First drive 2014 Toyota Corolla sedan

First drive 2014 Toyota Corolla sedan


Toyota has completed its Corolla trifecta with the arrival of the 2014 sedan which it says will be available in three grades and will be priced at the same amount as the equivalent hatch.

Although the Corolla hatch outsells the wagon and sedan by the thousands in New Zealand, Toyota recognises that it needs to offer all three variants as part of its volume sales strategy, which means having a vehicle that will suit any particular customer who walks into the showroom.

Hence the Corolla sedan will be available in the familiar GX and GLX grade, as well as the new more luxurious ZR grade which should attract more private buyers or business user choosers seeking to downsize from a larger car without losing the creature comforts of leather upholstery and climate air conditioning amongst other features.

Thanks to demand from the rental and fleet market the Corolla GX sedan is available with a six-speed manual transmission for $33.490 or a seven-speed CVT automatic transmission for $34,990.

But the Corolla GLX and ZR sedans are only available with the CVT automatic transmission for $37,490 and $43,690 respectively.

The new booted Corolla is longer, wider, and has much improved cabin space thanks to the 100mm increase in wheelbase length.

Boot space inside the new Corolla sedan is improved by 20L to 470L with a 60/40 split rear seat that allows longer items to be carried.

It uses the same 1.8-litre 103kW four cylinder engine as before, but weighs 50kg less at 1735kg. This enables the CVT model to consume fuel at the rate of 6.6L/100km, while the manual car consumes 7L/100km. C02 emissions are quoted at 153g/km.

Toyota says it has added a cruise control set light, with over speed prevention available in CVT variants. A driver’s knee airbag is standard in all three grades, while the ZR grade models receive LED daytime running lights as standard, as well as the Suna traffic channel which works off the FM frequency.

The Corolla is the most important model in the New Zealand line up according to general manager of sales Steve Pragnell as it accounts for 25% of the companies total local sales.

Pragnell says the Corolla dominates fleet, rental, and government fleet sales while in private buyer sales it plays second fiddle to the Suzuki Swift. You can bet that Toyota would dearly love to change this statistic but it might take more than the projected 500 sales (for the remainder of 2014) of Corolla sedan to do so.

Last year Toyota sold 1.26 million Corollas globally from a total of 9.6 million cars. It has been the best selling car globally for more than 16 years.

From the first generation in 1966 to 2012 Toyota has produced 43,763,424 Corollas, and 69.5% of these have been sedans (30,433,175).

From 2003 to 2103 Toyota says it sold around 7,427 Corolla sedans in New Zealand and it is seeking to move more than five hundred units in the next nine months.

Driving impressions:

Car and SUV were amongst the select group of media invited to drive all three variants of the new Corolla sedan around the Manawatu and Martinborough region this week.

Hopping inside the cabin, the dashboard, interior trim, and controls look exactly the same as the Corolla hatch, so no surprises there.

What is surprising is how much more spacious and big car like the new Corolla sedan feels, thanks to that 100mm increase in length between the wheels which has translated into more legroom for the rear passengers. It will no doubt be looked upon favourably by many buyers, and certainly fleet and rental car customers won’t be complaining too loudly.

Just to put the size of the new Corolla sedan into perspective its now 90mm longer than the much loved mid-size ST191 series Toyota Corona.

As mid-size four-cylinder cars are now encroaching on what were previously large car dimensions, small cars are now verging on mid-size dimensions, which begs the question will the new Corolla sedan cannibalise sales of its larger sibling the Toyota Camry?

To move from the entry level Camry GL at $44,990 to a top of the line Corolla ZR at $43,690 doesn’t seem like a bad idea, but it depends on what your preferences are.

If the buyer is looking for a comfortable, economical and well appointed car and wants a smaller on-road footprint then the Corolla ZR is a good bet.

It will do the 6.6L/100km as I discovered on the run from Palmerston North to Martinborough, although crossing the Paihiatua track saw our average consumption leap up to 7.3L/100km.

Dynamically though, the Corolla ZR sedan is not in the same league as the Camry GL. The Corolla’s 1.8-litre provides adequate rather than sparkling performance throughout the rev range, and the CVT transmission can be a bit noisy on acceleration.

The manual car is more fun to drive but sadly its only available in the entry level GX grade.

Once at highway speed however, you do have to watch your right foot, the automatic Corolla ZR sedan is a particularly quiet drive and one can easily exceed the speed limit without trying.

One peculiarity I noticed while shuttling through all three variants on the media drive programme, was the difference between tyres. The 15 inch tyres fitted to the steel wheels on the GX seemed to make more road noise than the larger 16 inch tyre and alloy wheel combo fitted to the ZR.

Normally its the other way around, how bizarre!

Ride quality and overall handling of the Corolla sedan is good and predictable, but not exceptional, there are more dynamic sedans around in the segment, and certainly the mid-size Camry is a more rewarding drivers car to punt across rural New Zealand.

But to comfortably get from A to B and back again, which is the Corollas primary function as global mass market transportation, it is absolutely perfect.

Let’s face it 30 million buyers around the globe have voted with their wallets, and no doubt another 30 million will do so in the next forty years.



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