There is a theory that by being part of a large group or mass makes one less likely to fall foul of a mishap or accident and this hypothesis has been extended to road traffic too. According to a 1949 report, per capita serious injuries were lower in countries with higher rates of motor vehicle ownership and this was in many ways endorsed in 2003, with a report that a motorist was less likely to collide with a pedestrian or cyclist when there are multiples – essentially saying, that there’s safety in numbers. All this theory may very well be true, but Toyota (a vehicle brand that is no stranger to large numbers), flew us to a very windy Palmerston North, to show us their new Corolla hatchback and all the safety tech that came with it.
It was 1966 when the first Toyota Corolla (aka ‘crown of a flower’) was first launched and it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty popular mode ever since. In fact, of Toyota’s 230 million vehicles produced over its 80+ years existence, 44 million of them have been Corollas!
Safely ensconced in their NZ head office, Toyota promised us a big drive ahead and a chance to really get to know the new 12th Generation Corolla, but not before telling us about their largest investment in New Zealand so far (the colossal expansion of their parts warehouse, an update of the ‘Drive Happy’ program, the future of the Automotive industry and of course the details surrounding the new Corolla hatchback. With our coffee’s refilled, we settled in to take notes.
In truth, the information was both informative and enlightening but all you need to know right now is that the investment is worthwhile, things are on track with the program and we are still headed towards some form of vehicle automation or worse, shared rides.
Now let’s talk about the new Corolla. To begin the introduction, Toyota NZ were keen to remind us of two ‘NZ relevant’ milestones for the nameplate. Firstly the 5th Generation of ‘83. This is the vehicle that had suspension inputs from no other than racing driver Chris Amon (invited to assist following his damming of the previous models handling). This was followed by the 8th Generation of 1995, a simple and convenient compact that was alas, the end of an era for local manufacture – a moment’s silence please.
The new Corolla hatch sits on their TNGA platform and is lower, wider and slightly longer than before. It boasts dynamic handling and cool new additions to its safety sense. There are 5 variants (GX, SX and ZR with petrol or hybrid powertrains) and Toyota has focused their attention on 3 key areas – Styling, Performance and Technology (what follows is model dependent).
It has a more modern look that draws upon but expands upon previous models. Sporting a longer bonnet with a more rounded rear, plenty of lower garnish, integrated LED lights, 16 or 18-inch alloys and an upper rear spoiler.
The interior includes soft-touch materials, contrast stitching and everything you need is within easy reach (even for someone of my limited height stature). The firm yet comfortable sports seats have thick side bolsters to keep you in place and come with leather and suede. Infotainment is clearly presented and there is a 4.2” or a 7” digital instrument display that goes all red when ‘Sport mode’ is engaged.
This neatly segways us to vehicle performance. The 2L ‘dynamic force’ petrol engine offers 125kW and 200Nm for the those that care (rest assured it’s nippy) and possibly more importantly, 139g/100k and 6L/100k for those planet and wallet savings. This is married to a direct shift CVT that has a mechanical gear to reduce/eliminate that off the line sluggishness.
There is also a 1.8L hybrid that offers up 90kW to play with (a little less than before) but with 91 octane it delivers 4.2L/100k we’re sure you’ll be impressed with.
The whole car has a 10mm lower centre of gravity and is 60% more rigid (both improvements become noticeable in corners) and Technology has been thoroughly increased.
Along with the standard Safety Sense (high beam auto dipping, lane departure, pre-crash safety etc), the Corolla has dynamic radar cruise control, day and night pedestrian awareness, road sign registration, lane tracing assist, steering assist and lane centring. This clever kit doesn’t even need lane markings to know where it is on the road, it can tell the difference between tarmac and the grass verge (meaning you won’t venture there). It also has ‘Indicator linked’ adaptive cruise control (that I need to spend more time with) meaning that when adaptive cruise control is engaged, you can speed up to overtake just by indicating – a feature that drivers of one particular car marque will undoubtedly struggle with.
As promised, we spent nigh-on a whole working day behind the wheel, exploring the countryside and the Corolla hatch (probably in the opposite order). We swapped between the range and the powertrains and although the hybrid was good, I did prefer the new 2L. It’s a confident small vehicle that will happily play along with your enthusiastic driving habits.
Bearing in mind the volume of sales the Corolla has produced in the past, I can only assume that this all-new 12th Generation will be welcomed with open arms too and when you throw in all the new safety measures this hatchback has on offer, it really underlines the strong case that there’s Safety in Numbers.