CAR OF THE WEEK
BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN somebody in Toyota thought it would be good to hive off the hatchback version of the Corolla into a new name, Auris, in 2006, you have to wonder what they were at?
The change was made primarily for Europe and Japan itself, leaving the Corolla nameplate, already the best selling ever automotive model name, to soldier on as a sedan and wagon.
It actually didn’t interfere with the overall sales of the Japanese carmaker’s compact family models. But in some markets, like Ireland, it meant the brand no longer had a headliner in the models sales league.
From time to time over those dozen years of Auris, I made a point, when Hyundais, Nissans and Volkswagens and others were claiming the top-selling model in Ireland, to point out that, combined, Auris and Corolla actually held that title much of the time.
Corolla as a hatchback name returned to Europe in 2018, and we’ve had a coherent Corolla models line-up since the 12th generation of the nameplate began sales in Ireland last year. Allowing the model to regain its place, by a strong margin, as the best-selling car in Ireland for 2018.
No harm to note here that, in an era of SUV-style preference among buyers, this very much non-crossover model ended up way ahead of Hyundai’s Tucson, Nissan’s Qashqai, and Volkswagen’s Tiguan in last year’s final league play-out.
Toyota made a good job too of the 12th generation of the model, lifting it arguably beyond competing brands in terms of style, perceived quality and some technical innovations (though that’s hard to do, these days, with every carmaker providing safety and connectivity tech in even their smallest models).
Regular readers will recall that I have reviewed a couple of formats of the current Corolla since it was introduced here. And it’s getting positive feedback across the board for all of the reasons mentioned above. But also, probably, for that particular Toyota innovation of the ‘self-charging’ hybrid.
It’s a sign that what they invented and developed has now become a technology for other brands that they have had to highlight the original ‘self-charging’ system against the focus being put on the hybrid word with plug-in versions, and ‘mild’ hybrids. We shouldn’t forget who started all this, and they don’t intend to let us.
All Corollas from this year in Europe come only with hybrid powertrains. Toyota has been constantly improving its own systems, so that, depending on the driving conditions and place, most owners can expect to be motoring on electric power for more than half the time. Without having to think about it. Without having to plug in, or installing an expensive home charging point.
My version for this week’s column is the Tourer Trek, the wagon version in its top grade. It’s never been a secret that I love wagons, much more so than SUVs, so this was always going to be a pleasant driving experience.
The style is, depending on viewpoint, the nicest current Corolla there is. And, of course, very practical.
The seamlessness of the powertrain is as we have become used to since Toyota first brought it in. In the Trek version, it’s a somewhat larger primary engine, 2.0 instead of 1.8, so there’s some more power to play with, albeit at the expense of some more emissions.
The feel good sense for the driver is exactly as it was for me in the previous formats, which set a high benchmark across the compact family car space.
I’m glad they dropped Auris. If only because saying Toyota Corolla is much easier than trying to separate the inflections of the two ‘a’s in the previous name!
What I liked: Everything is so together.
Pricing: From €28,620.