Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Road Test
Review by Tristan Tancredi - 13 February 2013
The 11th Generation Toyota Corolla Hatch was recently launched onto the Australian market. An updated, improved design with a modern, sporty twist utilising the trusty 1.8 litre engine of Toyota.
Not only did Toyota top the Australian market for car sales in 2012 (19,312* November 2012), the Corolla topped Australian passenger car sales (November 2012*) with 4,190 vehicles sold. The next best car was the Mazda 3 with 3,703 sales.
The Corolla has been a reliable product of Toyota since its introduction in 1966. In fact as of 2012, the Toyota Corolla has made 39 million sales worldwide. Let's take a closer look at why the Toyota Corolla is so successful.
With all the positivity surrounding the 11th Generation Corolla it was a little hard to escape an onset of excitement when given the keys to the Corolla Ascent Sport. After lowering my backside into the comfortable bucket seats it was time to hit the road and get acquainted with the all-new Toyota Corolla.
Considering the engine, drivetrain, brakes and suspension of the Ascent, Ascent Sport and Levin variants are the same, it's safe to assume the on-road experience of these vehicles will be similar, if not identical to one another.
The Ascent Sport is available in either 6-Speed Manual or 7-speed CVT multi-drive transmission and is powered by a 1.8 litre engine. We were lucky enough to let loose with the all-new 7-Speed CVT automatic transmission.
The CVT transmission truly makes the most of the engine to provide an excellent driving experience. Always smooth and always adjusting the throttle input whenever necessary. Just be willing to trade in adrenalin pumping fun for reliable, steady on-road performance.
Despite acquiring the "sport" tagline, the Corolla Ascent Sport doesn't offer much in the ways of a "sporty" drive. In fact it only differs noticably from the standard Ascent through cosmetic enhancements alone. Is it just me, or should there not only be enhanced on-road driving dynamics but also more low end grunt for a Sports car? No.. Just me?
According to Toyota, "In Sport mode, the system is optimised for response and direct engine control with close-ratio upshifts and a direct downshift feeling for precise cornering control under braking and deceleration". Yet sitting behind the wheel, the difference in modes is barely noticeable.
Regardless, the drive is smooth and dynamic, the steering is precise and the overall experience is a very positive one.
Toyota claims fuel consumption to sit at 6.6 litres per 100kms. After a week of testing across a variety of surfaces and conditions, we notched up 8.8 litres per 100kms.
The 11th generation Toyota Corolla Hatch, available in a variety of model variants (Ascent, Ascent Sport, Levin SX and Levin ZR) comes with a 1.8 litre dual VVT-i DOHC engine. There is nothing innovative about the four cylinder engine. Basically, it's the same trusted engine the folk at Toyota have been using for years. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Why fix something that isn't broken?
The Ascent Sport (the Corolla we drove for a week) utilises CVT automatic transmission which is a total overhaul and improvement on previous Corolla automatic transmissions. The 7-speed CVT auto works absolute wonders for the day-to-day hustle and bustle of city life. Considering the power output of the engine is nothing fancy (max power is 103kW at 6400rpm) and the torque figures are quite modest (173Nm @ 4000rpm), the engine does feel more capable than it actually is.
Perhaps due to the reduced weight of the Corolla Hatch, the engine provides adequate output for day-to-day living. Just don't expect to be overawed with the low end grunt on this puppy. On a side note, engine performance is the same for all Corolla Hatch variants.
The All-New Corolla sits lower to the ground than its predecessors. This again places emphasis on Toyota's intention to place the Corolla solely as a city/suburban vehicle.
Despite the engine performance of the Corolla being quite modest, the same can't be said for the design. Some have called Toyotas of yesteryear "boring" or "bland" or "an old persons car". The 11th generation Toyota Camry will rapidly shift peoples opinion so that they now think, "youthful", "fun", "sporty". (They were the three most popular words during our quick survey).
"Slim Headlights, Streamlined Upper Grille and a large lower bumper grille" are the major reasons why the Toyota Corolla looks like it's had a complete makeover. Bolder style lines combine with these features to provide a sporty, sexy and modern hatch.
16" alloys are standard for the Ascent and Ascent Sport. The Corolla Hatch measures in at 4275mm long, 1760mm wide and 1460mm tall. The range weighs in at (1290kg kerb weight).
The Toyota Corolla was awarded a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating thanks to its extensive features list.
Safety features include; Front drivers airbag, front passenger airbag, side front seat airbags, side curtain airbags, drivers side knee airbag, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.
A spare tyre sits in the boot.
Let's point out the elephant in the room straight away: The upright, vertical front dashboard. Clearly this design is different and is going to have its fair share of haters. A quick glance through online forums proved to me that the haters probably outweigh the lovers.
Basically the front dash slants vertically so that it is completely flat to the front passengers. On the front dash is a retro-esque clock, climate controls and a dominating touchscreen that's obviously the main attraction. The flat dashboard provides space, keeps the front of the car clean, and maintains a modern look. However it doesn't seem to flow with the overall design of the car. We suspect Toyota may revert back to the norm in future productions. But hey, we've been wrong before.
The touchscreen for the Ascent Sport can be a little frustrating and non-responsive at times. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, yet it was a bit tricky setting up a bluetooth connection (We got there in the end). As Navigation is not standard for the Ascent Sport we were unable to test it.
The Ascent and Ascent Sport feature front bucket seats with standard fabric materials. The seats are spacious, supportive, comfortable and are adjusted manually. The main difference inside the cabin of the Ascent and the Ascent Sport is the addition of premium trimmings and a premium steering wheel for the Sport.
There is adequate space in the rear seats for three children however it did get a little too cosy with three adults. The wide opening bootspace made loading and unloading cargo simple and with 40/60 rear folding, there is sufficient space for a couple of sets of golf clubs.
Overall, there is alot to like about the interior of the Corolla Hatch yet it does take a bit of getting used to. You don't have to be the smartest bloke in the world to know this design won't be a winner in everyones books.
There is a very good reason why the Corolla is so competitive in the passenger car market: It's a reliable, safe and affordable car that is suitable for all ages.
Prices start at $19,990 for the Ascent Hatch, $20,990 for the Ascent Sport, $23,990 for the Levin SX and $28,490 for the Levin ZR. The Corolla Sedan is due to be launched in Australia in late 2013.
Take one for a spin at your local dealer today and you'll realise why the Corolla is on top of the charts!
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Toyota dealer.
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