The little crown that offers class lesson

There is nothing to suggest the Corolla will not do pretty much anything asked of it, writes Declan Colley

You want bombproof? I’ll give you bombproof. You want bombproof with a bit of class? Well, I can give you bombproof with a bit of class too.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the, er, Toyota Corolla.

Sure, the Corolla might not be a watchword in desirability, but down the years Toyota’s ‘little crown’ (Latin translation for Corolla, believe it or not) has, over the course of 11 generations of the car, sold 40m units worldwide and is — by a very long way — the world’s best-selling car.

Ok so the use of the word ‘bombproof’ might be something of a misnomer given that anything mechanical is bound at some point to grind to a halt for any one of a number of reasons, but in the automotive world the Corolla is as close to indestructible as it gets. Apart, naturally, from the Toyota Hilux.

Of course, the Corolla had humble origins back in 1966, an unsophisticated, cheap, and mechanically very simple automobile. It sold only in its home market, but as Toyota saw its popularity soar, it also saw huge potential for international growth — and it was right.

The car may have wheedled its way into the Irish public consciousness when Toyota sold it as standard with stuff such as a radio — and a heater.

In the modern context, this might not seem like a big hill of beans, but back in the day the addition of such things was a major selling point. Small things like that established the car and made it an Irish favourite — a love affair which continues to this day.

A major part of its armoury is that it rarely, if ever, lets people down; that perceived reliability is one of the primary things in people’s minds when it comes to buying one.

Sure, people know it might not be the most distinctive, sassy, or clever designs at any given time, but what the hell — it works. And it has always been value for money.

Of course, there will be the occasional horror story, but nothing like on the scale of which other manufacturers are often guilty.

Thus, the legend of Corolla has been built on the rock solid foundations of reliability. And, frankly, there is no sign of that changing.

Getting reacquainted with the Corolla is not something to get terribly excited about, but once you’re behind the wheel and getting some miles on the clock, you quickly appreciate why this car is the phenomenon it is.

It might not do any one thing exceptionally well, but it does do everything to a very high level of acceptability.

I put quite a few miles on the Corolla I tested — which came in the top-level Sol specification — with a deal of ordinary driving mixed with some motorway work. I found the experience to be nothing less than pleasant — not more, not less. Very pleasant indeed, in fact.

Sure the 90 bhp D-4D engine is nothing to write home about, what with a 0-100kph time of 12.5 seconds and a 180kph top speed, but it goes about its business in undramatic style yet never seems to run out of capability.

At least it took everything I threw at it with an almost contemptuous air. The claimed consumption figure of 3.9 l/100km (72 mpg) does not reflect reality — or the reality of having me behind the wheel — but even hard drivers should expect to see consistent figures above the 55 mpg (5 l/100km).

The emissions level of just 102g/km for an annual tax bill of just €190 is also appealing and, in a curious sort of way — at least as far as Toyota is concerned — sort of takes the piss out of any ideas you may harbour about getting involved with hybrid technology.

On the road there is nothing to tell you that the Corolla is an ace handling machine or that it will corner like the devil himself, but then again there is nothing to suggest it will not do pretty much anything asked of it, all the while delivering a comfortable ride on all but the worst surfaces.

Sure the steering is a little dull and does not deliver much by way of driver feedback, but it does the job well and without any hint of fallibility.

Interior space is decent enough and boot space is also good, so practicality is well served. I was also glad to notice that Toyota Ireland has eschewed the latter-day decision by so many of its rivals to equip their cars only with a tyre re-inflation kit rather than any form of spare wheel.

There is only a space saver spare on offer, but that is a whole lot better than those other worse-than-useless self-repair jobs.

One thing that really made me sit up, though, was the level of kit in this thing. Standard spec. on the Sol version includes 17” alloys, cruise control, rear camera, climate control, heated front seats, an excellent 7” multimedia screen, auto lights, and (for the starstruck amongst you) rear privacy glass.

The Toyota ‘Safety Sense’ package is, like most of these things, largely a waste of time, unless you are in a permanent state of unconsciousness. If you really need a pre-crash warning system or a lane-changing warning (very annoying in this case, but at least it can be switched off), then in my view you should not be getting behind the wheel in the first place.

A legend of classlessness and ordinariness then, the Corolla is pretty much all things to all men and women, and while it is spectacularly unspectacular you cannot forget that that, after all, is its raison d’être.

And that is also why Toyota has sold over 40m of them.

Colley’s Verdict


The Cost: From €21,995 - €26,750 as tested.

The Engine: A very neat little turbodiesel. Unspectacular but very worthy.

The Specification: Nearly startling in Sol trim.

The Overall Verdict: Bombproof.


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