2016 Toyota Corolla road test and review.
It seems these days if you put a couple of letters of the alphabet after the model name of a car, it must mean that it’s somehow cooler and better than all the other models in the yard.
Sometimes it seems it’s just a way for car companies to justify charging an additional arm and leg, on top of the other arm and leg you’re already forking out, for a whole lot of not much.
But sometimes it really does mean it’s cooler and better, and in the case of the 2016 Toyota Corolla ZR, I’d say that’s true – lucky, because at $28,990 it’d be easy to think otherwise.
Recently I had the opportunity to cruise around town in one for a couple of days.
With a 2002 Ascent model kicking around in my family, I jumped at the chance to finally get into the new, cool kid version and see just how far this iconic car has come.
And in sports mode, the 2016 Toyota Corolla is even better.
It’s not over the top power like some other hot hatches I’ve driven around in over the last few months, but it’s more than enough to make you feel like a boy racer.
With a 7 speed variable transmission, I could drive it in automatic when I had to be sensible, and then flick it over to manual when I wanted to pretend that I knew how to actually drive a manual. I’ve never used gear shift paddles before, located behind the steering wheel, so I just HAD to give it a go.
They were very easy to use, especially on the fly, and made me feel like a bit of a racecar driver. It handled so well, and felt nice and solid on the road, especially in the wet. I drove it in a massive thunderstorm and didn’t feel like it wasn’t glued to the bitumen at any point, and there was a lot of water on the road.
The Corolla ZR I was fanging around in had the Skyview roof (this is an optional extra at $1500). I liked it, but would I spend that much on it? Ahhh… nope. Being a sickly-pale lady living in Australia, the land of scorching sunshine, I’d burst into flames driving around with that thing uncovered in about 3 minutes.
Also I’m not on the roof-as-another-window bandwagon, so I’d be happier with a smaller sunroof that I could actually open for fresh air. There are plenty of standard features on this car though to (possibly) make you forget about the roof window.
Some of the standouts for me were the reverse camera, dual zone climate control air conditioning, heated front seats, keyless entry and push button start, a full size spare tyre and cruise control. It’s all of these things, plus the rest, that make me feel like this car is value for money.
The interior is great. The front sports seats were really comfortable, and all of my passengers found it comfortable too, including my two back seat adult passengers.
There was plenty of legroom and general cabin space, and you could definitely fit 3 adults in the back reasonably comfortably. I loved the black-on-black colour scheme, with black seats, dashboard and panels, and I really loved the dashboard layout. It looked simple yet stylish and sleek.
Everything was in arms reach, and for us vertically challenged that’s important. The infotainment system was pretty good, and straightforward enough that I could get the music happening without too much fuss, although I didn’t really like the GPS.
It couldn’t find the place I was looking for, which was quite a big and well-known community club in outer Sydney, without an exact address.
And when the vehicle was in motion it wouldn’t let you access anything – I’m assuming this is a standard safety feature on newer GPS systems, but still annoying because my passenger was trying to sort out the address issue but couldn’t do it until we had stopped at the lights.
There’s plenty of storage in this car, with ample cup holders, bottle holders and other stuff holders to satisfy one’s need to cart around… stuff. Did the boot meet my airport pickup challenge? Well of course it did, it’s a Corolla after all! Being deep and wide, it’s perfect for a couple of medium to large suitcases, groceries and school bags or a swag of sports gear.
And with 60/40 split rear seats you could fit plenty of flat pack furniture back there. IKEA anyone?
The ZR looks great on the road. The sporty body kit and 17 inch alloy wheels makes it look more beefy than the standard model, and the metallic paint in Blue Gem that I had looked really vibrant and punchy. That’s also an additional cost, but at $450 I wouldn’t have a problem paying the extra.
This current styling of the Corolla is an absolute winner in my opinion. It looks so fresh and modern, and totally unlike anything else on the road. And let’s face it, when you’re spending that much, you want to look a bit different and special.
I really like the Corolla ZR. I think it’s value packed, economical without compromising on performance, and the sort of car you can really get your money’s worth from. These things are little work horses – you only have to take note of how many mid-90’s models you still see out on the road as proof of that.
So, 14 years on from the release of my mum’s Ascent, I can honestly say the ‘Rolla just continues to get better and better.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2016 Toyota Corolla ZR
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol producing 103kW and 173Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed CVT automatic (only)
Safety: Five stars
Price: from $28,990