The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports will rival the Ford Focus and VW Golf estates when it arrives in 2019. We’ve been for an early driveVerdictClunky infotainment aside, the 2.0-litre Corolla Touring Sports makes a decent case for itself so far – although keen drivers and those who frequently carry really heavy loads about are unlikely to be swayed away from 2.0-litre diesel manuals just yet. However, as an efficient, refined and composed rival for small-diesel and turbo-petrol versions of the likes of the Golf Estate and Focus Estate, Toyota’s offering does have merit. We just need to see the final figures on pricing and specs, and a seats-down overall boot capacity before deciding if it’s really worth a recommendation.
The forthcoming reborn Toyota Corolla isn’t going to be the biggest car in its class, and even Toyota engineers admit that it’s really targeted at families with one child or couples who don’t have regular need to use the rear seats at all. For everyone else, they argue, there’s the estate model – and we’ve had an early chance to see how the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports stacks up.
As with the hatchback, the Touring Sports is based on the TNGA platform technology that also underpins the likes of the Prius and the C-HR. Toyota used the flexibility of the architecture to extend the wheelbase of the estate over that of the regular five-door, putting in an extra 60mm to improve the accommodation in the rear seats. The overall length of the Touring Sports is 283mm up on the five-door’s, thanks to a longer rear overhang to help increase boot space.
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It’s worth noting that this vehicle was developed by Toyota in Europe, specifically for European customers. And as a part of that, there’s a choice of hybrid powertrains – the regular 1.8-litre set-up that’s an evolution of what we’ve already seen in various Toyotas, and a new performance-oriented 2.0-litre system (amusingly called ‘Hybrid Dynamic Force’) with 177bhp. It’s still going to be one of the most efficient small estates on the market, though, with CO2 emissions almost matching those of the five-doors, at 87g/km.
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On the road, the Corolla Touring Sports feels very similar to its five-door sister vehicle, in fact. We’ve only tried the 2.0-litre model, on relatively sporty-looking 18-inch wheels, but it was fast enough when it needed to be, even with four adults and luggage on board. Toyota believes this new more potent configuration will appeal to customeers who buy 2.0-litre diesel cars from rival brands – and while there’s not quite the ultimate load-lugging capacity that you get from a torquey diesel, the punchy electrified system doesn’t fall too far short of it.
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Toyota is also offering the car with adaptive dampers – the first time it’s made this feature available on one of its family hatchbacks. There are a number of different modes you can cycle the system through and Toyota claims that even in ‘Normal’, there’s a greater sophistication to the ride quality than you’ll get with the regular dampers. We’re less sure; the effect seems quite subtle and we’d want much longer journey to prove the AVS’s worth before suggesting you tick that particular option box.
Either way, the Corolla Touring Sports is just on the firm side of comfortable – a little too keen to transmit road surface imperfections up through to the cabin, but far from unbearable with it. Think of it as somewhere between the compliant Golf and the more focused, er, Focus and you won’t be far away.
And even with the longer wheelbase and a longer rear overhang, the Touring Sports seems to share the fine body control of the regular five-door. The hybrid system may not be the most involving to interact with – even with steering wheel-mounted paddles to flick the transmission up and down ‘false ratios’ (it’s closest to a CVT transmission, in reality). But the chassis is a pretty well-sorted thing, and no mistake.
Toyota is still homologating the numbers on the boot, so there’s no seats-down capacity as yet, but with the second row in place you’ll have 598 litres – assuming you’ve chosen a 1.8-litre model. The 2.0’s more complex installation cuts its figure to 581 litres – not bad, but about 25 litres down on what you can expect from a Mk7.5 Golf wagon.
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At least there are some neat practical touches in the Touring Sports. The floor has two different heights, allowing you to prioritise either overall capacity or nice flat bay without any noticeable lip at the rear bumper. The rear seats fold down using remote handles in the sides of the boot, while the floor comes with both a carpeted finish and, on the reverse, a more rugged plastic that would be better suited to wet or dirty items.
Inside, the cabin is basically the same as the Corolla five-door’s – which is to say that it’s the best-resolved Toyota facia for a generation. There’s a simplicity to the layout and a consistency of the materials and finish – even down to the use of the same typeface across all of the major switches, something that couldn’t be said for any recent Toyotas.
Throw in padded materials in all the areas you’re really likely to touch and you’re left with an interior that feels pretty much on a par for the Focus, and darn close to the Golf. It’s a shame, therefore, that Toyota’s infotainment system is such a weak point; even with a higher-resolution screen than before, it simply doesn’t have the functionality that smartphone-savvy users want. There’s no Android Auto and no Apple CarPlay, and while privately engineers will whisper that the functionality is coming, there’s no date yet for either feature’s arrival.
- Model: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 2.0 Hybrid
- Price: From £24,000 (est)
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol-electric hybrid
- Power: 177bhp
- Transmission: CVT auto, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds
- Top speed: 112mph
- Economy/CO2: 74.3mpg/87g/km (NEDC correlated)
- On sale: February 2019
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