Outgoing Corolla sedan gets a new lease of life as the Quest, which will sell as a budget-oriented range alongside the new-generation Corolla. Picture: SUPPLIED
Outgoing Corolla sedan gets a new lease of life as the Quest, which will sell as a budget-oriented range alongside the new-generation Corolla. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Toyota Corolla is an institution here in SA. Some time last year I drove the all-new and imported Corolla hatch. It’s positioned as a more premium offering in the segment where the VW Golf and Audi A3 operate and it possesses the kind of aesthetics, tech and refinement to compete.

The imported sedan version, of which we were given a sneak preview, is also imminent and when it arrives it will form part of a trio of differently priced and poised Corollas customers can choose from.

In the meantime, I drove the third element of this quest, which is the locally-built new Corolla Quest which is a repurposed version of the outgoing Corolla sedan. It will sell as a more budget-focused option alongside the new-generation Corolla.

The 2,700mm wheelbase and 452l of usable boot space play an important role in its attractiveness as a family car, or as it has come to be known, as the ideal e-hailed taxi. It’s now available in six derivatives and there’s quite a lot of standard equipment for the price.

The new Quest is available in three interior trim choices: a standard model, Prestige and an Exclusive, the latter being the one I drove at last week’s Gauteng-based media launch.

The base model features a black and blue combination textile with a fixed rear seat while Prestige variants get a fabric and leather combo and available in either blue/black or grey with red accents.

The spacious and businesslike Quest cabin comes with plenty of features, including a wif-fi hotspot. Picture: SUPPLIED
The spacious and businesslike Quest cabin comes with plenty of features, including a wif-fi hotspot. Picture: SUPPLIED

The duo of range-toppers in Exclusive trim get a 60/40 split rear bench, automatic climate control, an infotainment system with a large screen, steering wheel-mounted controls and USB, Aux and Bluetooth connectivity. The features list further includes remote central locking, reverse-view camera, cruise control, keyless entry and start button, rain-sensing wipers and more. It also comes with in-cabin Wi-Fi of which the first 15Gb is free.

Safety items include stability control, ABS, hill-start assist and six airbags as standard across the range.

A single engine powers the entire line up but this time Toyota has opted to ditch the previous model's 1.6l motor in favour of a more powerful, 103 kW and 173Nm 1.8l unit mated to a six-speed manual or CVT automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is claimed as 7.0l/100km for manual models and 6.3l/100km for variants equipped with the CVT.

The motor is refined enough and revs healthily. The Quest is not the sharpest tool in the Toyota box but the more powerful engine makes it quite tractable and effortless to drive.

It also hugs roads well enough but the suspension performs the dutiful role of safe, balanced and comfortable moving of the car and its passengers on standard fitment 16-inch wheels with ventilated disc brakes at all four wheels.

There’s 452l of useful boot capacity to fit luggage. Picture: SUPPLIED
There’s 452l of useful boot capacity to fit luggage. Picture: SUPPLIED

It looks okay too. Covering the top tips of the headlamps with a strip, and filling the space where fog lamps used to be on the bumper in body matching paint, has not only given it a distinct appearance from the older Corolla but it’s also an improvement on the looks.

If you were still waiting for drawbacks, there are no obvious ones.

Just as with the previous generation, the new Toyota Corolla Quest is a solid package for customers who care less about trending frills and want value, space, and reliability in car. They range from regular folk to entrepreneurs wanting to cash-in on the booming taxi e-hailing business. The Corolla Quests comes with a standard a three-services/45,000km service plan and a three-year/100,000km warranty.


* President and CEO of Toyota SA Andrew Kirby also announced at the launch event that the company will use part of R4.28bn investment to build a new passenger car at its Prospection plant in KwaZulu-Natal from 2021. This move is expected to inject R2.85bn into the SA economy and provide 1,500 new jobs.

The yet to be named new model will include the first-time local production of a derivative with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive.

A R365m sum will go towards doubling the size of the company’s parts distribution warehouse in Gauteng while R91m is earmarked for ramping up production of the Hi-Ace Ses’fikile, from the current 14,000 units produced per annum to 18,000 to meet the great demand, creating a further 270 new jobs in the process. A new packing plant to support Toyota SA’s knockdown business of Hilux in Kenya will also be established at its Durban plant.


Pricing:

1.8 Quest — R249,900

1.8 Quest CVT — R270,400

1.8 Quest Prestige — R286,500

1.8 Quest Prestige CVT — R296,800

1.8 Quest Exclusive — R307,400

1.8 Quest Exclusive CVT — R317,700