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Toyota Corolla Ascent hatchback road test

by Mark Walker

8th January, 2013

Home > Road Tests > Toyota

Related stories:
Toyota's new Corolla hatch released
13th November, 2012
Toyota's new Corolla released in Japan
9th September, 2012

Test Car particulars

The test car was the newly released Toyota Corolla Ascent automatic hatch finished in Positano Bronze.


The new-generation Corolla is available in four trim levels: Ascent, Ascent Sport, Levin SX and Levin ZR.

Toyota has sharpened the pricing on the three cheapest variants and held pricing on the top of the range Levin ZR.

The entry level Ascent manual hatch is now priced from $19,990*, a reduction of $1,000* on the previous generation Corolla.

Moving up the range, the Ascent Sport is priced from $20,990* and adds 16” alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, a touchscreen audio system including reversing camera and other minor cosmetic enhancements.

The Levin SX gets bigger 17” alloy wheels, sport front bucket seats, carbon fibre look instrument panel, satellite navigation and if fitted with the automatic transmission, it gets paddle shifters too. It’s priced from $23,990*.

The Levin ZR adds more features over and above the Levin SX, including leather seats, keyless entry and keyless start, adaptive headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual zone climate control, heated front seats and can also be specified with a panoramic glass roof. It’s substantially more expensive at $28,990*.

An automatic transmission adds $2,000* to the above prices for all variants and metallic paint adds $425* if chosen.

Toyota Australia, through its financing arm, Toyota Finance, has recently launched Toyota Access. This new scheme promises “a whole new way to buy a Toyota”. Perhaps that claim is exaggerated as flexible vehicle finance options have been available for a long time now. Toyota Access does bring back guaranteed future values to Australia, thus placing some of the resale risk back onto the finance company. This added flexibility will no doubt win some buyers for Toyota as they look to maintain sales growth and continue to dominate market share in Australia.

Model background

The Corolla nameplate is one of the longest surviving in the world of motoring. It made its Australian debut way back in 1967 with the KE10 series and since then 1.2 million have been sold here.

Worldwide, based on overall sales, the Corolla is the most popular vehicle having notched up a massive 39 million sales.

Last year was yet another successful sales year for Corolla in Australia with 38,799 being registered representing a 7.5% increase on 2011. Despite the solid increase in sales, it couldn’t beat the Mazda 3 in the small car segment which had 44,128 unit sales in 2012 to be Australia’s highest selling vehicle. The Corolla was the third highest seller during 2012.

The latest Corolla hatch is the 11th generation and is designated the ZRE180 series. Having been launched in October 2012, the new model helped increase sales, pushing the Corolla to top spot for overall vehicle sales in the month of November 2012, its first full month of new-generation sales.

The new Corolla is styled using Toyota's new design language with includes the distinctive angular headlight and grille combination. The new look can still be classified as conservative but is most definitely a more modern look for the typically conservative Corolla.

The Corolla sedan is yet to be updated and is still on sale in the old shape.

Driving the Corolla Ascent hatch

The most noticeable improvements to the new Toyota Corolla are the more responsive steering, lower noise levels in the cabin and smoother automatic gearbox.

The automatic gearbox is a new, seven speed continuously variable transmission which allows sequential shift. In the base Ascent sequential shift is via the gear stick – there are no steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The new gearbox replaces a four speed automatic from the previous generation car.

Toyota has improved the 1.8 litre four cylinder engine which now includes an acoustic-controlled induction system (ACIS). The ACIS improves the flexibility of the engine by adjusting induction-tract length to suit conditions. Maximum power is up by a fraction to 103 kW at 6,400 rpm. Maximum torque is now 173 Nm at 4,000 rpm.

Acceleration is much smoother with the new transmission and sounds effortless thanks to reduced levels of engine noise entering the cabin. It’s not quick but it is no slouch either. Acceleration from standstill to 100 km/h is claimed to take 10.0 seconds. That's good enough for a small car.

Handling is also improved thanks to chassis adjustments including increased body rigidity and also changes to the steering system. The electric power steering is light around town but offers decent feel at speed.

Cruise control is included on all models.

Living with the Corolla Ascent hatchback

Cabin quality is another obvious improvement. The front seats are better and offer a very comfortable driving position with excellent lateral support. The dash is substantially higher quality to previous models, and includes a brushed metal look and some soft touch plastics.

It feels more comfortable than predecessors, mostly due to the improve noise insulation and better seating. The back is still a tad cramped for space but can accommodate two adults.

The standard audio system is quite capable and importantly includes integrated Bluetooth connectivity for wireless telephone connection and steering wheel controls. The Bluetooth connection allows both audio streaming and mobile phone use which can both be controlled from the steering wheel. This audio system will probably suit a lot buyers better than the touch screen version fitted to the more expensive models. Unfortunately, the touch screen system fitted to some imported Toyota’s is not very responsive to touch and the version including sat nav contains a fault which causes the system to blurt out “GPS signal lost” at high volume at random times despite the car still maintaining a GPS signal. It’s rather annoying as well as incorrect. That said, I am told Toyota are working on a fix for this problem.

Storage space is improved although could be improved further still. I couldn’t fit a pram in the back, nor a golf bag without folding the seat.


The new Toyota Corolla has been awarded a five star ANCAP safety rating. All variants are equipped with seven airbags, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability control, traction control and enhanced body strength.

The base model Ascent does not get rear park sensors or reversing camera as standard although they are available as dealer fitted accessories. The reversing camera will cost $446.05* for the Ascent but you also need to fork out for an upgraded audio system costing $977* so there is a suitable screen. A reversing camera is fitted standard on the three other models meaning it’s better to spend the extra and get an Ascent Sport hatch in my opinion.

Fuel and emissions

Improved aerodynamics, revised engine and reduced weight have combined to improve the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of the new Corolla. The automatic is also aided by the new continuously variable transmission.

The automatic, as tested, should achieve fuel consumption on a combined cycle of a very reasonable 6.6 litres per 100 km according to the standard testing procedure. This is a claimed improvement of 11% over the previous model. Over our test drive, fuel consumption was 7.2 litres per 100 km, with slightly more than half of our driving being at highway speed. We were hoping for better than that as we made every effort to be delicate and smooth when accelerating.

The fuel tank capacity is 50 litres and 91 RON unleaded petrol is suitable for the new Corolla.

CO2 emissions are 152 grammes per kilometre from the Euro IV compliant engine with automatic transmission. With a manual gearbox, emissions are higher at 166 grammes per kilometre.


Length: 4,275 mm
Width: 1,760 mm
Height: 1,460 mm
Wheelbase: 2,600 mm
Weight: 1,270 kg
Boot capacity: 280 litres, expanding to 1,120 litres with rear seats folded and cargo cover removed.


The towing capacity is 1,300 kg if towing a braked trailer with the correct towing equipment.

After Sales

The warranty and roadside assistance package operate, with conditions, on a three year/100,000 kilometre basis.

Service intervals are 6 months or 10,000 km.

The new Corolla is eligible for Toyota’s capped price servicing which limits up to six log book services to a maximum of $130 (current figure). This covers the first 3 years or 60,000 kms from new, whichever occurs first.


The new Corolla is a definite improvement on the outgoing version, largely due to higher levels of equipment. That said it’s still a simple, reasonably priced car just as its predecessors were. The new Toyota Corolla has a new face and arguably the boldest exterior design of any Corolla in recent history without being extreme.

NOTE: * Manufacturer's List Price (MLP) excludes dealer delivery fees and the numerous statutory charges (commonly known as on-road costs). Additionally, please note that all prices, fees and charges are subject to change without notice, as are the specifications.


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