At one time, the arrival of a new generation of the Toyota Corolla would be awaited with much anticipation. It was, after all, Toyota’s first global model and right from the time it was launched in 1966, it carried the Toyota name all over the world and helped to build the brand’s strength by offering motorists a reliable, economical and affordable car.

However, times changes and consumers change and by the late 1990s, even though the Corolla was still selling well, it somehow seemed ‘old’ to the new generation. It was telling that in the early 2000s, the Fit (Jazz) overtook it for the first time ever as the bestselling car in Japan. It didn’t help that the price of the Corolla had also moved it beyond the entry-level model it once was, prompting Toyota to develop the Vios to take its place in price-sensitive markets like Malaysia.

In any case, the Corolla remains a core model in Toyota’s range and it is still the bestselling car of all time with 46 million units sold worldwide in 52 years. So for the 12th generation, designated E210, Toyota has made sure that it will still hold its appeal to a broad range of customers by transforming the style, driver engagement, comfort and refinement and bolstering the renowned reliability.

Appropriately, the new model has its global debut in the world’s largest car market at Auto Guangzhou in China today. Although being unveiled first in China, it will not go on sale there till mid-2019 while deliveries will start from early 2019 in the USA and Europe. It will be available in more than 150 countries and for the ASEAN region, it would probably have some localisation to meet the tastes and requirements of customers in the region more specifically.

“We have strived to design new models that are eye-catching, and fun to both ride in and drive. By enhancing not just the fun factors that are unique to cars, but connectivity functions to create new value, I wanted to make this new model a car that enriches mobility for customers around the world,” said Yoshiki Konishi, Chief Engineer for the new Corolla. “I believe the Corolla series, with its millions of customers around the world, is a key touchstone model for gauging the success of Toyota’s ‘making ever-better cars’ philosophy carried out through Toyota’s New Global Architecture or TNGA. I am confident that customers will see that Toyota’s car-making has changed significantly.”

The new generation uses the GA-C platform which is one of the variations of TNGA that has been developed for a wide range of new models. The GA-C platform is used for the smaller models and started with the current Prius. Besides the new Corolla, it is also used for the C-HR.

TNGA has been described as a ‘liberating’ development, allowing the designers greater flexibility and efficiency in developing new models. They used this new advantage for the Corolla which began with the exterior design concept of ‘Shooting Robust’. The highly rigid platform improves torsional rigidity by 60% and has a lower centre of gravity, new multi-link rear suspension and totally revised front suspension.

The car’s overall height is 20 mm lower and while the wheelbase remains at 2700 mm, the tracks have been widened to improve the on-road stance and stability while the 35 mm lower bonnet gives better forward visibility.

China will get a ‘Levin’ variant but it’s not a successor to the legendary model enthusiasts know and love.

Depending on the market, there will be different bodystyles offered – sedan, hatchback and stationwagon. China also gets a Levin model though this is not a new version of the legendary Levin that enthusiasts know and love. It is not a coupe but a sportier variant of the 4-door sedan.

Images shown are mainly for models sold in China. Features and specs for other countries may be different.

The interior design is based on a ‘Sensuous Minimalism’ concept (explained as ‘a design that is simple yet sensuously appealing’), incorporating a sleek instrument panel that conveys a comfortable spaciousness, and integrated functional parts, creating a refined elegance.

For powertrains, there will be a combination of some existing and new ones, again depending on the market. This includes the 2-litre Dynamic Force Engine (170 ps/200 Nm) and Direct Shift-CVT with 10 sequential shifts, and there will also be a hybrid variant.

In keeping with Toyota’s goal of reducing road accidents, many safety features have been upgraded and some advanced ones have become standard, packaged as the Toyota Safety Sense suite. This has Toyota’s latest pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, road-sign assist, automatic high beam, and a reverse camera.

Connectivity is an important feature today and this is provided in different ways. Models sold in China, for example, will come standard with an onboard Data Communication Module, an integral component of Toyota Connected. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility will be available in cars sold in North America while there will be services in Europe that allow the car to be connected to an operator in emergency situations and the dispatch of rescue vehicles based on the car’s location.

It’s uncertain when this new generation will come to Malaysia as regional production since the 1990s has meant that time-frames for launch are no longer related to the global debut of the model. Each region has its own product cycle time and also has to set up parts sourcing from suppliers within the region. Sometimes it can be within 9 months (as it used to be) or it can be over a year. With UMW Toyota Motor almost finished with the construction of its second assembly plant, perhaps this new Corolla could be one of the models that will be assembled there.

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[Chips Yap]

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