By Otsile Kadiege
During the last quarter of 2022 Toyota South Africa spruced up the Corolla range with a raft of upgrades including styling, powertrains, safety and driver assistance systems, as well as numerous new gizmos. During the December break, we were fortunate enough to spend a month with the range-topping Corolla Xr Hybrid hatchback AKA ‘Sexy Rolla’.
The bold design language of the Corolla hatch remains in place with subtle, yet effective enhancements. These include widened front air dams incorporating slick C-shaped fog lamp bezels at the outer edges and revised headlamp clusters featuring Bi-LED lighting elements with new larger, J-shaped daytime running lights (DRLs).
In profile, the sporty-looking Corolla Xr hatchback has a touch of elegance thanks to chrome door trims, its dual-tone Attitude Black and Dark Blue metallic paint finish, and low-profile turbine-shaped 18-inch alloy wheels. At the rear, the lower bumper now features an all-black design.
The Corolla hatch has always been a hottie ever since its unveiling a couple of years ago and the facelifted model dials up the heat, making an already hot car more appealing.
Sporty interior with new tech
Stepping inside we were greeted by a familiar cabin with chunky bucket seats and chrome detailing underneath the headrests. New features include an all-new 12.3-inch digital display, stretching the full width of the panel and offering various display options. Also new is an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with capacitive switch-gear, a new generation system with Voice Recognition, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and built-in navigation functionality.
On the convenience side of things, the Corolla hatch has four cup holders, four USB Type C ports and a 305-litre luggage capacity. Overall, the cabin is a comfortable place to be in on the front row and the sport seats are supportive, however, rear legroom and luggage capacity is limited due to the chunky seats up front and its inherent small dimensions, respectively.
The customisable 12.3-inch digital cluster is definitely a welcomed addition, however it looks a bit too dim and graphics are not as crisp as some of its rivals. We also experienced a glitch after customizing the cluster to display navigation in between the digital tachometers. Thankfully, the 8-inch touch display makes up for the digital cluster’s shortcomings with crisp and sharp graphics, as well as an intuitive infotainment system.
Safety and driver assistance systems
As standard, all Corolla hatchback grades are fitted with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 which represents the latest advancement of Toyota’s active safety system. A few assistance systems include Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS), Rear Cross Traffic Alert with automatic braking, Blind Spot Monitor with Safe Exit Assist (SEA) and Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Keep Assist.
New Hybrid powertrain
Powering our steed is a new 1.8-litre hybridized petrol engine making a healthy 103 kW and paired to a CVT gearbox. Toyota claims a fuel consumption of 3.5l/100km which is a bit too ambitious, but more on that in a few.
Being a hybrid model, we were keen on seeing what’s the lowest fuel consumption we could achieve with the Corolla hatch. After adding 2000 kilometres to the odometer, we achieved a decent 5.3l/100 km on both highway and city driving. The lowest consumption we achieved was 4.9l/100km.
With efficient driving done and dusted, it was time to stretch the legs of “Sexy Rolla”. The car is quite peppy, engaging and is glued to the tarmac when slithering through the bends. Yes, its CVT gearbox has inherent droning sound and can be uninspiring at times but that’s not a deal-breaker.
With the fun part out of the way, long-distance travelling was effortless thanks to the Corolla hatch’s commendable ride quality, impressive driving range of just above 800 kilometres and assistance systems like Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Keep Assist, which made driving less strenuous.
The Toyota Corolla Xr Hybrid hatchback is a perfect car for someone who’s in the market for a sporty hatchback which is also frugal, comfortable, equipped with loads of standard kit and comes from a trusted brand. Its biggest stumbling block, however, is its pricing. Toyota asks for R500,700 for the base Xs Hybrid model and R549,600 for this range-topper.
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