Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the Toyota Corolla ZR sedan.
Given the long track record of small car domination, it’s no surprise the current generation Toyota Corolla also hits the mark.
Things are a little different though, this version of the Corolla is manufactured in Thailand rather than Japan, and the impressive new Mazda3 and value packed Hyundai i30 are increasingly biting on the Toyota’s heals.
The sedan range features just the one engine through the range – a 1.8 litre petrol unit that delivers 103kW and 173Nm, transmission choices are six-speed manual or seven-speed CVT. Fuel consumption comes in at a claimed combined 7.0L/100kms (manual) and 6.6L/100kms (auto).
The sedan range is priced from $20,740, the top-of-the-line ZR is auto only and is priced from $30,990.
On the road, well its typical Corolla. Acceleration, ride, handling, brakes and steering all meet the expectations you would have for a reasonably priced small car from Toyota. It’s fast enough off the line to keep up with traffic and more than happy to cruise at 110km/h on a freeway.
I spent a good mix of time both in city and highway conditions and came away impressed by the Corolla’s versatility. In the city driving, I averaged 6.9L/100kms, after 400+kms of highway driving I got fuel use down to 6.8L/100kms.
That is both very consistent and quite impressive fuel consumption. The CVT automatic transmission is smooth enough, though at times I felt it could have acted a little more swiftly when tackling a hill.
The steering in the new Corolla sedan is well-weighted and I thought the ride was a particular highlight.
From the driver’s seat visibility is generally quite good, though fairly chunky ‘A’ pillars do hinder some forward ¾ visibility. Good-sized wing-mirrors help you keep an eye on what’s behind.
This grade of Corolla also features a chrome transmission selector surround – it looks attractive, but the shiny surface tends to reflect sun light up directly into the front seat occupants faces/eyes!
Generally the cabin is well soundproofed and the engine quiet, though on downshift at speed some engine noise in the cabin was evident. There was also fairly noticeable wind noise in the cabin at speed.
Inside the cabin the Corolla ZR comes very well-stacked. Standard features include sat-nav, reversing camera, cruise control, partial leather seats, push-button ignition, voice-recognition/Bluetooth, electric driver’s seat and auto headlights and wipers.
For some reason Toyota has also added paddle-shifters and they just seem totally out of place on what is an otherwise quite sensible offering.
Cabin fit, feel and finish is excellent and given that it’s no longer produced in Japan that is a relief.
I liked the clear and easy to read gauges, fuss-free trip computer and complication-free climate control adjustments.
Leg room front and back gets a pass-mark too – though the seats all-round were perhaps a little too firm and this is evident after a long stretch in the Corolla.
Boot space is also reasonably good and you can of course fold down the back seat for longer items.
The Corolla ZR also boasts key-in-pocket unlocking – but only via the driver’s door. This in itself is alright, but often when returning to the car you access the passenger side first, this of course negates the function.
As you can see the Corolla sedan has a fresh new look and has some nice finishing touches, including the chrome grille and the nicely sculptured door handles.
Safety is covered by a full five-star ANCAP rating.
Summing it up; the Corolla ticks all the boxes that it should. Despite Toyota trying to breathe some life into the model it remains a fairly safe and conservative offering though. The value buy seems to be in the lower-spec sedan versions, though the ZR does have just about everything you could want.
With a nice feel on the road and the reassurance of Toyota’s renowned quality and reliability, you would be mad not to check out a Corolla sedan if you’re in the market for a small car.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol producing 103kW and 173Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed CVT auto (ZR grade)
Safety: Five stars
Price: ZR Corolla from $30,990