With over 40 million sold since 1966, Toyota’s iconic hatch holds the title of best selling car of all time. Since landing on our shores last year, the MY14 Corolla has been flying out of dealerships – topping the small car segment in sales for six months this year.
Older Corolla’s tended to have a bit of a plain image, especially as hot hatches started to launch in large volumes – but as one of the world’s largest automakers, Toyota has fought back to produce sportier models while still maintaining their legendary reliability and award-winning service.
For example, my regular car is a 2004 Corolla Ascent – and while it has been the most reliable car I’ve ever owned, it’s never going to stir passion and desire in anyone’s heart. But the Corolla has come a long way in the decade since my car was built.
I jumped in the Corolla Ascent Sport, the sleek brother of the base model Ascent, to test out what makes this sports hatch the king of the road (and the sales charts.)
My test car arrived painted in the metallic burnt orange, ‘Inferno’, which is an exclusive metallic paint for the Ascent Sport Hatch and its Levin-badged brethren. It’s definitely striking; I can say you’ll never lose it in the shopping centre car park.
Thanks to Toyota’s decision to head towards a more ‘emotional’ design language, the 2014 Corolla’s sweeping windshield and edgier lines makes sure you make a statement rather than fading into traffic.
Stepping inside, Toyota has ramped up its game to deliver a premium interior in a sub-$30,000 hatch. The 6.1” touch screen anchors the dash, and houses all the audio and phone controls – as well as the reversing camera, which makes getting out of parks a dream.The driver’s seat is well supported and driving position is easy to adjust for all heights, while the rear seat is wide and high, so passengers feel involved in the drive rather than sagging into the back.
The 1.8-litre engine has been tuned for the 2014 Corolla range to squeeze fuel-efficient performance from the petrol inline four. But eco-friendly and performance aren’t separate in this sports hatch. Stamp the accelerator and the Corolla is willing to play along – there’s no hesitation when overtaking or getting up to the speed limit from a standstill.
If you’re anything like me, you’re always five minutes late and ten dollars short. And while it can’t fix your money problems, the Corolla is certainly a willing cruiser.
During my test drive, for example, I had to make a trek from the outer suburbs through inner-city traffic and then navigate a crowded parking garage to a meeting. Thanks to the willing engine, put into Sports mode, the hardest part of my drive was trying to find a park.
Fuel economy is good, my lead-footed, stop-start test-drive through city traffic meant an 7.9L/100km return – I’m sure a lighter touch on a highway would get closer to the official 6.6L/100km figures claimed by Toyota. The ECO mode helps to keep track of your fuel economy, the further left the digital bar in the speedo goes, the more economically you’re driving.
The Corolla was built for the daily drive. The interior is a pleasant place to spend in traffic, in particular, the six-speaker audio system can’t be scoffed at, everything from Kanye to Miley to Dolly came out loud, clear and embarrassing when spotted at the traffic lights.
Handy compartments in the front help hold the essentials: phone, wallet, sunglasses and a deep, illuminated glove box will swallow the more important stuff you need to carry.
There’s also lot of room in a MY14 Ascent Sport. I managed to fit three friends, a toddler, a child seat, pram, nappy bag and a sports bag into the car for a short drive with no complaints from anyone about space. This isn’t my every day drive, but I could see this as the perfect car in the garage of a busy, young family.
Safety is taken care of with seven SRS airbags, stability control and traction control; while smart touches include the reversing camera built-in to the 6.1” LCD touch screen, Bluetooth hands-free and steering wheel controls to keep you focused on the drive.
The Ascent Sport is precision engineered to turn your commute into an engaging drive; the lively engine, combined with precise handling and sporty styling add up to a refined package that’s easy to live with, but can deliver a spirited driving experience when called upon.
The Corolla range starts at $19,990 (RRP) for the base model manual Ascent, topping out at $30,740 (RRP) for the flagship 7-speed CVT Corolla Levin ZR. The Corolla Ascent Sport from this review will set you back around $23,990 (RRP) with the metallic paint and 7-speed Multi-Drive CVT.
Alongside a new Corolla, Toyota Service Advantage capped price servicing ensures there’s no bill shock when it comes time for regular servicing. Your first six standard scheduled services are capped at $130 for the first 3 years or 60,000km and with the support of one of the largest dealership networks in Australia, quality service is guaranteed.
The MY14 Corolla Ascent Sport is part of a storied history for Toyota – but rather than rest on its laurels, the Corolla has broke the mold to create a reliable hatch that’s actually fun to drive and, for a product that’s nearly fifty years old, the Corolla feels fresher than ever.
On the road, the Ascent Sport holds its own – a responsive 1.8-litre engine combined with smooth-shifting transmission creates a dynamic drive that will brighten the mood on the daily commute. Come service time, Toyota’s Service Advantage takes care of your car and your wallet.