Better by far are the longer wheelbase estate and saloon, which have a more balanced chassis response and a calmer ride quality, especially on the 18-inch wheels of the 2.0-litre hybrid driveline. It’s a way short of the very best in the class, but the handling is sharp and there’s even a bit of fun in there, particularly the way the nose tightens its line if you lift off the accelerator.
If you are after a British-built hatchback, your choice is between the Astra and Corolla. If you want a hybrid drivetrain, then the Corolla stands alone.
Drive long distances on relatively open roads, however, and you’ll simply not achieve the hybrid’s claimed fuel consumption.
The Corolla is well short of the best in class dynamically, but it’s well built, attractive and some of the models are even pretty good to drive.
Toyota Corolla – facts and specifications
TESTED 1,798cc, four-cylinder petrol engine with twin synchronous 600-volt electric motors and a lithium-ion battery, epicyclic transmission, front-wheel drive
PRICE/ON SALE £21,300 to £30,340 (as tested from £27,340)March
Engine: 96bhp @ 5,200rpm, 105lb ft @ 3,600rpm
Electric motor: 71bhp/120lb ft
Total system output: 118bhp @ 5,200rpm
TOP SPEED 112mph
ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 10.9sec
FUEL ECONOMY 55-65mpg (WLTP Combined). On test 47.8mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 83g/km (on 17in wheels)
VED £105 first year, then £140
VERDICT The twelfth version of the world’s most popular car name plate is a big improvement over the Auris it replaces. It’s good looking and the tax benefits of the mainly hybrid range are undeniable, but you won’t achieve the claimed fuel savings unless you drive a lot in town. Also, rivals are streets ahead dynamically.
TELEGRAPH RATING Four out of five stars
Toyota Corolla – main rivals
Volkswagen Golf, from £17,785
Things get pretty expensive pretty quickly in the Golf brochure, but the fact is that it is Europe’s bestselling car with good reason. The 1.5-litre turbo petrol suits the size and weight well and the DSG gearbox is (now) smooth and reliable.
Ford Focus, from £18,300
The latest Focus is one of the standout cars of its class with a sparkling update on cabin design, lots of space and unrivalled ride and handling (provided you buy the more expensive independent suspension). No plug-in hybrid as yet, but we’re expecting one soon.
Vauxhall Astra, from £18,350
Carving almost 100kg out of the Astra for its last revision proved that there was a good car under the skin all along. Lithe and brisk, the 1.4-litre is a terrific driving machine with a great ride quality. Along with the Corolla, it is one of the last British-built family hatchbacks.
Kia Ceed, from £17,480
All new last year, this third generation of the Ceed is well built, with a stiff bodyshell and independent rear suspension across the range. The engines are throaty, though, the twin-clutch semi-auto gearbox isn’t the smoothest, nor is the cabin the last word in design and taste. A seven-year warranty persuades a lot of buyers, however.
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