Toyota's new Corolla is a hatchback to rival VW's finest.

Toyota SA

Not content with its absolute dominance of the South African bakkie and SUV market, Toyota is now targeting VW’s hatchback business.

The Japanese automotive giant has finally retired the Auris nameplate, replacing it with a new Corolla hatch as part of its local product portfolio. This five-door Corolla builds on the South African Toyota hatchback legacy established by the likes of Conquest, RunX and Auris.

South Africans will receive three derivatives of the twelfth-generation Corolla in five-door configuration, all powered by the same 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Gearbox options are either a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT), the latter mimicking the shift-steps of a conventional ten-speed automatic.

Powering up to 85kW and 185Nm, Toyota claims its new Corolla hatch will run the benchmark 0-100kph sprint in 9.5 seconds if you are doing the shifting, and 10.4 seconds if the CVT manages your throttle inputs. Top speed ratings are 200kph for the manual gearbox and 190kph for the CVT, whilst both drivetrains are claimed to average 6.1l/100km if you drive diligently with an appropriate level of throttle discipline.

Featuring slim head- and taillamps, which shape into a bladed edge, the Corolla hatch is a much sharper design statement than Toyota ever achieved with the rounded Auris. Equipment grades are generous and the range’s pricing bandwidth quite narrow, with only a R30k difference between the entry-level and range-topping Corolla hatch derivates.

Standard dynamic safety equipment is what one would expect from a vehicle in its class, with anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control fitted to all Corolla hatches. Inside there are seven airbags

Rather cleverly, all the Corolla hatches also roll on 16-inch wheels, which might appear a bit undersized in the current market – but those smaller wheels are wrapped with larger volumes tyres. As such, they are more inclined to survive a pothole strike at speed than a larger, more stylish, alloy wheel with a low-profile tyre.

Pricing starts at R336 800 for the 1.2T XS manual and for that price you’ll get keyless entry with push-button starting, LED headlamps, a reverse-aiding camera, the abovementioned 16-inch wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning and a touchscreen infotainment system.  CVT shifting bumps the XS pricing to R347 400.

Toyota’s XR specification Corolla hatch retails for R367 100 and adds blind-spot monitoring and combination leather-suede seats to the offering. It is only available with the CVT transmission.

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