New Toyota Corolla vs Ford Focus vs Volkswagen Golf

Which type of engine makes most sense in a modern family car? We’ve pitted the new hybrid Toyota Corolla against petrol and diesel rivals to provide the answer...

Ford Focus interior

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

If part of your job involves driving your car, the least you can expect is to have a comfortable place to sit. And the good news is that you will get just that whichever model you choose. As standard, each comes with a front centre armrest, driver’s seat height adjustment, adjustable lumbar support and reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel. The Focus has the most range to its wheel and the Corolla the least. What’s more, the latter’s seatback angle is varied with a lever, which is more fiddly than its rivals’ rotary adjusters and leaves you with defined steps instead of the liberty to choose the ideal angle.

We love the clarity of the Focus’s simple analogue dials, but the Golf’s optional digital set (£495) are the most configurable and deliver lots of information to the driver. The Corolla’s part-digital instruments are standard but quite limited. For instance, they don’t even give you the option of having a large, numerical speedometer that the other two offer for that added peace of mind when you pass a Gatso.

Toyota Corolla interior

The windscreen pillars of the Golf and Corolla are thinner than the Focus’s, which can obscure your view in tight bends, but each car suffers from thick rear pillars. This is less of an issue in the Corolla, because it gets front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera as standard. The Golf receives the same full complement of sensors but no camera, while the Focus features neither as standard.

The Focus also feels the cheapest inside. There are places where effort has clearly been made (such as the carpeted front door bins, which replicate the Golf’s and stop things from jangling about), but the generally cheap-feeling, shiny plastics and fake carbonfibre highlights are uninspiring. 

Volkswagen Golf interior

The Golf has long served as a fine example of how to do a smart interior. It may have never quite matched the exemplary finish of the Audi A3, but it’s one of the best in the class, even if the design is arguably starting to look its age. 

It’s a positive, then, that the Corolla feels at least as solid as the Golf inside, and its materials look suitably premium in the main.

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