We spent a few days driving the recently launched Toyota Corolla Hatch to bring your this review.
First, there was the Conquest, and then came the RunX, that was followed by the Auris. The common theme across all these nameplates is that they were all hatchback derivatives of their Corolla generations. Now, the local arm of the Japanese automaker has brought SA naming into alignment with overseas markets, and it is simply called the Toyota Corolla Hatch.
Click here to read about our recent drive of the all-new Toyota Rav4.
Many have criticised Toyota for producing bland-looking vehicles in recent years. This is certainly not the case with the Toyota Corolla Hatch. The all-new hatch from Toyota SA is quite eye-catching. A wide and low stance, sharp lines, a rakish shape and sculpted lights, fore and aft, give it a unique and modern appearance.
A close friend, who follows the car industry quite closely, quipped: “It looks as though Toyota has started to hire designers again” when he clapped eyes on the test unit we were driving. The appearance should appeal to the young, which is a buying segment Toyota is no doubt targeting.
More practical inside
The appearance of the Toyota Corolla Hatch may be quite a step forward, but the interior has retained a high degree of practicality. A touchscreen infotainment system takes centre stage on the facia. The fully adjustable steering wheel features all manner of remote controls and the instrument cluster incorporates a multi-function screen to display data.
While the interior colours are a tad sombre, the perceived quality cannot be faulted. Every surface feels premium to the touch. Material choice is also right up there with the best in the class. These include a stitched leather facia, a leather-covered steering wheel and Alcantara covering on the deep front seats. The latter is a feature of this range-leading Xr variant.
We loaded three adults onto the rear bench and undertook a motorway cruise. None of them complained about a lack of space during the hour-long drive. The rear accommodation does, along with a full-size spare wheel, impinge on boot space.
The car in our care these last few days was in high-spec Xr trim. Standard specification is quite high in this guise. There is the aforementioned infotainment system with full Bluetooth functionality and reverse-view camera. Other standard features include keyless entry and keyless start, heated front chairs, auto headlamp activation, blind-spot monitoring and dual-zone climate control.
The safety conscious among you will be happy to note that there is a full suite of active and passive safety systems at play. A total of seven airbags, Vehicle Stability Control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and hill-assist control, as well as Isofix attachment points for child seats, are all standard fare.
There is one other derivative in the line-up at the moment called the Xs. This version is available with a manual or automatic transmission while the Xr is only available as an automatic. Speaking of mechanical things…
It seems Toyota has finally embraced the adoption of smaller, turbopetrol engine for its passenger cars. Under the clamshell bonnet of the Toyota Corolla Hatch is a 1,2-litre, turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. The compact unit produces 85 kW of power with a healthy 185 N.m of torque in a plateau from 1 500 to 4 000 r/min.
We found this engine, in conjunction with the CVT, has more than enough oomph. CVTs are usually quite annoying to drive, but the engine/trans combination in this car works well. Artificial steps simulate “gear changes”. There are 10 ‘steps’ in the transmission should drivers wish to control the shifting process themselves. The low-down torque delivery was ideal for getting through traffic in the urban grind. On the open road, the small-ish engine had no trouble maintaining the national limit, even with five adults aboard.
At a true 120 km/h the engine is ticking over at a lowly 2 000 r/min; great for fuel saving. Toyota claims a 6,1 L/100 km fuel consumption figure. During our time with the Toyota Corolla Hatch we achieved a more realistic 7,2 L/100 km over several hundred kilometres of usage.
The area that the Toyota Corolla Hatch improved on the most, for us, is that of ride quality. Toyota has finally adopted fully independent rear suspension, like the frontrunners in this segment. The improvement in ride quality is immediately noticeable. Soft springing and cushy, high-profile tyres have all helped to create a ride quality that has no sportiness about it (thank goodness) and is up these with the best in the class. On this point alone, we have to applaud Toyota’s efforts.
The Toyota Corolla Hatch has taken a leap forward from where its predecessor, the Auris, left off. There is new technology at play, in the cabin and under the bonnet, an eye-catching appearance, a step-up in the look and feel of the interior and huge improvement in ride quality. The Toyota Corolla Hatch is a car well made.
There is plenty of competition in the large hatch segment. There is the perennial class-leading Golf, the excellent Ford Focus (both of which are soon to be replaced), the Opel Astra and new generation Megane, to name a few. Among this lofty competition, the Toyota Corolla Hatch acquits itself extremely well and finds a place near the very top of its class.
Price: R367 100
Engine: 1,2-litre inline four, turbocharged
Transmission: CVT, FWD
Max power: 85 kW
Max torque: 185 N.m
Top speed: 190 km/h
0-100 km/h: 10,4 sec
Fuel consumption: 6,1 L/100 km