Used Toyota Corolla 18-present review

What is it like?

Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Icon Tech
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What's the used Toyota Corolla hatchback like?

Buy a Toyota Corolla and you’ll hardly become part of an exclusive set: there have been more than 44 million of them sold over the last 50-odd years and 12 different incarnations. Welcome, in fact, to the world’s best-selling car. 

After such world-wide success, it may come as a surprise to learn the Corolla nameplate actually disappeared from UK showrooms for almost 10 years, only re-emerging with this model in 2018. Filling in the gap was a reliable but rather bland car called the Auris - a Corolla by any other name. Unlike the Auris, its replacement here has been subjected to a healthy dose of the stylist’s pen and contains within its longer, wider, lower and stiffer bodyshell a wealth of new technology aimed at stealing sales from Europe’s finest family hatchbacks. You can also have it as a more practical estate, in a Touring Sports version. 

Under the bonnet, Toyota offers a 112bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine along with two versions of the car powered by its petrol-electric hybrid system, both of which account for around nine out of every 10 sales. The 1.8-litre VVTi is pretty much the same as the unit in the Prius, in fact, and comes with a combined WLTP economy of up to 65.9mpg but only 120bhp from its electric motor and petrol engine combined. The 2.0-litre engine has 178bhp and a 0-62mph time of 7.9sec, but it remains an economy-focused device, with CO2 emissions of just 89g/km and a spec-sheet claim of more than 60mpg.

Trim-wise, entry-level Icon comes well equipped with dusk-sensing headlights, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats and 16in alloy wheels. Icon Tech adds a lot of extra upgrades that include sat-nav and parking sensors. In fact, its only major omission is rain-sensing wipers – you’ll need to upgrade to Design trim if you want those. Design also brings 17in alloy wheels, heated door mirrors and privacy glass. Range-topping Excel adds part-leather seats and even bigger (18in) wheels.

On the road, the 1.8-litre hybrid is noticeably slower than a VW Golf 1.0 TSI 115, for example, but acceleration is still adequate in most situations – even when joining motorways. The only time you’ll really wish for a bit more oomph is when you need to overtake dawdling motorists on country roads. Fortunately, the 177bhp 2.0-litre hybrid is much punchier and responds far more eagerly when you squeeze the accelerator pedal. 

The Corolla’s ride is most impressive, being quite soft, and this is definitely one of the more comfortable cars in its class. It handles in a safe and secure manner, too, and it has a reasonable level of grip. 

It can be quite refined, too. Because the electric motor can manage on its own in stop-start traffic, progress is virtually silent and the petrol engine doesn’t spoil the peace too much when it does cut in to provide assistance. On faster roads, though, particularly those with inclines, the petrol engine begins to whine away noticeably. The blame for this lies with the Corolla’s CVT, which causes the revs to rise and hold on to them while the car catches up with your intentions. The 1.8-litre cars don’t get quite so much sound deadening tech as the 2.0-litre ones, so they are noticeably noisier.

Inside, it’s easy to find the right driving position, and visibility is good - every Corolla gets a rear-view camera as standard, too. The infotainment system is a little sluggish, and not of the highest resolution, but is positioned high up on what is a pleasing dashboard. There are plenty of soft-touch materials, too, so it all feels of a good quality. There’s plenty of space up front, but things are a little cramped in the rear, especially in terms of leg room. The boot of the 1.8-litre car is of a good size and is easily accessible, but the 2.0-litre car gets a slightly smaller one, due to having to house the battery underneath its floor. 

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Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Icon Tech - interior
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