The MH Motoring Minute: Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.2 Xr CVT

This ain’t no boring taxi – the new Corolla hatchback is a looker, and it drives like a category winner too.


Arthur Jones |

Review: 2 day launch
Engine: 1.2litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 85kW, 185Nm
Price: R367 100 (Xr CVT), R336 800 (Xs 6MT)

Uber has made the Toyota Corolla sedan a very common car on our roads. And in my mind, the reasons why it’s such a popular taxi should also be good for all buyers – it’s reliable, practically bomb-proof, light on fuel, and it offers great value when buying (and when you want to sell it). The biggest negatives for me: they aren’t the most attractive cars on the road. And that’s where this little newcomer fits in perfectly.

Related: The MH Motoring Minute: Toyota C-HR 1.2CVT Plus

Yes, it’s a hatchback – and it takes over the Auris model range. But, it’s a very different car, both from the Auris and the Corolla sedan. It’s lower, longer, wider and lighter, and looks much edgier. The sharp angles and visual nip-and-tucks fit into Toyota’s new design language, and it feels like a cousin to the CH-R, with which it shares the same chassis (TNGA platform) and powertrain. The interior is sophisticated and minimalist, and the spec level is good. It’s a comfortable place to be in and has a wrap-around cockpit feel, and is a big step forward in terms of perceived quality and soft touches. For our money, it still loses out to the Golf in terms of the interior, but Toyota has raised their game. Significantly.

However, forget the looks and design for a second – the real sales kicker here is the drive. It’s engaging and responsive, and thanks to the lower centre of gravity, the stiffer chassis and wider track and multi-link rear suspension, it’s a pleasure to pilot through corners and winding roads. This handles and responds much better than you’d expect from this C Segment category, and when paired with a surprisingly good CVTs, it creates a compelling, powerful combination.

Related: The MH Motoring Minute: VW Polo GTi

All-in-all – this is a fantastic little hatchback and offering from Toyota, and it’s a smart move making this the replacement for their Auris. It offers plenty of value, a much better design and looks overall, and most importantly, a brilliant drive. There’s a new VW Golf and Ford Focus on the way, but for now, Toyota has played a very strong hand.

Now we just want to see the Gazoo racing version…

PROS: Engaging, rewarding drive and ride quality; Sleek new looks and improved interior; Good value and better standard spec level than competitors; Punchy, free revving 1.2 engine; Great safety offering (7 airbags and ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Hill Protection and Isofix attachments).

CONS: Small boot (but rear seats can be dropped); No Apple Carplay or Android Auto, Limited rear legroom.

WHAT WE LOVE: The Corolla has become significantly cooler and edgier. And a better to drive, too.

RATING: 7.5/10

COMPETITORS: VW Golf TSI Trendline (From R316 200); Ford Focus 1.5 Ecoboost Trend Auto (From R341 000), Mazda 3 1.6L Dynamic (From R302 300)

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