2006 Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.6 VVTi Prado (CH)

Were I to describe the latest test car as an automotive utility, you would probably guess, without reading any further, what this car will turn out to be! Yes, that’s right. A Toyota! As predicted, Hertz CH came up with a Corolla 1.6 VVTi, badged “Prado” (!), with a particularly ill-fitting badge declaring this, stuck on to the rear hatch. Although the Auris is starting to appear in their fleet, there are still Corollas (is the plural “Corollae”?) left, and in the interests of renewing my acquaintance with this car, and adding some decent pictures to my collection, I did not even try to negotiate anything else.

It is very nearly four years since I last drove a Corolla, and in the interim, I must have driven about 120 different cars. However, it did not take long for the memories to come flooding back. There was a light facelift applied to the model in 2005, but this was more cosmetic than anything else, with a new grille, and some of that fashionable fake metal finish applied to the dashboard. In all other respects, my test car was just like the one that served as transport for a much enjoyed holiday in County Galway. Even the colour, a sort of brown-tinged grey was exactly the same.

The test car was fitted with the 1.6 VVTi engine, though nowhere was this in evidence on the vehicle. Loss of the “VVTi” badges from the front wings seems to be one of the facelift changes. The engine is smooth, and willing enough, but, like many 1600cc competitors, it barely seemed adequate for the task in hand, despite its 110 bhp. Once extended beyond about 3000 rpm it became ever more noisy, so the impression of refinement which pertained at lower speeds and lower revs disappeared. Gearing is such that first is useful for not a lot more than getting underway, but without the torque of a turbo diesel, a desire to reach brisker speeds was never going to be that quick, and would require full use of the gears to get there. I did have to remind myself on more than one occasion that there was no sixth gear, and that tempting though it might have been to pull the lever back where you would expect to find such a ratio, that was actually where reverse was located! Baulking in traffic, or anything other than moderate inclines required a downchange to maintain momentum. Hardly a problem, as the clutch was light and the gearchange good, though perhaps not quite as switch-like as Japanese cars of 20 years ago. The Corolla did prove to be quite economical, though, averaging 7.5 litres/100km since the trip computer was reset. I squeezed in just 25 litres at the end of a 385km test, which calculates out at 42 mpg. Handling, steering, brakes and ride can all best be recorded as being perfectly acceptable. No unpleasant surprises or characteristics, but nothing that is likely to leave a lasting impression, or a feeling of supreme competence either.

Inside the cabin, it’s much the same story. Everything looks neat, well finished, but ultimately unremarkable, and rather unmemorable. The clearly laid out dash is finished from a decent quality plastic. It is not up to Audi or VW standards, and not as soft to the touch as in the Ford Focus, but it is far from class worst, either, and nor is it over-stylised as the Auris would appear to be. There’s none of that nonsense with starter buttons etc, let alone stupid electronic handbrakes. The main instruments are all illuminated only when the ignition is turned on, and there are clear dials, well marked, and easy to read at a glance. There are steering wheel mounted controls for the stereo system, but otherwise there is a refreshing simplicity to the other switches and layout. The centre of the dash has been treated to a swathe of metal-look plastic, without which a black interior such as featured on the test car would be rather sombre. Again, it is neatly enough done, and does not look tacky or unpleasant as some trim finishers can. As befits a family hatchback, there are plenty of oddments spaces in the car, with long and wide door pockets, a very deep cubby between the seats behind the handbrake, and two small lidded slots below the stereo and air con controls. Climate control was part of the specification of the test car, and it was quickly effectively in taking the chill off a car that had been left outside overnight in sub-zero conditions. The stereo system included a text-based navigation system, as well. I did not actually try to use this, though I was amused to note that it was programmed in French, which would not go down well with the German-speaking clientele in Zurich from where I collected the car.

By the latest standards, the Corolla is a relatively compact medium-sized hatch, and yet there is plenty of space inside, with ample leg room in the back, and enough width for three passengers to sit on the rear seat. A regular shaped boot sits behind that, which can be extended by folding the asymmetrically split rear seats. It was necessary to remove the rear head rests, but with the rear seat cushions lifted up out of the way, a nice flat load space was then available. A proper spare wheel was located under the load floor, along with a small amount of space, which took, among other things, the breakdown warning triangle that is mandatory for all cars in Switzerland.

If all this reads quite positively, then that is the intent. There were no significant weak points at all that I could discern. Since this is a Toyota, I have little doubt that the Corolla would continue to provide reliable service to its owner for many years. Indeed, one of my near neighbours had one for 4 years and that was exactly his experience. However, I do have to point out that this is now an obsolete car. The replacement Auris might look very similar, but in trying to inject a little “excitement”, it seems Toyota have missed the mark. There still is little, everyone says, and the inside in particular is now somewhat over-stylised for no real benefit. My neighbour thought so, and the Auris did not even make his short list. He ended up with an Alfa 147. I hope to try out an Auris before long, and see what my own conclusions are. They will be presented here once I get that opportunity.

Conclusion, then? Perfectly acceptable, and doubtless would continue that way for many years. But exciting? No, not at all! One of my neighbours (recently moved away) had one for 4 years, but he has just replaced it with an Alfa 147. And I don’t blame him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *