Rebadging, or for the lack of a better term, reworking a proven recipe still endowed with adequate substance, has been the hallmark of a number of car makers ever since the practice became popular many moons ago. In the case of Toyota, this process is nothing new.
From a South African standpoint, the best known example is the sixth generation Corolla hatch, better known as the Conquest, which transitioned into what ultimately become the Tazz that lived-on until its demise 14 years ago.
Just as infamous is the third generation HiAce that become known as the Siyaya, well over a decade after being discontinued in Japan, as a result of the fourth generation being declared a sales no-no. The procedure then repeated itself last year with the revival of the HiAce name for the fifth generation, now taxi focused Ses’Fikile, as the all-new sixth generation retained the Quantum designation.
Before this though, attention centred on the Corolla where the introduction of the 11th generation sedan saw the model that preceded it living on as the Quest, which did without a few specification niceties, offered a line-up of three models and paired the 1.6-litre petrol engine with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox.
With the eleventh generation moving up-market, the ‘back-to-basics’ Quest, unexpectedly, became a sales success with 63 966 units moved since 2014, mostly as a result of its connection with ride-hailing service Uber, but also with fleet buyers as most private consumers opted for the more ‘premium Corolla’.
The imminent rival of the twelfth iteration, which has since been launched, has seen the Quest switch to generation eleven with not only a wider choice of models, but also more power, equipment and local input. A first-time Corolla sedan experience for this writer, the Quest has been subjected, according to Toyota, to a “thorough development programme” instead of merely having been put on a “equipment delete” diet, as items such as the seat components, fabrics and parts of the floor are sourced locally in order to bring costs down.
Arriving in flagship Exclusive guise, the change from Corolla to Corolla Quest has seen the fitment of a new front bumper minus the fog lights and removal of the chrome trim on the grille and around the rear number plate cavity in favour of a simpler colour coded finish.
While the front adaptions are immediately prevalent, it hasn’t elevated or demoted the Quest from a visual perspective. Understandably a huge step up from its predecessor, it still looks fresh and unlikely to attract comments such as “offensive” or “bland” any time soon.
Open the door, it initially takes a trained eye to spot any differences as the cabin’s overall design and layout has not changed much, with many of the soft -touch plastics and piano-key black inlays remaining. Resplendent in its Seaside Pearl Metallic hue, the Exclusive plays its biggest trump card in the spec department with equipment consisting of a six-speaker sound system, electric windows all round, auto lock doors, reverse camera, keyless entry, electric mirrors, push-button start, LED headlights, rain sensing wipers, daytime running LEDs, ABS with EBD, seven airbags, Vehicle Stability Control and Hill Start Assist.
As well put together as the interior is with the odd cheap surface being present, the most annoying detail however remains the cruise control stalk jutting out of the steering column that not only looks out of place, but will also irritate drivers preferring to sit closer to the wheel as it will come into contact with their shins.
What’s more, the welcome inclusion of the easy-to-use Bluetooth enabled touchscreen infotainment system with a single USB port hidden in a neat compartment in front of the gear lever, is blighted by the lack of a traditional volume knob as the only dials provided are the finicky touch sensitive points on the side of the screen, or audio controls on the steering wheel.
The biggest letdown, however, is reserved for those seated in the rear. As praiseworthy as the legroom is and however welcome the the addition of an armrest , taller passengers will find a distinct lack of headroom that will result in long road trips becoming a real headache. More redeemable is the boot which swallows a claimed 452 litres while hiding a full-size spare steel wheel underneath the board.
On the move, the Quest is standard Corolla fare with progress, being steady and undramatic despite the all-new engine underneath the bonnet. Now displacing 1.8-litres, the power unit produces 103kW/173Nm and also sees the five-speed box replaced by a six-speed manual which, while slick and with a light clutch, exhibited an odd tendency to impersonate a throttle blipping function by upping the revs before each change.
While no firecracker, the engine pulls well and thanks to its free-revving nature, and returned a best consumption of 7.2 L/100 km throughout the seven-days in mixed driving conditions, 0.2 L/100 km down on Toyota’s claim. Sweetening the deal further, the ride on the 16-inch alloys is soft but still comfortable with good levels of damping, while the steering provides suitable feedback in addition to being light.
The virtues of rebadging an existing product has its merits if done correctly, which the newest iteration of the Toyota Corolla Quest has pulled off rather well. Still as capable as before and offering C-segment levels of spec and pull at a upper B-segment price, it makes for a well devised package that at a price of R307 400, makes it hard to top.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.