What is it?
These days there are reasons to be cheerful if you want a family hatchback without paying a ‘made in Germany’ premium. I don’t want to spoil the surprise too much, but take a look at next week’s road test and you’ll learn Ford’s latest Focus has rediscovered the dynamic sparkle that made the original so special.
Kia’s Ceed, built on a new platform and now with a fully independent rear axle, can’t match that level of dynamism but handles with a precision and honesty that will jolt anybody whose perception of the brand is more than a couple of years out of date. There is then the pebble-like form of Mazda’s new 3, which promises to drive almost as lithely as it looks.
Toyota would have you add the new Corolla to that list. Confused? Don’t be. That name hasn’t been seen in this country for more than 10 years, but the sharp-edged hatchback before you (along with its estate and saloon derivatives) is essentially a direct replacement for Toyota’s ultra-pragmatic but slow-selling Auris. And it is a model of monumental significance for the brand – a revival of the world’s top-selling nameplate, at least in Europe, where the competition is fiercer and the standards higher than anywhere else in the world.
The rebrand reflects the fact that much has now changed, not least the underpinnings. Toyota’s New Global Architecture platform sits the powertrain 10mm lower for a commensurate drop in the car’s centre of gravity and improved handling. The structure of this 12th-generation Corolla (born in 1966, the saloon original predates the Golf by some eight years) is now 60% stiffer than the old one, and independent rear suspension is now standard. The geometry of the MacPherson struts at the front axle has also been realigned to deliver more communicative steering, all of which sounds promising.