Mark Jones
Road Test Editor
4 minute read
19 Mar 2014
7:00 pm

New Toyota Corolla raises some critical safety issues

Mark Jones

The media press release states that every single minute of every single day, two brand new Corollas drive out of a Toyota factory somewhere in the world.

That is some serious bragging rights. But does this and the local success of the brand mean that the all-new Corolla will have it all its own way going forward?

I know South Africans have an almost love is blind approach to the Toyota brand but for good reason. The brand has performed just about faultlessly for decades in this country from a product through service levels, to dealer availability, right down to a resale value point of view. But this is an ever-changing world and the all-new Corolla faces some tough competition in the market from the likes of the older Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and all new Kia Cerato Sedan to name but a few.

At first glance, the Corolla is immediately recognisable as a Toyota and makes use of Toyota’s new design language. I like the styling in a family transport kind of way. I mean it is not easy to get all creative with a three box sedan. In saying that, Hyundai and Kia have attempted something with a bit of flair. Which, of course, is not to everybody’s taste. You win some and you lose some when it comes to styling.

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Just like the exterior, the all-new Corolla takes a slightly different route to the competitors with a very non-fussy layout and a dash that is completely square. I didn’t mind the styling but I didn’t like the fact that other than the instrument cluster, which is right in front of you, none of the other controls are focused on the driver. You feel slightly detached from the car and that you are merely there to get it from A to B.

The Corolla on test here in middle of the road Prestige guise had most of what I wanted from an interior luxury perspective but I did miss the addition of Cruise Control which both the Cruze and Cerato offer as standard. Especially since these cars are mostly used as transport on a daily basis.

I also noticed the lack of an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) button and this I feel is totally unacceptable in a family car that costs you R241 900 in 2014 coupled with the high death toll on our roads. ESC is the electronics that attempt to maintain control of your car for you should you lose traction or suddenly swerve, and it is the device that the Euro NCAP people rate as the biggest saver of lives since the introduction of the seatbelt. The Euro NCAP people feel so strongly about it, they automatically downgrade a car from a maximum five-star safety rating to a four-star rating if it is not fitted with ESP.

I was going to be exceptionally harsh on Toyota SA for bringing in all of their Corolla models bar the three top of the range offerings without ESC, and go so far as to say you shouldn’t even consider the car as a result. But I did a little check on the competition and neither is it standard fitment for the Cruze 1.6 LS, Elantra 1.6 Premium and Kia 1.6 Ex Sedan. So along with you, they are all taking a chance with your life for a few extra rand as none of them can lay claim to a five-star safety rating for these particular models (Please see Glen Hill’s comment of Euro NCAP and ANCAP ratings and where they can be quoted on page 11 for further information on this subject). But to the road we will take anyway with the Dual Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (Dual VVT-i) 1.6 litre naturally aspirated engine that is rated at 90kW at 6000rpm along with a maximum torque of 154Nm at a relatively high 5200rpm. It is an engine that has to be kept on the boil, especially up here on the reef where the lack of oxygen in the air robs the engine of power. In doing that fuel consumption comes in at around 8.3 litres per 100 km versus the claim of 6.6 litres and the tested performance is average with a 0-100 km/h sprint in 12 seconds and a top speed of just under 200 km/h.

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This is not too bad as the Corolla’s direct price competitors make use of similarly powered naturally aspirated engines and will achieve similar results. Pay a little more and you can get some turbocharged power from the likes of the just launched Cruze 1.4 LS Turbo or Corolla 1.4 D and probably go quicker and use less fuel.

The all-new Corolla is obviously no race car but the general everyday drivability is good with this desired result being achieved by weight reduction, and improved suspension geometry and steering responsiveness.

I have to say that if I was only shopping for a petrol-powered sedan then it would have been the better priced Kia Cerato 1.6 Ex Sedan that would have got my money. But if I was going to be commuting all over the show with a strict fuel budget in mind, the Corolla 1.4 D Prestige might persuade me to stay with Toyota.

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