WHO’D have thought awarding a Best Buy accolade to a range that, statistically speaking, is the world’s top-selling passenger vehicle and a mainstay of the South African market would court so much controversy.

The newly introduced Corolla was bested in a three-way comparative test in this issue and the fact that just one member of the editorial team had driven any models other than the one we tested would usually scupper a newcomer’s chances. However, with an extensive range of models from introduction, including three petrol engines (1,3, 1,6 and 1,8), a 1,4-litre turbodiesel and two automatic models, the Corolla offers buyers the most options from the budget to the luxury ends of the market.

Although standard specifications are fair rather than generous on most models, the entry-level 1,3 has driver, front passenger and side airbags, ABS with EBD and BA, remote central locking, all-electric windows and a USB-compatible audio system. Supported by an extensive dealer network, the Corolla name has a sterling reputation for reliability and ownership satisfaction.

Runners Up:

Kia Cerato
The Cerato has come of age. What little it lacks in driving refinement is more than compensated by comfort and spec. Its chances at an overall win were scuppered by the limited range, though.

Hyundai Elantra
With just three petrol models in its line-up and a facelift in the offing, last year’s winner has been relegated but not disgraced. It’s a refined contender, but can’t quite match its Korean cousin for affordability.

ALSO CONSIDER

The Audi A3 Sedan might not match the Mercedes-Benz CLA’s glamour, but it’s a better product. For those with more moderate budgets, the Ford Focus offers good spec and dynamic driving, while the revised Renault Fluence looks classier and is good value for money. The entry-point to the VW Jetta is just short of R250 000, but its models are elegant and efficient. Lastly, don’t forget the underrated Opel Astra.

Check out all the winners from our Top 12 Best Buys for 2014 here (click).