Bear with me, because I appreciate that it's hard to get excited about a boot, but that, for most buyers, will be the point of this car.
Toyota has yet to homologate the Corolla (this is a prototype test, after all), but the indications are that the goal has been to play in the same ballpark as rivals, rather than eclipse them.
Rear seats up, then, the Corolla Touring Sports has 598 litres of space (the Golf has 605, the Focus 608 and the Octavia 610). Seats-down figures are shrouded in more uncertainty, but the indication is that the capacity with a space-saver spare wheel (rather than full-sized one) fitted will be 1606 litres (against the Golf on 1620, the Focus on 1650 and the Octavia on 1740). Enough, argues Toyota, is enough. And fitting a bicycle or three large suitcases in the back is enough, without needing to compromise things by adding more.
Other neat tricks include a single-pull handle to drop the rear seats and extend the luggage space, a false floor that can be dropped to increase boot capacity (or under which smaller items can be stowed out of sight) and a nifty trick whereby that same floor can be turned over so that a plastic coated surface is exposed rather than a more traditional semi-carpeted one. If you’ve ever put wet wellies or sandy shoes in the back of your car, you’ll appreciate the subtle benefits of that one.
So too the additional rear leg room is welcome for passengers. It’s not exactly commodious for adults, but it is manageable. We’d recommend steering clear of the optional panoramic sunroof, however, unless you are certain that the only rear passengers will be kids or very small adults, because it eats substantially into the available head room.
To drive, the Corolla Touring Sports mirrors the experience of hatchback, at least when mated to this 178bhp 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain (we're yet to test the more eco-focused 121bhp 1.8-litre option). As such, it's decently composed, offering a frisson of involvement without giving up too much in the way of comfort. Although 16in wheels are available, our test car was fitted with an 18in set, and that may in part explain why some road imperfections could be felt – but that's the only negative.
Our car was also fitted with Toyota’s five-part adaptive system that allows you to scroll between various driving modes, from Comfort to Sport +. While each increment makes a notable difference to the Corolla’s behaviour, it seems a largely unnecessary optional feature on a small estate car.
The powertrain is also good: better than anything that has gone before, wonderfully smooth and quiet on a cruise (to the point that some excess wind noise off the mirrors stands out and can become mildly irritating) and decently swift when required to be so - albeit with a surprising arrival of the engine note beyond 2000rpm.
A 0-62mph time of 8.1sec puts the Corolla comfortably on par with the 2.0-litre diesel-engined cars that buyers are likely to be benchmarking it against, as does the 74.3mpg economy figure. The CO2 figure of 87g/km, meanwhile, is comfortably better. The CVT gearbox works reasonably, although the steering wheel-mounted paddle changers feel a bit superfluous beyond making the driving experience slightly more involved.
The interior of the new Corolla is a triumph in almost every way, at least in this (unspecified) form: the fit and finish are worthy of Toyota’s reputation and the materials and quality largely a match for Volkswagen’s.