By Jonathan Crouch
In 2018, Toyota returned the Corolla name to the family hatchback segment with a more class-competitive hybrid-focused model line-up of hatches, saloons and estates. This rejuvenated twelfth generation 'E210'-series model transformed the brand's showing in this segment. But does it make sense as a used buy? Here, we look at the pre-facelift 2018-2022 version of this model.
Why would you change the name of the world's best selling automotive model line? The reasons are difficult to understand, yet that's exactly what Toyota did back in 2007, switching the badging of its volume family hatchback model from 'Corolla' to 'Auris'. By 2018, though, the 'Corolla' name was back for what the brand described as this '12th generation' model.
The Corolla badging issue was clearly contentious within Toyota; this car was actually launched at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show as an 'Auris', then re-branded three months later before production models actually hit the showrooms. Perhaps the company realised that it would never have a better opportunity to return to its family hatchback's much respected original model name than this, with an all-new platform and completely fresh engineering adopted here. The Corolla lineage is certainly impressive. It's long been the world's most successful automotive model nameplate, dating back to 1966, and by 2018, 46 million Corollas had been produced.
Away from naming semantics, there was much of interest here, not least the fact that the primary engines offered were petrol/electric hybrids. There were initially three body styles for this 'E210'-series model, a saloon variant joining the core five-door hatch and the alternative 'Touring Sports' estate. All were built on the 'TNGA' 'Toyota New Global Architecture' platform and the hatch and estate were constructed at the brand's British factory in Burnaston, Derbyshire.
The company wanted to enter fresh territory here. For one thing, it needed to make Hybrids more universally acceptable in this segment - that's why there were two of them with this car, a 1.8 and a 2.0-litre unit, both of the proper full-Hybrid 'self-charging' non-plug-in variety. This design also aimed to change customer perceptions of Toyota in this sector, which previously had tended to centre around expectations of drab interior quality, forgettable looks and boring drive dynamics. This MK12 Corolla, we were promised, would be a huge step forward from its Auris predecessor in all these areas. As it needed to be to make this Japanese maker competitive at the sharp end of this class amongst Focuses and Golfs.
Initially, a conventional 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine was offered to customers, but only for the first few months of sale. Thereafter, it was Hybrids only. A saloon body style (only with the 1.8-litre Hybrid engine) arrived early in 2019. An SUV-styled 'Trek' version of the Touring Sports estate was introduced later in 2019; then discontinued (along with the Saloon) when Toyota facelifted this MK12 'E210'-series Corolla range in early 2023.
What You Get
The Corolla nameplate may have been globally successful over half a century but it's never been applied to a really good looking family hatch - until this 'E210'-series model. As an alternative to the core hatch body style, there are two further models, a 'Touring Sports' estate and a Saloon, both of which sit on version of the GA-C platform lengthened by 60mm. All were sleeker, sharper looking and altogether more appealing in this MK12 form than anything Toyota had previously offered in this segment.
At the wheel, there were also big improvements over the previous Auris. Material quality is impressive, with copious use of piano black and metallic-style surfacing. It's not all about the tinsel either. The cabin's ergonomically sound too, thanks to a reduction in instrument panel height that enhances your forward view and a wider centre console area that gives the cockpit more of a wrap-around feel. Plus you also get comfortable seats, good forward visibility and reasonable amounts cabin storage. Further helping with the overall feeling of greater sophistication is the view you get through the smart three-spoke leather-stitched wheel - that of a redesigned instrument binnacle that Toyota chose to present with a combination of digital and analogue design. Anything it can't tell you will probably be covered off by the 8-inch 'Toyota Touch 2' centre-dash screen that deals with the usual DAB audio, Bluetooth, navigation and online connectivity options. Though it isn't cutting-edge in terms of graphical sophistication, we appreciate the fact that it incorporates a standard rear view camera. And we like the neat 'Energy Monitor' which shows you at any given time what's being charged or powered by what.
And the back seat? Well, inside, it's fairly tight space-wise by class standards, both in terms of leg and headroom, restrictions rather emphasised by the way the curved roof lining slopes down ahead and to the side of you. But the lengthier Touring Sports estate or Saloon versions will suit you much better if that's an issue. As for the cargo area, well the roominess here varies quite a lot, not only with body style but also with engine choice. With the 1.8-litre Hybrid or the conventional 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine fitted, the hatch version offers 361-litres, a figure that rises to 471-litres in the Saloon and 598-litres in the 'Touring Sports' estate. Bear in mind though, that if you opt for the hatch or the estate with the larger 2.0-litre Hybrid powerplant, capacity will fall to 313-litres on the hatch and 581-litres on the 'Touring Sports' version.
What to Look For
There aren't too many issues with this 12th generation Corolla. Toyota did have to issue a recall early on in MK12 production for issues with the CVT auto gearbox (there were fears that there was an issue that could lead to torque converter failure, which would result in a loss of power to the wheels). With the 1.8-litre model, a check light might sometimes appear on, illuminating on the dash. This is due to the car's EVAP system; the only solution for this issue is to check the condition of the EVAP system. In the unlikely event that you're looking at a Corolla that's done over 50,000 miles, you can expect it to drink a little more oil. Otherwise, it's just the usual things; check the interior for child damage; and the exterior for parking scrapes and alloy wheel scuffs. And of course insist on a fully stamped-out service history.
(approx - based on a 2021 Corolla 1.8 Hybrid ex VAT) An air filter is priced in the £16 bracket. An oil filter costs in the £5 to £9 bracket. On to brakes. A set of front brake pads tend to retail in the £62 bracket. A front brake disc is around £110; think in the £54 bracket for rears. A set of wiper blades are om the £7-£24 bracket. A pollen filter is in the £15-£48 bracket. A headlamp will cost in the £452-£477 bracket (halogen) and around £893 (LED).
On the Road
Significantly, Toyota decided that this time round, its family hatch contender must offer a choice of full-Hybrid options, slotting in a 2.0-litre 180hp electrified unit in at the top of the range. Here, the link between accelerator position, revs and actual performance is far better matched and you no longer have to spend so much time with the accelerator rammed against its bump stops when you're running late for wherever it is you've got to be. From initial launch, there was a third Corolla engine option - a conventional 1.2-litre petrol turbo unit with 116hp - but it was quickly phased out. Whichever powerplant you prefer, you should find this Toyota far more dynamically able than its segment predecessors this time round. Throw the car into a corner and you'll find that though this Corolla is no Focus, it far from disgraces itself, with a decent level of front end grip and steering that's predictable and accurate, though rather light.
So what do we have here? A name from the past which in this 'E210'-series form packaged up technology from the future. This MK12 Corolla was a car its volume brand competitors had to take very seriously indeed. If you're going the full-Hybrid route with a used car from the 2018-2022 period in this sector, it makes sense to buy into the brand that has most experience in producing this kind of powertrain - and that's unquestionably Toyota.
We think this 'E210'-series post-2018-era Corolla is probably the cleverest choice you could make in the sector from this period - a massive step forward from its uninspired Auris predecessor. If you're looking for a car in this class from this time, this one may not be on your shopping list. We think it ought to be.