The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is the estate version of Toyota's practical family hatchback. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.
With their Corolla Touring Sports model, Toyota aims to bring us a compact yet very spacious estate that's a cut or two above the class norm. This version boasts a sharp look, a smart interior and a hi-tech hybrid-orientated range of engines. And it's still very practical, with a decent 598-litre boot. It's a car that's been rehabilitated.
You might well think of the Toyota Corolla as a rather sensible but broadly uninteresting thing. If so, you're a little behind the curve. These were sentiments reasonably applicable to this car's Auris predecessor but its Corolla replacement has quite a bit more attitude. Here, we're looking at the 'Touring Sports' estate bodystyle. The old Auris Touring Sports tried for a younger, more fashionable audience. People who wanted more from their transport than sense and sensibility. It was a worthy effort, but one slightly hobbled by a rather dull interior and unremarkable driving dynamics. Outside of the expensive top petrol/electric hybrid variant, the engine range was a little behind the curve too. So Toyota has had another go. This improved Corolla Touring Sports model gets a much sharper look, but the important stuff lies inside and beneath the bonnet in a package that still manages to be one of the most practical choices in its class. Let's check it all out.
For this car, there's an important advance in the development of Toyota's self-charging hybrid technology, this Corolla being the first of the brand's models in Europe to offer customers a choice of two hybrid powertrains - a revised 120bhp 1.8-litre system and a fresh 178bhp 2.0-litre unit that's engineered for more power on demand and more effortless acceleration, without compromising overall fuel and emissions efficiency. As full hybrids, both powertrains have the advantage of offering an all-electric drive capability, with zero emissions and fuel consumption. Both, as you would expect, are also matched to a seamless belt-driven CVT automatic transmission with six speeds. There are wheel-mounted paddleshifters supplied as part of this transmission package, but it's unlikely that typical buyers will make much use of them. For the record though, the 2.0-litre hybrid variant should get from rest to 62mph in around 8 seconds, which is reasonably rapid by class standards. Expect refinement to be excellent; certainly far better than it would be in a rival rumbly diesel. Toyota hasn't carried over much from the previous Auris Touring Sports model but an exception to that rule is the installation of that older model's conventional 115bhp 1.2T direct injection turbocharged engine in entry-level Corolla variants. This comes only with a manual gearbox.
This is one of the better looking compact estates. Some of these look a little awkward, with the kind of finished shape that brings to mind a hatchback being squired by a uPVC conservatory. There's nothing like that here. In profile, the 'Touring Sports' model shares its hatchback stablemate's steeply raked windscreen, which flows into an extended roofline with aluminium roof rails and an integral rear spoiler. This station wagon derivative, like the alternative Saloon Corolla body style, sits upon a lengthened 2,700mm wheelbase version of this model's new 'TNGA' 'Toyota New Global Architecture' platform. Inside, the cabin should feel considerably more up-market than the interior of an Auris Touring Sports model ever was, with better-quality materials along with an 8-inch 'Toyota Touch 2' centre-dash infotainment screen as standard, complete with a DAB tuner and a reversing camera. On most variants, it will feature navigation too. This model's more generous exterior dimensions should be particularly obvious in the rear, though the optional panoramic glass sunroof does eat into headroom. Apparently, it reduces it by 22mm. There's a 598-litre boot in the 1.2T and 1.8 Hybrid variants; in the 2.0 Hybrid, the figure's 581-litres. All derivatives offer 1,860mm of loadspace length.
There's a £1,270 premium to pay if you want the Touring Sports estate version of this Corolla rather than the standard hatch. That means a price span in the £22,500 to £30,500 bracket - which is par for the course in this segment. There are four trim levels - 'Icon', 'Icon Tech', 'Design' and 'Excel'. All of these spec levels deliver plenty of kit. Even 'Icon' variants deliver 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats with lumbar support, automatic LED headlights, a reversing camera and in hybrid models, dual-zone air conditioning. There's also an 8-inch centre-dash 'Toyota Touch 2' touchscreen, your access point to a DAB tuner and a reversing camera. As the name suggests, the 'Icon Tech' grade adds further useful technology features, including satellite navigation and voice control, plus parking sensors and Intelligent Park Assist' set-up that will steer you into spaces. All Corollas get as standard the full package of 'Toyota Safety Sense' camera-driven safety features. These include autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control, Lane Trace Assist, Road Sign Assist and Automatic High beam.
Toyota thinks that the vast majority of Corolla Touring Sports buyers are going to want a Hybrid engine - and a look at the efficiency stats reveals why. Even on the more stringent WLTP cycle, the stats are still pretty eye-catching, a typical 1.8-litre Hybrid Corolla Touring Sports on 16-inch wheels managing up to 65.9mpg on the combined cycle and an NEDC-rated 76g/km of CO2. That's further helped, Toyota expects, by the fact that for typical customers, up to 50% of typical commuting journeys will be accomplished in all-electric drive. The Japanese maker describes the Corolla's Hybrid technology as being of the 'self-charging' variety, which means that it isn't of the currently popular Plug-in variety. The brand of course has this technology (it's available on top versions of its Prius model) but currently feels it isn't necessary for the Corolla line-up. What else? Well, the five year 100,000 mile warranty is extremely good and even after that runs out, you'll find that most spares are relatively inexpensive. There's also three years warranty against rust and 12 years of anti-corrosion protection.
These days, Toyota works to a philosophy called 'Genchi Genbutsu' which, roughly translated from Japanese, means 'go see for yourself'. In other words, in developing its new era models, the Tokyo brand has, more than ever, taken the trouble to speak to owners in order to see how they use their cars in real life. You can see the fruit of that approach in this model. It's a design with a stronger focus on desirability and real-world utility. In short, this Touring Sports variant has something about it. Okay, so it's not going to have the enthusiast press getting all excited, but here is a car many people would be delighted to have on their drive. Nothing about it suggests you've settled for a life of suburban mediocrity. Sometimes practical is good. Welcome to a surprising new world.