When the Toyota Corolla was released in the mid-1960s, it was a cheap and cheerful small vehicle that was reliable, frugal and easy to drive. It was a vanilla ice-cream car that while not being the most exciting flavour available, still satisfied the masses.
It appealed to the driving public so much so that since 1966 more than 32 million Corollas have sold worldwide. In fact a Corolla is sold somewhere in the world every 40 seconds.
The base Corolla principles of reliability (a Toyota hallmark) and frugality have never engendered the model with any great styling appeal, which has been fine given that most competitors were until recently just as plain. The thing is now though there are a great many small cars that combine quality engineering and great styling. The Mazda3, Citroen C4 and Honda Civic are just some examples. Toyota has seen this too and added some nuts and a drizzle of caramel topping to make the new Corolla a bit more special.
The latest iteration of the Corolla is a departure from the bland econo-box styling of its predecessor. While the exterior styling of the Corolla is a little sharper than before, the real surprise is the interior.
Toyota has taken a leaf out of the funky Honda Civic’s interior design playbook with a combination of smart looking but practical elements that make the inside of the Corolla very appealing.
Features like the small screens in the middle of the speedometer and tachometer that display the trip computer information help to make the Corolla more enjoyable than before.
The high downward-arching centre console is the main attraction of the interior.
It houses the gearshift and handbrake in a curving column that features space underneath to stash small items — perfect for caramel sundaes.
The gearshift looks high but the shift lever falls to hand very easily. The shift quality is not very mechanically satisfying — it doesn’t invite you into the heart of the driving experience — but it is light and easy to use with six well-spaced ratios.
The seats are adjustable, as is the steering wheel, and it is easy to create a comfortable driving position.
Diesels always confound the expectations of those of us who are used to a petrol diet. When driving the Corolla you only really need to use the power between 1800-3000rpm as, although the car will rev to 5000rpm, those extra revs do little to accelerate progress.
The engine is a 2-litre diesel unit (a 1.4-litre is also available) which, while being a little rattly, is smooth in its delivery.
The fuel economy of a diesel appeals to the miser within us all and we managed a commendable 5.6L/100km on the combined cycle (Toyota claims 5.4L/100km) with 6.8L/100km around town.
With fuel prices being the bane of our lives it is nice to know road-trips have not been consigned to the ‘too expensive’ basket when cars like the Corolla are on offer.
The Toyota Corolla diesel is a good car for commuting, especially for those people who drive on the highways a lot. It is a great feeling knowing that this car costs so little to fuel and can get you a great distance on one tank.
At $38,990 it is not that cheap but with the level of efficiency and power available from the diesel engine and very nice interior styling, the Corolla ain’t ‘plain vanilla’ anymore.
Click through to the next page for full specs on the Toyota Corolla Diesel 2.0.
Price: from $26,150 ($38,990 as tested).
What we like
- Interior styling
What we don’t like
- Rattly engine
A touch expensive
- Engine Type: In-line, 4 Cylinder, 16 Valve, DOHC
- Bore 86.0 Stroke 86.0
- Capacity 1998 cc
- Compression 16.8 : 1
- Euro 4 Emission 140 g/km
- Fuel Tank Capacity 55 litres
- Fuel Type Diesel Injection Type Common-rail Direct Injection
- Maximum Power 93 kW@3600 rpm
- Maximum Torque 300 Nm@2000-2800 rpm
- 6-Speed Manual transmission with Shift Indicator Light
- Front Wheel Drive
- Single Dry Plate with Diaphragm Spring
- Gear 1 Ratio 3.538
- Gear 2 Ratio 1.913
- Gear 3 Ratio 1.218
- Gear 4 Ratio 0.860
- Gear 5 Ratio 0.790
- Gear 6 Ratio 0.673
- Reverse Ratio 3.831
- Final Ratio 3.777 / 3.238
- Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRC)
- Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
- Driver and passenger front, side, driver’s knee and front/rear curtain shield airbags
- Front seat belts with pre-tensioners and force limiters
- Child restraint ISO fixing points with tether anchors
- 16″ steel wheels
- Multi-reflector halogen headlights
- Body coloured front and rear bumpers
- Body coloured door handles
- Green tinted side and rear glass
- Air conditioning
- Single disc MP3/WMA CD player with 6 speakers
- 3-spoke leather steering wheel with audio controls
- Fabric seat material
- Optional “Exclusive” package includes: Smart entry & start system, climate control air conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dipping inside rear view mirror, auto-off headlights, heated exterior mirrors, rear armrest with cup holders, 16″ alloy wheels
- Flush windscreen moulding for reduced wind resistance
- Graphite coated wiper blades reduce “chatter”
- Radiator retractor protects the cooling unit in an accident
- UV reducing window glass
- Double sealed door opening create an effective noise barrier
Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham