Whatever their colleagues in powertrain were likely to achieve, Toyota’s chassis engineers were clearly never going to be the reason why this new Corolla missed its ambitions to force its way in among the more dynamically gifted cars in this class. You’ll tell that much pretty clearly having negotiated your very first proper corner in the car – and quite possibly having simply driven it off the dealer forecourt, judging by the basis of how harmoniously the component parts of its handling come together, and how intuitive and easy to drive it is as a result.

The Corolla Touring Sports has the kind of chassis that seems to create very creditable lateral grip and cornering balance, and a crispness of handling response and tidy closeness of body control, without working for it. You wouldn’t place it at the sportier end of the class’s dynamic spectrum on the basis of brawnier than average damping, firm and high-frequency springing or a notable refusal to roll – because it doesn’t have any of the above.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Roll rate and steering response rate are very skilfully matched when you turn into tighter bends

And yet it handles very impressively anyway, with steering that matches directness, weight and a bit of feel very skilfully; and a chassis that stays flatter than you imagine it might and grips and rotates underneath you in more agile fashion than you’re anticipating but also remains entirely predictable at all times and goes where it’s pointed very obediently.

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This is the kind of handling that’s so good and yet so intuitive that you might not notice it. High-speed motorway stability is excellent, too, and the car’s controls stay medium weighted even at manoeuvring speeds – something most testers said they prefer to a steering wheel whose weight increases and decreases notably through the speed ranges.

The Corolla’s chassis showed how much effort has been invested in it by making short, easy work of the hill route. The car’s handling combines plenty of grip and precision with consistently good body control and there’s an unwavering sense of linearity and predictability about its every response, making it easy to drive even when you’re hurrying it along.

There’s well-matched weight and pace about the steering, while equally finely judged suspension rates and well-balanced grip levels give you a clear sense of how hard you can lean on the outside contact patches and how much you can ask that front axle to do. In both cases, the answer’s ‘plenty’ – but it’s the natural-feeling handling and ride compromise and the clear sense of dynamic coherence about so much of what the car does when driven quickly that impress most about it.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

Your expectations of a Toyota hybrid are inevitably quite high in this department, and it’s testament to the impressive job that Toyota has done in insulating and isolating the Corolla’s cabin that the car satisfies most of them in any case.

The car’s ride is supple and fairly quiet and its resistance to wind noise is good. Despite being an estate (and therefore giving what noise does make its way into the interior more space in which to resonate than a hatchback would), the car cruised more quietly at 50mph than the Golf 1.5 TSI Evo we tested in 2017, as well as beating the Astra CDTi Biturbo estate from the year before. So it’s quiet at low speeds, when the combustion engine is shut down, but clearly not only then.

That the engine revs persistently and noticeably to maximum revs under full power will be a factor in determining its real-world refinement when you’re driving it quickly, but it takes less time to jump up to 6200rpm and resists doing so to greater depths on the accelerator pedal than is the Toyota hybrid norm. You can certainly adopt and maintain a brisk, comfortable stride without feeling like you’re torturing the car.

Equally, when you feel like driving in a more laid-back and economical fashion, the Corolla’s more powerful electric motor and bigger battery mean you get better zero-emissions drivability and range in town than you might otherwise.

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