IF ever there was proof that motoring, for all but a select few, is simply about transport from A to B, the Corolla is it. Toyota’s compact – or not so compact any more – economy saloon carries out the duty of effortless, fuss-free point-to-point people movement with honours. For generations, hundreds of thousands of South Africans have been using the Corolla as their means of transport.
At the time of this latest model’s début we tested a 1,6 petrol version, and now we bring you a test of the first Corolla diesel. As with its smaller-engined sibling, we find the styling classy, but even the 16-inch alloys do not help alleviate the inherent conservative nature of the design. Conservative it may be, with traces of Lexus about the headlamp treatment, but it can never be accused of being offensive. And somehow you suspect that that is exactly how Corolla owners prefer it. In fact, since launch late last year, nearly 8 000 Corollas have been sold, which just goes to underline our opening comments.
In our earlier test we commented favourably on the perceived quality of the interior trim. Seems we’ve been proven slightly wrong. This test unit, with relatively few kilometres under its wheels (300 km on the odo), showed hints of either being poorly screwed together, or abused during its short life. For one, the lid of the storage container to the right of the steering wheel did not want to stay closed. Investigation revealed that the latching mechanism was broken. And the plastic cover over the digital readout on the facia was damaged so that it looked as though it had melted. Oh, and “our” car also suffered a dead battery during its stay.
The D-4D Corolla is the rangeleader, and is offered in top-spec Exclusive trim. Short of a satellite navigation system, there is very little that it does not boast as standard specification. Seven airbags, automatic climate control, and keyless entry and start are all part of the package. Even though you may not use it that often, we found the buttons on the key fob to be too small for regular sized fingers to easily operate.
Befitting a flagship, all the seats are leather clad, and interior space is impressive, although perhaps not quite class-leading. A wide rear bench and a flat floor mean that you can fit three adults into the rear.
The diesel-fuelled engine has a capacity of 2,0-litres, and is fitted with a turbocharger and intercooler. Peak outputs are 93 kW at 3 600 r/min, and 300 N.m of torque in a band between 2 000 and 2 800. To fully utilise the easygoing nature of the motor, the D-4D model is fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. Performance is typical of an oil burner – we recorded a zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 10,74 seconds, and at full chat in top gear the car managed a true top speed of 202 km/h.
With strong mid-range torque, one would expect overtaking performance to be strong, and it is, provided you use the gearbox. Despite the variable geometry turbocharger, one has to be aware of the relatively narrow power band. The power delivery is strong through the mid range, but the motor really begins to run out of puff at 4 000 r/min.
The D-4D has been created for cruising, and in this role it performs well. The leisurely nature dictated by the engine’s performance is abetted by a cosseting ride, six forward gear ratios, easy steering action, and a soft suspension set-up.
Our fuel index, a particularly important statistic, works out at a very respectable 6,84 litres/100 km. If you manage to achieve this realistic figure, expect a range of just over 800 km from a full tank.
We were again disappointed with this car when it came to our braking test. Certainly, the test is punishing, but it is the same for all vehicles tested, and the Corolla didn’t cope too well. The best time just dipped below three seconds, but the average over our 10-stop routine was 3,12 seconds, which earns it a poor rating on our scale. A low brake pedal and harsh odours were the end result of our test. Perhaps the extra mass that the diesel engine – and the extra specification – provides was partly to blame, as this model weighed-in at almost 1,5 tons as tested.
At R234 338, the Corolla is not the cheapest car in its segment – in fact, it is one of the more expensive offerings. For the price, though, it does boast a good specification level. However, failings of this test unit have left some questions in our minds. Competitors such as the VW Jetta still boast interior trim that feels and looks of a higher quality.
Add to the abovementioned the fact that the diesel doesn’t perform much better than the 1,6- litre model tested in November last year, and that diesel fuel now costs significantly more than petrol, and you have to ask if it’s worth paying an extra R50 000… We’re inclined to think not. Keyless entry, auto headlamp activation and leather seats may make your motoring life a tad easier, but they don’t help to make a better car.