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 driving

Buying and owning

Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

For company car drivers, the key points are benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax and leasing costs. Of course, those with a company car allowance will also be thinking about PCP finance rates, as well as how much will need to be budgeted for fuel.

The Government has said that BIK tax will be calculated under the existing scheme until April 2020 (it hasn’t been clear on what will happen after that). It currently works on a percentage of the P11D price (list price minus the first year’s road tax and registration fee), and how big that percentage is correlates to CO2 emissions: the higher they are, the greater the percentage. So, for the lowest BIK, you want not only low emissions but also a low P11D price.

All three cars represent some of the most efficient of their type. But despite the Golf’s relatively peaky CO2 output of 109g/km, the fact that it has the cheapest P11D price means it will cost you the least in BIK tax, at £175 per month.

Being a hybrid, the Corolla officially emits by far the least CO2 (76g/km), but having the most expensive P11D price means it will cost £181 per month in BIK tax.

Toyota Corolla driving

The Focus spits out just 93g/km, and its P11D price is much lower than the Corolla’s. However, diesel cars incur an additional BIK levy of 4%, so the Focus’s tax is actually the priciest, at £196 per month.

The Golf will also be the cheapest car to lease over three  years. The monthly charge we were quoted was £214 (excluding VAT) – £13 per month less than the Focus and £32 less than the Corolla.

What about the cost at the pumps? The Corolla is particularly efficient in urban scenarios, when its engine is laid up the most, and that’s a big factor in the average 60.6mpg that it managed in our test – the best of the bunch.

Being a diesel, the Focus’s engine is the most efficient at high speeds – something to bear in mind if you’re forever pounding up and down the motorway. Overall, it managed a very respectable 53.0mpg.

The Golf, meanwhile, is the least frugal, with an average of 46.5mpg.To put that into context, if you do 12,000 miles a year for three years, it will cost you £1000 more to fuel than the Corolla, but the premium over the Focus is only around £250.

Volkswagen Golf driving

On PCP finance, as with leasing, the Golf comes out the cheapest, at £311 per month, followed by the Focus on £332 and Corolla on £359.

None of these cars is supremely well equipped, but all come with air conditioning, alloy wheels, electric windows and powered door mirrors. The Corolla adds to that with an upgrade to dual-zone climate control and heated front seats. Like the Golf, it gets adaptive cruise control, too, while the Golf also has privacy glass and power-folding door mirrors. The Focus is the stingiest, but it does at least have a heated windscreen.

As for safety, Euro NCAP is yet to crash test the Corolla, but our source tells us that it’s highly likely to get the top five-star score to match the Focus. The Golf won its five stars back in 2012 when the tests were less stringent, so it’s hard to compare like for like.

Each car gets automatic emergency braking, and this is complemented by lane-keeping assistance in the Corolla and Focus. The Corolla also gets traffic sign recognition (optional on the others) but not blindspot monitoring, which is available on the Focus and Golf.

Toyota’s reliability record is truly outstanding; it ranked third out of 31 manufacturers in our latest survey, while Ford and Volkswagen both finished in the middle of the pack.