Currently reading: Nearly new buying guide: Toyota Corolla
This family car is as satisfying to drive as it is practical to own - and used ones are sensible money

To say the Toyota Corolla is still going strong would be something of an understatement. Almost six decades after its initial launch, the Toyota is now in its 12th generation and the world’s best-seller. 

A great choice for those craving a stylish but economical all-rounder, today’s Corolla is available in three bodystyles: a traditional hatchback, an estate (the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports) and, no longer available as a new car, a saloon.

A 118bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine was offered with a sixspeed manual gearbox at launch in 2019, along with two CVT hybrid powertrains: a revised version of the dependable 1.8-litre from the Toyota Prius (offering 120bhp and up to 65.9mpg) and a 2.0-litre producing 178bhp for 0-62mph in 7.9sec and 60mpg.

Around 90% of Corollas sold were hybrids, prompting Toyota to remove the conventional petrol option after only two years. Evidently, zero-emissions travel at low speeds is an attractive proposition – particularly for those residing in urban areas. Keen drivers weren’t forgotten, though, thanks to the punchy 2.0-litre model.

On top of its class-leading economy, the Corolla serves up excellent levels of refinement, in part due to its nicely tuned chassis.

Intuitive handling, reassuring stability and precise body control are the result. Each variant benefits from direct and well-weighted steering, and its soft and comfortable ride has also won praise from our testers.

All three bodystyles share the same spec and equipment levels. The range opens with Icon trim, which gets you 16in wheels, adaptive cruise control, automatic LED headlights, heated front seats, a rear-view camera and an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system.

Icon Tech adds sat-nav, voice control, a 7.0in digital instrument display and parking sensors. Move up to Design for 17in wheels, rain-sensing wipers, tinted rear windows and poweradjustable door mirrors; or to Excel for bi-LED headlights, 18in wheels, keyless entry, sports seats and part-leather upholstery.

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An appealing GR Sport trim was added in 2020. This brings bespoke, aggressive styling with changes to the front grille and foglights, 18in wheels and a silver insert for the lower rear bumper. Front sports seats, a head-up display and additional active safety systems are also present. Sadly, though, the ‘Sport’ in its name doesn’t mean any extra power or agility.

Toyota’s track record for reliability extends to the Corolla. The model achieved an excellent 97.6% What Car? reliability score for hybrids up to five years old, finishing ahead of the BMW 3 Series, Kia Niro and Mitsubishi Outlander. Toyota itself ranked joint fifth out 30 brands.

And in the unlikely event of something going wrong, you should be protected by Toyota’s Relax scheme, which offers cover for up to 10 years (if you continue to get the car serviced by a franchised dealer after the usual three-year warranty ends). In addition, hybrids get a separate 100,000-mile battery warranty.

To top it all off, the Corolla scored a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. All this for a starting price of just £14,500 for the 1.2, £18,000 for the 1.8 and £19,000 for the 2.0.

Buyer beware

The Corolla has had one recall since its launch, because the emergency calling system might not have been activated. A total of 3484 cars were affected and repairs involve a simple inspection by a Toyota dealer to activate the system. Check that this work has been done on any potential purchases.

Some engines are limited to certain specification levels. The cheapest Icon and Icon Tech pairing can have the 1.2-litre petrol engine or the 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain, while the 2.0-litre hybrid is available with Design spec and above. Excel cars are hybrid only.

Need to know

Boot size depends on both the engine and the bodystyle. Choosing the 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain means reduced practicality to accommodate the larger battery. Hatchbacks offer 361 litres, reduced to 313 litres in 2.0-litre Corollas. Touring Sports estates are unsurprisingly the most spacious, with 598 litres or 581 litres for the 2.0-litre. Either way, the Ford Focus Estate’s boot is bigger, at 608 litres. The Corolla Saloon’s, meanwhile, measures 470 litres – far bigger than the Audi A3 Saloon’s 425-litre offering but you can’t fold the rear seats down for additional space.

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The estate gained a special Toyota Corolla Trek spec in 2020. This gets you 17in wheels, suspension raised by 20mm, wheel-arch cladding, extra underbody protection, a kick-activated tailgate and two-tone upholstery.

Our picks

Top spec - Icon Tech: We would climb to the second rung of the trim ladder to add sat-nav, parking sensors and the digital driver’s display to entry-level Icon’s already impressive standard equipment list. 

Sweet spot - 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid: The lesser of the two hybrid powertrains is powerful enough and will be your most economical choice. They are more to choose from on the used market, too.

Wild card - 2.0 VVT-i hybrid: The range-topper is potent and satisfying to drive. It’s pretty athletic, propelling you to 62mph in less than 8.0sec, while at the same time pleasingly frugal.

Ones we found

2019 Corolla 1.2 VVT-i Icon Tech, 12,000 miles, £15,895

2020 Corolla 2.0 VVT-i Hybrid GR Sport, 7000 miles, £25,779

2021 Corolla Saloon 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Icon Tech, 1500 miles, £24,995

2021 Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Design, 5000 miles, £26,390

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