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CAPE TOWN – With the announcement of a lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19, and the CAR team members each having to work from home, I thought it'd be as good a time as any to relocate to my new apartment and use the three weeks to settle in. With each member allocated a car, I was happy when I was handed the key fob to the box fresh, top-spec Toyota Corolla Sedan (look out for a road test in an upcoming issue of CAR), which arrived at the office a day before lockdown would commence. This gave me a short opportunity to spend some time driving it before it would be relegated to the garage ... and brief trips to the nearby shop.

Packed to the brim, I set out towards Strand, taking a detour through the Cape Winelands. Although we have yet to measure the Corolla Sedan’s claimed 470-litre claimed boot capacity, it was able to swallow an ample amount of luggage, including a rather large guitar amplifier (apologies to the neighbours for the latter). Repositioned to attract new buyers who are “image- and status-conscious," the 12th-generation model certainly feels more upmarket than the version it replaces.

Perceived interior build quality is solid. The cabin is upholstered in "Rezatec", a synthetic leather-like fabric (the tiller gets the full leather treatment). Replete with blue contrast stitching, the interior is well endowed with myriad convenience items. The easy-to-reach touchscreen infotainment system features screen-mirroring functionality, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. Speed is now displayed digitally, while the rev-counter and fuel indicator remain analogue. Adaptive cruise control is operated via the multifunction steering wheel. The XR trim level further includes bi-LED headlamps, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and brake assist. Electrically folding side mirrors and automatic central locking when setting off are, however, interestingly absent.

Sitting at the top of the three-strong Corolla Sedan line-up, this 2,0-litre derivative features a CVT, whereas the similarly specced (but priced at R12 900 less) mid-tier variant’s 2,0-litre four-pot, also producing 125 kW and 200 N.m (the latter from 4 400 to 4 800 r/min) is mated to a six-speed manual ’box. Emitting a slight buzz under acceleration, and increasingly so when overtaking, the four-cylinder mill settles down at cruising speed. A fair amount of wind noise round the A-pillars becomes apparent while driving at the national limit, though.

Most should be able to find a comfortable driving position, thanks to the rake-and-reach-adjustable steering wheel and the pilot's seat being electrically adjustable, including for height. The new Corolla rides 20 mm closer to the ground than before. Fitted with 18-inch alloys, the ride is pliant. The steering is light, making it a cinch to manoeuvre the Toyota at low speeds. The reverse-view camera, however, does without the assistance of park-distance sensors.

In adherence to the angular design cues of its hatchback stablemate, the Corolla Sedan (seen here in Crimson metallic, one of eight exterior colours) has a similarly styled front facia and headlamps. The extended bodywork and rear lamps are more rounded, though. 

Toyota has trimmed the Corolla Sedan range from 11 variants to three (Toyota South Africa Motors has confirmed a hybrid derivative is on the cards for local introduction later in 2020), repositioning it as the “tech-laden” family car alongside its fellow Corolla-badged siblings, the sportier-looking hatch and the value-based Corolla Quest. Following eleven generations of the Corolla nameplate, the new saloon aims to set the bar even higher, with myriad convenience and safety features as standard, plus a dashing exterior design adding frills to the sedan’s solid build quality, comfortable ride and reliability.

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