Toyota has begun production of its all-new Corolla hatchback and estate range at the firm's UK manufacturing facility in Derbyshire.
An official ceremony attended by global Toyota figures marked the first models rolling out of the Burnaston plant. The production of the Corolla, which remains the world's best-selling car globally, will see European spec models arrive next month.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said the decision to produce the Corolla in the UK was "testament to our proud manufacturing heritage, the highly skilled workforce and leading innovation that sets our world-beating automotive industry apart".
Entry-level Icon models will arrive with 16in alloy wheels, an 8in infotainment system with reversing camera, heated front seats and automatic LED headlights, while more advanced Icon Tech models get a 7in digital instrument cluster, built-in navigation and parking sensors.
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The new 2.0-litre hybrid engine is only available on step-up Design models and above. They gain 17in alloys, electric heated door mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and LED fog lights, with prices starting from £23,375 for the 1.2-litre manual.
Top-spec Excel models can be equipped with either the 1.8 or 2.0-litre hybrid, with prices beginning at £27,345. Equipment includes 18in alloys, sports seats, keyless entry and part-leather upholstery.
The switch to the Corolla name marks the end of the Auris worldwide, and marks a return of the Corolla name to the UK market after an absence of 13 years. It also marks the car's switch to the brand's Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. A Corolla saloon, built alongside the C-HR in Turkey, won't come to the UK.
The Corolla was revealed at the Geneva motor show with Auris badging, suggesting that Toyota made the decision about the car's name after its Geneva reveal. It will be available with a choice of petrol hybrid engines, but no diesel option.
The only conventional option is a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol motor with 114bhp. Two hybrid variants will be offered: the 121bhp 1.8-litre motor currently used in the C-HR and Prius, plus a new 2.0-litre version with 178bhp. The same powertrains will be offered across all three bodystyles of the new Corolla range.
Speaking at the reveal of the latest version of the small car, Toyota’s European boss, Johan van Zyl, said that the decision to axe a diesel variant was due to customer demand, noting that 41% of Toyota’s European sales in 2017 were hybrid models.
Van Zyl said: “In Europe, Auris is the model which moved [hybrid] technology from niche to mainstream. It’s been a breakthrough car for Toyota, because most have been bought by people new to the model or the technology.”
Speaking about the decision to remove diesel engines from its passenger cars in Europe, van Zyl added: “Customer demand is a clear sign that our petrol-electric hybrids are a strong and popular alternative.”
The new Corolla is built on the TNGA platform. Van Zyl said: “TNGA gives the car rigidity and a low centre of gravity. These are the qualities you need for outstanding comfort, handling and driving pleasure.” Styling, particularly at the rear, takes clear direction from the 2009 Lexus LF-Ch concept, which previewed the CT hatchback.
The Corolla is 4370mm long, 1790mm wide and 1435mm high, with a wheelbase of 2640mm. That makes it 40mm longer and 30mm wider than the Auris, although it is 25mm lower.
The redesigned front end features a grille that Toyota says is shaped like a catamaran hull, and also sports new LED headlights and daytime running lights. At the back, the rear windscreen is increased in rake, while a roof spoiler is standard on all trim levels.
Toyota’s Burnaston factory benefitted from £240 million in investment last year in order to prepare the plant for the transition to the TNGA platform.