Toyota Corolla Heritage

Toyota Corolla Heritage (Photo credit: Quickpic)The Corolla nameplate was first introduced in Japan in 1966 and is now in its tenth generation worldwide. Sales figures are, of course, hugely impressive – with over 40 million sold globally, making it the bestselling car of all time.

They have some history in South Africa too. 2011 saw Toyota celebrate their fiftieth year in the country, making them effectively part of the nation’s heritage. In light of this, they thought it appropriate to launch aptly named “Heritage” models of their three most loved, locally produced vehicles – the Corolla, Hilux and Fortuner.

The evergreen Toyota Corolla comes in one of two Heritage badged models, a 74 kW Optimal Drive 1.3 or a 90 kW 1.6. The niceties over-and-above the standard Corolla 1.3 and 1.6 Advanced include full leather upholstery, a two-tone dashboard treatment, unique “Heritage Edition” badging and embroidered carpet sets. These round off an already high specification level that includes Optitron instrumentation, a powerful sound system with USB, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a multifunction steering wheel, electric windows, remote central locking and 16” alloy wheels.

I was fortunate enough to be handed the keys to a 1.6 litre model, in a somewhat garish Golden Gleam metallic paint. This brings me to the Corolla’s looks, where Toyota stayed course with its bread-and-butter economy sedan, offering styling that blends into the crowd. In no way am I implying that it isn’t a nice looking car – it’s just not inspiring either. Aside from the colour it doesn’t have anything about it that jumps out in a “look at me” kind of way.

Sadly, as with the last few generations, the Corolla seems to have taken a few steps back in terms of interior quality. Or maybe it’s that they haven’t improved, whilst a slew of dramatically enhanced competitors from the likes of Mazda, Ford, Hyundai and Kia came charging into the market, all guns blazing. Regardless, the quality of materials and overall appearance are far from the class-leading levels for which the Corolla was once known.

The first thing I noticed from behind the wheel is that all the controls are exceptionally light and easy to use, whether it be around town or at motorway speeds. However this does have its downsides. To say feedback from the steering wheel is vague would be mistakenly crediting it with any feel at all. Practically no information is transmitted from wheels to the driver, leaving one with no choice but to guess steering inputs and hope for the best.

A redeeming factor is the 1.6 litre, 16-valve DOHC motor that benefits from dual variable valve timing. Power is transferred to the wheels through a six speed manual gearbox that is slick and easy to use, if not perhaps a little long in throw. Performance isn’t blistering; after all it’s a rather large car these days, but it’s acceptable. The engine revs freely and delivers power in a linear fashion, all the while returning exceptional fuel economy figures of around 6.9 litres per hundred kilometres.

The way I see it the Toyota Corolla is much like ones grandfather. It too has been around for donkey’s years, become fat over its lifetime and has possibly gone a bit downhill of late. However, as with one’s grandfather, this doesn’t change the fact that the Corolla is a much loved South African – one that will continue to thrive on the basis of its remarkable reputation for reliability, service and value. 

Price: R236 500
Engine: 1598cc 16-valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i
Power: 90 kW
Torque:  154 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 12.1
Top speed (km/h): 192
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 6.9 (claimed)

Miles Downard
First published in Autodealer KZN on 6 April 2012

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