This Corolla can be considered a more European car than any of its forebears. It’s available in hatchback, saloon and Touring Sports estate bodystyles and all three versions have a master suspension calibration that has been tuned on European roads, although other global markets do get versions with specific tuning to suit local tastes. The Touring Sports is available in Europe only and, like the Turkish-built saloon, has a wheelbase that’s 60mm longer than the hatchback’s.
Underneath the newly athletic and eye-catching bodywork is a steel structure that – thanks to Toyota’s TNGA-C platform, with its rigidity-boosting braces and joining techniques – is 60% stiffer than that of the old Auris. It also allows a lower engine position, a lower seating position and a windscreen base that’s some 40mm closer to the road than the Auris’s was. The car’s centre of gravity has dropped by 10mm overall.
Suspension is all independent, with a new MacPherson strut design at the front that keeps the front contact patches closer to the centre of the kingpin axis for better steering feel. The anti-roll bars have been relocated at both axles and new coil springs and low-friction dampers have been adopted, contributing to a 40% overall friction reduction across both axles – which, in turn, is alleged to improve damper response and close body control.
Toyota offers three engines: a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol with 114bhp available exclusively with a manual gearbox and then petrol-electric options of 120bhp and 1.8 litres and 178bhp and 2.0 litres. The more powerful hybrid gets a bigger, higher-voltage nickel-metal-hydride drive battery than the 1.8 version and an electric motor worth a peak 107bhp rather than 71bhp and with 20% more torque. The 2.0-litre hybrid uses a lightly modified version of the same epicyclic transaxle power splitter that Toyota hybrids have used for generations and that drives the front axle only; but it has a paddle-shift ‘manual’ operating mode that the 1.8 does without, will permit electric-only running up to a higher maximum speed (70mph), and is tuned for more linear throttle response than the Toyota hybrid norm.
If you want the Corolla with the most dynamic driving experience of the current crop, Toyota advises, pick the 2.0 Hybrid hatch, which is tuned for even greater body control and agility than the wagon we elected to test – and has the aforementioned shorter wheelbase. But even if you stick with the Touring Sports and performance-tuned hybrid power, you won’t be getting a discouragingly heavy car: our test car weighed 1537kg on Millbrook’s scales, with a weight distribution of 57/43 front to rear.