has more poke than the previous year through a CVT auto transmission or 6 speed manual (Ascent Sport Only).
The Hybrid offering for the Corolla is available across the entire range and adds around $1500 to the price which considering what goes into making a hybrid is amazing value.
The Hybrid is different this year for two reasons.
First, the upgrade on last years drivetrain is a noticeable change and takes another step further from the golf-cart performance in the years past.
Second and the most interesting is the lack of fanfare that the Hybrid drivetrain gets. Previously, automakers had to do all sorts of weird things to remind you that you are in a hybrid. Different coloured instrument accents, a weird joystick-gear selector, an economy gauge that reminded me of the Holden Commodore vacuum gauge masquerading as the econo-meter and other cosmetic markers are pretty much gone.
You get a tachometer, standard automatic selector and the only hybrid-centric cues apart from the exterior badges is a digital readout of how power is flowing through the car between the engine, batteries and wheels and how your driving is affecting your mileage which is quoted as 4.2l/100km.
Starting at $28,110 for the Ascent and $29,685 for the Hybrid variant the Corolla is bringing a dazzling array of assistive technology to the small car sector that until recently could only be found in some of the high end and luxury market.
A special thanks to Phil Eades and the crew from City Toyota Northbridge for the opportunity to review this road-going technical marvel.
See them for a good deal and fantastic service.