The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Thanks to a driver’s seat with decent support and a pretty generous range of movements – including height and powered lumbar adjustment on all trims – you’ll have few issues getting comfy behind the wheel.
There are annoyances, though. Most models in this class have a wheel to adjust finitely the angle of the backrest, but the Corolla has a lever that offers a limited number of positions. Also, while the steering wheel moves for reach and height, its extension in and out isn't as extensive as it is in exceptionally tuneable models, such as the Ford Focus.
There are big, easy-to-use buttons for the commonly used functions, such as the climate controls, and clear dials on the entry-level Icon. The rest of the range adds a 7.0in screen in the middle of the instrument pack, flanked by analogue dials. The info shown is perfectly clear but not as comprehensive as you get with full-screen digital instruments in a Volkswagen Golf or Skoda Scala.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
You won’t complain about your view of the road ahead or out of the side windows at junctions. The relatively chunky rear pillars mean over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t as good, but it's fair to say that few rivals are much better in this regard, except the Skoda Scala. Fortunately, every Corolla comes with a reversing camera to help mitigate this issue. There are also front and rear parking sensors on all but entry-level Icon models.
Powerful LED headlights are fitted as standard across the range and are a boon at night. In many rivals, you’ll either need to pay extra or upgrade to a posh trim level for these.
Sat nav and infotainment
Let’s start with the positives: the 8.0in touchscreen is positioned helpfully high on the dashboard, making it easy to see and reach without distracting you.
What may well distract you, though, is its complicated menu layout, something that isn’t helped by the sluggish way in which the screen responds to prods. What's more, the screen resolution isn't very impressive and the graphics for navigation (sat-nav is standard from Icon Tech trim) look rather basic.
Thankfully all Corollas come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, so you can bypass Toyota's own software for a better experience. You also get a DAB radio and Bluetooth, while the standard six-speaker stereo is clear and punchy. That's just as well, because the JBL premium upgrade is available only with top-spec Excel trim and 2.0-litre hybrid power.
The Corolla’s interior is solidly made, with plenty of soft-touch materials to lend it a competitively plush feel. The dashboard materials, for example, feel pleasantly squidgy and dense, and even the insides of the doors don’t feel cheap or scratchy. In fact, compared with the Ford Focus, the Corolla feels positively upmarket.
Yet, compared with the premium models, such as the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class, or even the rather beautifully made Mazda 3, the Corolla misses some of the little details that set those cars apart as the best when it comes to quality.