Tested: Australia’s favourite small car

Small sedans come in two flavours. Some are booted variants of a popular hatchback (such as the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza), while others are longer, roomier versions of their five-door twins. Toyota takes the latter approach with the sensible Corolla sedan.

Here is everything you need to know about the sedan version of the best selling small car in the country.

Toyota’s Corolla sedan is a no-nonsense machine. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.
Toyota’s Corolla sedan is a no-nonsense machine. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.

Value

The Corolla hatch and sedan share the same prices. Four-door versions start at about $27,000 drive-away with a manual transmission, though the automatic hybrid version tested here is a touch more than $30,000 drive-away.

The hybrid engine is a worthy upgrade for $1500 or so, shaving the car's official fuel figure from 6.0L/100km to 3.5L/100km - a number you can beat in urban driving. The downside is that you can't tow with hybrid models, though we would argue that anyone keen on towing would be unlikely to choose a small sedan in the first place.

Like most manufacturers, Toyota supports its cars with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is impressively affordable at about $900 for five years.

The Corolla’s interior is functional, if not eye-catching. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.
The Corolla’s interior is functional, if not eye-catching. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.

Comfort

While Toyota took a sporty stance with the latest Corolla hatch, the sedan is all about comfort. Riding on tiny 15-inch wheels with tall tyres, the sedan's comparatively cushy suspension impresses with plush ride refinement.

It also has more space than most alternatives - particularly in the rear - along with a spacious boot.

The Corolla's cabin isn't the most deluxe you'll find at this price, as your money goes toward the hybrid powertrain rather than Mercedes-rivalling interior details. Though it comes with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPLay and Android Auto as standard, you'll need to spend an extra $1000 or so for satellite navigation and a digital radio.

Somewhat frumpy proportions translate to a spacious cabin and generous boot.
Somewhat frumpy proportions translate to a spacious cabin and generous boot.

Safety

Fortunately, Toyota gives Corolla customers most of its safety suite at no additional cost. You get seven airbags, active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assistance in the cheapest model, but blind spot monitoring is reserved for premium variants.

As with most rivals, the Corolla Sedan has a five-star safety rating.

Toyota favours plushness over poise in the Corolla sedan.
Toyota favours plushness over poise in the Corolla sedan.

Driving

Toyota's hybrid engine is a gem - thrifty at the bowser and punchier than 90kW/163Nm totals suggest.

Though the Corolla sedan is comfortable on the road, keen drivers will get more satisfaction from the hatch. Those tall tyres result in comparatively squidgy steering responses, and soft springs translate to more roll than enthusiasts might prefer.

Then again, that's good news for people who aren't interested in carving corners.

There's nothing wrong with the Corolla Sedan experience, it's simply tuned for a different type of buyer.

Rival machines take different approaches. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.
Rival machines take different approaches. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.

Alternatives

Mazda3 sedan, from about $29,250 drive-away.

The new Mazda3 is a gem, and the sedan makes sense as a roomier, grown-up version of the athletic-looking hatchback. Green buyers should consider waiting for the mild hybrid Skyactiv-X model due in the second half of 2020.

Hyundai Elantra Sport, from about $26,240 drive-away

Hyundai's answer to the Corolla looks sharp and is more involving to drive. But you need to budget around $5500 for a safety pack to match the Corolla's driver aids. Sporty drivers can spend more to get a turbo engine and dual-clutch transmission pushing the bill to about $35,000 drive-away.

Subaru XV hybrid, from about $40,000 drive-away

Small hybrids are thin on the ground. Subaru joined the fray with a mild hybrid version of its Impreza-based XV compact crossover, which adds butch styling and a touch of off-road appeal. But it costs much more to buy and run compared to the Toyota, using nearly twice as much fuel.

 

 

Toyota hybrids are proving popular with buyers. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.
Toyota hybrids are proving popular with buyers. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.

Originally published as Tested: Australia's favourite small car



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