2019 Toyota Corolla review - price, specs and release date

The Toyota Corolla name returns on this all-new Auris replacement. Our prototype drive gives the first clues as to whether this hybrid alternative to the Ford Focus can fight for class honours...

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Jim Holder
07 November 2018

Toyota Corolla front three-quarter driving

Priced from £25,000 (est) | On sale February 2019

Out with the old and in with the older: 13 years after the Toyota Auris name replaced that of the Toyota Corolla, we’re back to where it all began.

The reasoning is that this all-new, ground-up reworking of the car makes it worthy of a fresh start, and using a name that was introduced back in 1966 (and which makes the Corolla the best-selling car in history) was suitably worthy.

Certainly, Toyota’s bigwigs are excited. The new car has been benchmarked against the very best in the class, such as the What Car? Award-winning Skoda Octavia, as well as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.

Key to this is the development of new underpinnings called the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), around which the Corolla is built. Creating this was a huge investment, but it has already reaped dividends on cars such as the C-HR family SUV and Prius hybrid hatchback, both of which have been notably good to drive.

Significant, too, is the introduction of a new 178bhp hybrid drive system with a 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor. The Corolla will be sold only as a hybrid in the UK, because Toyota says there's insufficient demand for petrol and diesel versions. The other option is the 121bhp 1.8-litre hybrid already sold in other Toyotas, such as the Prius.

While the smaller-engined set-up is resolutely aimed at eco-motoring, the bigger one adds livelier performance to the mix. Its 0-62mph time is 7.9sec, which makes it a pacey rival to the likes of the Golf in its 1.5 TSI petrol and 2.0 TDI diesel forms.

Toyota Corolla side-on driving

2019 Toyota Corolla on the road 

Our experience of this late prototype is certainly very positive. The car grips the road well and tells the driver exactly what its front wheels are doing, so you always feel in control. On larger-than-necessary 18in wheels, it also rides bumps reasonably well, albeit with some fidgeting that is most likely a side effect of setting up the suspension to provide some fun in the bends. Dynamically, the Corolla errs slightly more towards entertaining than being comfortable, but on mostly smooth roads, at least, it manages to deliver both.

The 2.0-litre hybrid is also a qualified triumph. Linked exclusively to a CVT gearbox with six artificial steps to make it feel more like a regular automatic unit, it matches accelerator position, speed and revs better than ever before, reducing the strange sensation of them being mismatched that has been a feature of previous Toyota hybrids. Performance and response are brisk, and it’s notable that progress is near-silent below 2000rpm, with wind bluster rather than engine noise being prevalent. The CVT is slick, too, although the wheel-mounted shift paddles feel superfluous unless you really must unleash your inner Lewis Hamilton.

Toyota Corolla interior

2019 Toyota Corolla interior

Inside, the Corolla again takes a giant leap forward over the Auris. It largely meets the standard of the class best, in terms of look and feel as well as function. There are more soft-touch surfaces, better-damped switches and a central 8.0in infotainment touchscreen that’s both smart and reasonably intuitive, albeit a touch short of some of the slickness of Volkswagen’s systems.

There’s loads of space up front, aided by a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment, but rear knee and head room are tight. Toyota openly admits that it has designed the Corolla hatchback around the needs of a small family, reasoning that anyone with greater needs would buy the estate version. It didn’t help that our test car had a panoramic sunroof, which eats 2.2cm of head room. Boot and storage space are average for the class, so not as plentiful as the Octavia's.

Next: 2019 Toyota Corolla verdict >