Dashboard, infotainment, sat-nav and passenger space

The new Corolla’s cabin is one of dark plastics contrasted with satin chrome and gloss black decorative trim. Just like in so many modern hatches, it makes for a smart, classy ambience that feels very much of our technology-preoccupied digital age, but it’s also quite monotone and clinical and would benefit from a bit more variety of colour and texture.

However, there’s no shortage of quietly expensive and substantial feel about the car’s mouldings, grained finishes and switchgear; and there’s no doubt you’re sitting in a cockpit with an understated but pervasive construction of perceived quality.

Climate control isn’t integrated into the touchscreen set-up, which we like. Temperature display is at least readable, although hardly very contemporary looking.

The instrumentation blends analogue and digital dials, displaying engine speed and fuel level at a usefully readable scale – even if the Toyota hybrid driving experience typically makes engaging with the former somewhat pointless.

The Toyota Corolla’s infotainment offering is pretty simple. All versions get an 8.0in Touch 2 central display, and so long as you buy the car in one of the three upper trim levels, the system is upgraded to Touch 2 with Go, which has factory navigation and voice control as well.

It’s far from the biggest or most visually appealing system on the market, with some pretty average-looking menu screens, navigation mapping that’s light on detail and could be easier to programme, and a bit of latency to deal with between any fingertip input and response. A couple of rows of physical menu shortcut keys on either side of the display do at least help you to skip straight to the screen you need, though, and proper volume and tuning knobs help usability, too.

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The audio system has a DAB tuner, aux-in and USB ports, Bluetooth streaming and six speakers as standard. However, it’s a major demerit that it does not currently support smartphone mirroring. An eight-speaker premium audio set-up is optional on top-line 2.0 Hybrid Excel models, but our test car didn’t have it.

The driving position balances your preference to sit low against your need to maintain good all-round visibility – and there’s as much room here as in almost any car in the European family hatchback class.

Earlier this year, we road tested the new Ford Focus hatch and declared it our new segment favourite; but the Corolla Touring Sports beats the Ford on every dimension of interior passenger space that we measure. So it should, you might think, since it’s an extended-wheelbase estate derivative, but if you were judging on the basis of the decidedly pokey old Auris, you wouldn’t have dared take that as a given.

The boot offers a flat loading area with no lip to negotiate and a cargo bay that’s wider and deeper than that of the current Vauxhall Astra ST that we tested in 2016. It still isn’t quite class leading for outright practicality, but it’s certainly as roomy as most people are likely to require.

The back seats are split 40/60 as you look at them from the boot opening – a configuration more likely to please owners in lefthand-drive markets than in the UK because of the greater through-loading flexibility it grants them – and this may take the sheen off the car’s versatility showing for some. It doesn’t prevent the Corolla’s practical, comfortable and pleasant interior from scoring plenty of credit generally, though.