Of note, too, is the fact that there is a choice of just two petrol hybrid engines, a decision Toyota says is down to there being no significant customer demand for either a straight petrol or diesel. There’s the 121bhp 1.8-litre motor currently used in the C-HR and Prius, plus a new 2.0-litre version with 178bhp, each attached to different hybrid systems. These will be offered with the hatch and Touring Sports (estate), which will be sold in the UK.
In line with its stated goal of setting class standards “for best in class comfort and driving engagement”, the Corolla is 4370mm long, 1790mm wide and 1435mm high, with a wheelbase of 2640mm. That makes it 40mm longer and 30mm wider than the outgoing Auris, and 25mm lower. The obvious rivals are the Ford Focus (8mm longer, 35mm wider, 19mm higher and with a 60mm greater wheelbase) and the VW Golf (115mm shorter, as wide, 17mm higher and 3mm smaller in wheelbase.
What's it like?
If the CH-R and Prius hinted at the dynamic leap that Toyota has taken with these new underpinnings, then the Corolla, with all the inherent advantages that come with being lighter, lower and more compact, confirms them, even in this late prototype form.
For while it inevitably doesn’t turn back the clock and serve up the giggle-a-minute thrills of hatches of yesteryear, unencumbered by safety or emissions regulations as they were, the Corolla is a genuinely enjoyable car to drive, gripping the road and controlling its body movements very well, and giving the driver the feedback to know what the front wheels are doing . It is both reassuring and genuinely engaging.
Often, the downside to those positives would be an overly-hard ride, but the MacPherson front and double wishbone rear suspension has been tuned to largely cope with what comes its way. There is a firmness that can translate to bumps and surface breaks unsettling the car, but on these Spanish roads at least, even on larger-than-standard 18-inch wheels, they were decently controlled. While it’s no guarantee of success, the development team tested extensively in the UK. There is also an option to fit a five-way adaptive system that includes damping alterations, opening up everything from eco and comfort modes to increasingly sporty ones to be considered - although you'd need to be dedicated to use them all.
The only powertrain available to test was the new, higher-powered 2.0-litre hybrid, designed to offer eco-conscious buyers who like a bit more performance an alternative to the resolutely fuel- and CO2-focused 1.8-litre. Mated to a six-speed auto, there are two standout features: chiefly, that the link between the accelerator position, revs and actual performance are better matched than ever before, with the CVT-esque disconnect between them now greatly - if not entirely - reduced, and secondly that, so long as you are happy to let the gearbox run as an auto, rather than play with the mostly superfluous wheel-mounted paddleshifters and try to act out your inner F1 driver fantasy, there is strong, smooth performance on offer.