Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport 2013: Road Test –

14 Feb 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »
Toyota Ascent hatchback

Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport 2013: Road Test

Toyota shrugs off the ‘white goods’ image and delivers an attractive, fun-to-drive small car

Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport

Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory delivery charges): $22,990

Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): Nil

Crash rating: Five-star

Fuel: 91 RON ULP

Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 6.6

CO2 emissions (g/km): 152

Also consider: Mazda3 (from $20,330), Ford Focus (from $20,290), Hyundai i30 (from $20,990), Holden Cruze (from $21,490), Kia Cerato (from $19,640)

Toyota is on a roll. Since the launch of its 86 sports car in 2012, there seems to be a new spark of originality and optimism within the company, a subtle shift in attitude. And that shift manifests itself clearly in the latest Corolla.

Almost 40 million Corollas have found owners in the model’s 46-year history. But middle age doesn’t seem to be slowing the car down – in fact, it now seems to have a new lease on life.

With a sporty new design that incorporates sleek headlights, an angular and assertive front end, clean flanks and a sharply style rear end, Toyota has created the most daring Corolla yet.

It looks good; it sits confidently on the road; and fortunately the changes to the new Toyota Corolla are more than skin deep. With a lower roofline and a few other tweaks to the new design, the fresh-faced Corolla has a slightly lower centre of gravity, which improves the car’s stability and helps make the car more engaging to drive.

The latest Corolla is a more lively vehicle to drive than its predecessor and though it’s not as agile as class leaders like the Ford Focus or Golf, the improvements are most welcome.

Handling has been sharpened slightly but there’s generally more feel this time around too – for example, the steering is better weighted. That doesn’t mean Toyota has turned Corlla into a boyracer — the Corolla maintains good ride quality and keep occupants isolated from all but the nastiest of pot holes and dips in the road.

It’s great to see that Toyota has paid attention to the handling and design of its best-selling car, though the same can’t be said of its propulsion systems. Motive force for the Corolla comes from a 1.8-litre four-cylinder twin-camshaft unit that based on the previous car’s 2ZR-FE engine with a few tweaks to make it run a more efficiently and smoothly.

Power and torque output is 103kW/173Nm. This is par for the course in this genre but generally uninspiring. Paired with the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), the injected DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine accelerates the car from from 0-100km/h in 10 seconds flat — not particularly zippy. That said, the initial acceleration to 60km/h felt rapid, and was more than fast enough to keep ahead of most traffic.

The best thing about the new powertrain is the gearbox however, which signals a turning point for the oft-maligned CVT.

CVTs traditionally cause a droning, monotonous engine noise, but Toyota’s new gearbox is one of the best CVTs yet. In many regards it presents more like a conventional automatic. And engine and gearbox noise suppression is better than usual in this this class of car, which reduces the whining/droning. It has to be said that this Corolla and the new Nissan Pulsar are leading the way for CVT refinement, and it bodes well for the advancement of the technology.

Toyota Ascent hatchback

The CVT auto gearbox also contributes to the cars ‘low-ish’ fuel economy rating of 6.6L/100km — especially compared to the six-speed manual’s 7.1L/100km. The whole plot works surprisingly well in stop-start urban traffic thanks to its progressive power delivery.

While the claimed figure was not achieved by yours truly, I did managed a respectable 8.1L/100km over a week test — mainly urban arterial and city CBD driving.

The small amount of freeway cruising I undertook revealed a planted, predictable cruiser, made all the more amenable thanks to the cruise control.

Spending a week behind the wheel of the new Corolla also revealed a larger, more commodious interior. While the 55mm lower roofline meant occupants have to bob their heads to get into the car, there’s still plenty of room inside — thanks to much lower seats.

Rear seat leg room and overall interior width have also been improved and the adjustment for the driver’s seat is good, matched with a tilt/reach adjustable wheel.

Boot space is not great at 280 litres but the hatchback tailgate is slightly wider now so it’s easy to rapidly cram things in. The split-folding rear seats liberate an extra 840 litres of cargo space (1120 litres in total) which is helpful. Incidental storage is slightly below par, with not many places to store wallets or phones beyond the de rigueur cup/bottle holders, centre armrest bin and glovebox.

The view from the driver’s seat is pleasant one, with a touch of sportiness thanks to red pin stripes around the three instrument dials. The interior is presentable but doesn’t have the contemporary design flourishes or progressive ornamentation seen in cars like the Hyundai i30.

Comfort levels felt on par with the outgoing Corolla. The cloth seats in this Ascent Sport model looked and felt great, with contrasting stitching and form fitting cushions. Safety levels are also very good with seven airbags and stability control as standard, resulting in a five-star ANCAP rating.

Toyota’s reputation for reliability and safety has attracted many drivers to the brand in the past but the flashy new Corolla has potential to broaden its appeal. The car is an improvement on its predecessor in many ways and is clearly targeting some of its European rivals.

Can it match them? Not quite. But at least it is attempting to shift away from the ‘white goods’ image and offering something that’s fun to drive.

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Published. Friday, 8 February 2013

Toyota Ascent hatchback
Toyota Ascent hatchback
Toyota Ascent hatchback

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