2013 Toyota Corolla GX 1.8 petrol from Australia and New Zealand

Summary:

OK for a trip to the shops without breaking down - average at everything else

Faults:

Nothing, recall on the fuel filter.

General Comments:

This review is for the hatchback model. Having rejected a Mazda 3 on too much road noise, I remembered I had hired a Corolla in Australia for a few days and was impressed with its smoothness, soft ride and quietness. I took one for a test drive and purchased a second hand example. Things were great for a week, but after that it became apparent that not enough detail and thought had gone into the design of this vehicle. It may be great for a rental, fleet car or "nip down to the supermarket" type of car, but as general, long term all round car it simply does not cut it. Please be aware that I live in New Zealand, which has conditions that may be quite different from Europe or other countries, so my review is based on driving it here. It is quite a hilly country, with lots of winding roads, often having strong winds and has very bright sunlight. Street lighting at night is often poor. After a while the design omissions and penny pinching aspects of the car began to grate, that I couldn't live with it. It may be reliable, but has been one of the most boring, frustrating and poorly designed cars I’ve owned in the past 25 years or so.

First of all the good:

Toyota reliability, quality control, excellent after sales backup. The 1.8 is quite nippy around town when paired with the CVT, the body shape is modern, the dashboard is modern. Road noise is low. Suspension is smooth. Re-sale values are good.

Now the bad.

STEERING AND HANDLING: POOR

Steering is way too light in my opinion; in the wet, going around roundabouts I came very close to a skid on too many occasions. This is not helped by the small wheels, soft suspension, and excessive body roll you get with this car. It is no surprise to see this car has "traction control", no doubt an add on to deal with the poor cornering and handling of the car. The steering is electric, not mechanical, and I simply hated it. Not only it is too light, buy WAY too sensitive. I ended up driving my car with my thumbs, and found it almost impossible to keep the car straight. When you add the lightness of the car, it gets blown around a lot on the highway due to winds, the car drives in a zig zag fashion in an attempt to keep the car straight. Needless to say, long trips are not at all enjoyable in this car.

VISIBILITY: AVERAGE

You sit quite low in the car, and the bonnet kinda comes quite high up the windscreen. The front two side pillars are quite thick, so when driving, seeing "down" left and right and in front is obscured. The result of this is that you hit far too many pavement edgings and kerbs. The front air dam is too low and this scrapes and hit most edgings too. The rear window is tiny and is also tinted a yellow colour which further impedes rear view.

INTERIOR: AVERAGE

The dashboard looks nice, but unfortunately it shares many parts as the Toyota HiAce van. Therefore I am reminded of driving the grotty old "works van" when I'm driving this car. The seats are made from a thin cheap foam, and are too narrow. May be OK for slim people 5.6, but for most people they are not great for long trips. The material is also rough so don't think of wearing expensive clothes in this car, it will wear them down. The rear seat is little more than a bench seat and it has little side support so your passengers roll around a lot. The sun visors are too small and leave gaps around the rear view mirror so the sun (very strong in New Zealand) beams into those gaps and can be very annoying. Road noise is low, but wind noise is high. When I bought the car second hand, it came without the rear parcel tray. I have since found out that these break easily, and they are expensive to buy new. Why can’t Toyota design a parcel tray that doesn’t break?

The key is very square and squab. It sticks out more than in other cars, with the result that when you brake hard, your body slides forward and my knee has hit the key and turned it the car off on many occasions. This has been downright dangerous.

ENGINE/GEARBOX:

Cheap to service and will probably last a lifetime with Toyota reliability. The 1.8 CVT combination has heaps of power at lower revs, so feels very nippy around town. However, it struggles a bit on hills and long trips and sounds rough when pushed. The CVT still has “issues” where it simply isn’t as good as a “normal” transmission. Let me explain. I live down a steep driveway, when I pull out I have to kick down the accelerator with some power to pull out of the driveway to keep pace with the oncoming traffic; the car quickly accelerates to 50km/h, but it sticks in a low gear, screaming along the highway as it “thinks” I am going to keep to keep accelerating to a higher speed. After 30 seconds or so it “realises” you aren’t going to accelerate any more. Secondly, when you go down a steep hill, the gearbox will change down to a low gear, jerking your head back as it does it, so the car screams down the hill in a low gear. I simply dread driving the car in these scenarios.

EXTERIOR BODY:

I like the styling, it looks very modern and sleek. The fuel filler neck is too narrow and the angle too shallow, so when you fill up with fuel you can’t leave the handle in the fuel filler neck on the car because there’s not enough grip on it, so you have to stand over the car when re-fueling breathing in all those vapours; this situation isn’t helped by the small fuel tank, so you have to refuel more often than with other cars.

HEADLIGHTS: POOR

They are quite small and not very bright; the lenses are very poor and suffer from rainbow edging around the edge of the beam.

DOOR MIRRORS: POOR

They are labeled as “electric” but they don’t fold flush with the doors when you park the car under the electric system. You have to push them in manually. Inevitably you drive the car off forgetting you’ve folded them in (often when it’s raining as you want to get in the car ASAP). When you’re driving you realise you haven’t folded them back out, so too many times I’ve had to stop the car and fold them out (when inevitably it’s raining !!!) Toyota must be stuck in a time warp. What car these days has manual mirrors!?

BRAKES: AVERAGE

They seem way too light in my opinion. It seems to be a “Toyota thing”; my Dad’s Corsa also has very soft brakes.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 12th December, 2018

14th Dec 2018, 08:29

Good review. The older NZ-built Corollas (say, pre-1994) were much better-designed for local conditions. The Chris Amon-tuned suspension and steering, plus the sound insulation and choice of tyres for the coarse-chip pavement, were notable when compared to the same age Japanese used import. Night and day.

Your description of how the automatic dropped down to a gear ratio (artificial on a CVT) low enough to make the engine rev its guts out, reminded me of my 1995 Audi A4 1.8i, which was far more suitable for a manual, did exactly the same thing. But Europeans during that time didn't really drive automatics, they were really an afterthought. I'd expect Toyota though, being very experienced in automatics (owing to the American market), would've been better-able to select a better ratio to drop down to, for engine braking.

Having lived in NZ now for 25 years, I learned early on that the road conditions, especially outside cities, can be downright treacherous, and I would never, ever buy a car that handled poorly; it's just as easy to die from the road design even without being drunk.

The headlights? Not just the Corolla, all these new cars with squinting, narrow headlamps are often very poor in illuminating the road vs. older cars with larger, more rectangular headlamps. Toyotas may be the perfect machine for a place like North America (flat, smooth, straight roads or freeways with hardly any sharp high-speed corners) or Australia (that highway from Sydney to Canberra could be used as a ruler), but it takes more than just reliability for a car to be suitable to conditions elsewhere. Perhaps that is the reason why, despite reliability, European cars still sell in very large numbers, while Japanese cars have taken over America.