Toyota: 2014 Corolla GX and ZR sedan review

Toyota: 2014 Corolla GX and ZR sedan review

Buying a Corolla is a bit like buying Cadbury’s chocolate: it’s not flash, but it’s dependable. And you know that it’s going to make you fat if use it too much. It achieves its purpose with a minimum of fuss and with the knowledge you paid a fair price.

While the GX is milk chocolate (a little plain, but fills the gap nevertheless), the ZR is a dark, minty block with a slightly silkier texture. It’s still not the kind of chilli and kaffir leaf-infused chocolate that you’d buy in an upmarket boutique, but it does come with a fancier wrapper and more cocoa solids.

Buying a car often comes down to taste: it’s a rocky road to try to please everyone. So if you’re going to remove the wrapper on one of these Corollas, which one is it going to be?

Corolla sedan GX three quarter against buildingAt the bottom of the range sits the GX. At $34,990 for the CVT petrol it’s over $8500 cheaper than the ZR which is $43,690. You could even have the GX in manual and save yourself another $500. In the middle there’s the GLX at $37,490, which we didn’t drive. You can have it in sedan, like we tested, or hatchback version.

The whole range gets a 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC VVT-I engine with 103kW and 173Nm. It’s not going to rip your face off, but there is enough power for overtaking on the open road.

The stated fuel economy is 6.6l/100km for the CVT versions, Corolla GX sedan 01and I achieved a figure in the high 7s for both cars after having them a week each.

The gearbox is a CVT with 7-speed sequential manual. The ZR has paddles on the steering wheel. This gearbox changes gears very quickly and smoothly – I can’t fault it in sequential manual mode. It even comes with sport mode, uphill/downhill shift control and lock-up control.

The braking system is the same across both cars, too – ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control: all the safety features are there and contribute to a 5-star crash test rating (helped along Corolla GX sedan 09by 7 airbags).

While the underwear is the same, the difference is in the cosmetics and jewellery. The GX sports a set of 15-inch steel wheels with 195/65R15 tyres while the ZR ups the ante with 16-inch aluminium wheels shod in 205/55R16s.

The GX comes with your basic halogen headlights whereas the ZR gets low-beam LED and high-beam halogen lights with automatic levelling and automatic off. The ZR also gets daytime LED running lights and rain-sensing wipers.

The interior is quite similar in both cars. The front seat Corolla sedan ZR side three quarter by buildingpassenger might feel like the dashboard is a little close. The ZR’s leather trumps the GX’s fabric seats, as does its electric adjustment, but in both cars the seats themselves are equally comfortable.

Climate control in the ZR beats the manual air conditioning of the GX.

The instrumentation is different. The GX gets three dials plus an LCD multi-information display showing trip computer functions. The ZR has a sportier layout with two rings sitting either side of a larger central multi-information display with extra trip functions.

Corolla ZR sedan 08Both vehicles come with a 6.1-inch touchscreen mounted in the centre of the dashboard. This displays the reversing camera image and, on the ZR, the satellite navigation. Both the GX and ZR have Bluetooth integration for hands-free calling and audio streaming.

Keyless entry with push button start/stop, and an alarm come on the ZR but not the GX.

I gave the ZR the test of its life: a spirited dash up the Thames Coast Road to Coromandel on the afternoon of a large storm. Water was sheeting over the road and pouring in falls from the cuttings into the cliffs. I rounded a corner to find a large slip Corolla sedan ZR boot at golf coursecompletely across the right-hand lane and a couple of feet into my lane. Deep surface water was everywhere.

The ZR got as much of a test as I dare, given that the road runs along the edge of the sea in places. No other idiot was on the road – it was the middle of a storm, after all – so I had virtually the whole of the journey from Thames to the top of the second hill, 20 minutes before Coromandel town on my own, which is the best way to have that road.

I came out with a new-found respect for the Corolla. I’m not going to pretend that it is sporty at all, but the level of grip and the sophistication of the suspension that is available even on cars in the forty grand bracket is phenomenal compared to cars of 15 years ago. I could really throw it into the corners with confidence.

Would you bother unwrapping the GX and sampling its milky goodness? It’s OK, but a little lacking in features. While you do get a reversing camera, you also have to turn the lights off manually when you leave the car, and other menial tasks that should be taken care of. The ZR is top shelf in comparison. It’s a smooth number, perfectly executed, and slightly edgy on your tongue.

The team that designs the Corolla has the weight of Toyota’s expectations on their shoulders. As the flagship selling vehicle in the range, it has to be perfectly formed and appeal to the masses. That’s why the Corolla is like chocolate: I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate?

Price: from $34,490 – $43,690

Pros

· Benign handling will please many

· Well-priced

Cons

· Would have been nice if the ZR had seat heaters with the leather seats, which are cold in winter, but other than that, you can’t really fault it

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