2020 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport and SX Sedan: Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The updated Toyota Corolla sedan range. It’s possibly one of the longest running nameplates and styles in the Australian market. Lookswise the rear has been mildly massaged whilst the front takes on the appearance of the hatchback, released late in 2018. There’s some changes to the inside and a freshen-up to the ride. There’s also a change in location for manufacturing, with the Corolla returning to Japan after formerly being built in Thailand.There are three models to choose from, with the Ascent Sport, SX, and ZR. Engine choice is a “normal” 2.0L petrol for all three or a 1.8L hybrid for the Ascent Sport and SX. Transmission choices are a manual or CVT in the Ascent Sport, and CVT for the other two. We drove the Ascent Sport and SX 2.0L.

What Does It Cost?: $23,335 and $28,325 for the cars tested and these are prices before government and dealership charges. Driveaway charges vary around the country with variances of just a few to a couple of hundred of dollars. With the SX clad in Celestine Grey and the Ascent in a pearl white, there’s a bump of just over $500.Under The Bonnet Is: A 2.0L petrol engine in the cars reviewed. There is a 1.8L hybrid package available for Ascent Sport and SX, but the ZR stays with the 2.0L only. Peak power is 125kW, with peak twist 200Nm and that’s on standard pump unleaded. Toyota claims 6.0L/100km for the fuel economy and we matched that in the Ascent Sport, whilst the SX threw out 7.4L on a slightly more urban based drive. Tank size is 50L. The transmissions are the now conventional CVT for the 2.0L with the mechanical first gear cog for quicker off the line acceleration. The Ascent Sport can also be specced with a six speed manual and the hybrids have the cogless CVT.On The Outside Is: A mild tweak to the rear lights, with a resemblance to Holden’s Astra. In profile there’s more definition to the wheel arches whilst the front end is completely restyled and now shares the look, with slimmer headlights and deeper air intake, with the hatch. Eyecatching LED driving lights sit above a bumper with subtle differences to the hatch. It’s a good size overall, with a length of 4,630mm just 300mm shorter than the Camry. Boot space is bigger than the hatch too, with 470L swallowing up a family’s groceries or baggage with ease.

Both have alloys are they’re 16 inches in size, with the SX sporting a slightly different sheen in the alloy’s finish to the Ascent Sport. Rubber is from Bridgestone’s Ecopia range and are at 205/55 in size. There is otherwise no visible difference between the two, with the Ascent Sport lacking…something sporty to back up the name.On The Inside Is: Some subtle differences between the pair. The SX has a dual zone climate control versus the Ascent’s single zone, with corresponding changes to the design of the controls. Apart from a push start/stop button the SX and Ascent Sport have identical dash designs, down to the speedometer dominating the display for the driver. The display has the 4.2 inch LCD screen over to the right side, rather than centrally located like, well, just about everyone else.The design of the dash’s material is clean, unfussy, with the texture pleasing to the touch. There’s high gloss piano black around the aircon controls, and above them is the 8.0 inch touchscreen, complete with DAB (SX standard, optional in Ascent Sport, as is satnav), Bluetooth streaming, and bespoke Toyota app connection called myToyota. The screen’s look and layout is something some other manufacturers should look to for their screens. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, plus there is voice recognition, Siri eyes free, and Miracast. The SX has a wireless charge pad, a good feature in a mid-spec car. There are also four cup and bottle holders. Seats are manually adjustable in the two. All pews in both are cloth covered and none were heated or vented. There is a 2,700mm wheelbase on the sedan which is 60mm longer than the hatch. This provides crucial extra legroom for the rear seat passengers.

On The Road Its: Not much different from one to the other. The SX felt as if it had a slightly softer rear to the Ascent Sport, however there is a commonality for the two. the Ecopia rubber drums and drones on harsher tarmac, and the front end lacks confidence on wet roads. Entry speeds in corners had to be drastically reduced in the wet due to push-on understeer compared to driving the same in dry conditions.

Steering both is light with a touch of feeling artificial in heft. Brakes were mostly up to the job with a reasonable amount of stopping performance in the dry, and only a touch less in the wet thanks to the rubber. Ride quality in both, apart from the perceived softer rear in the SX, was excellent, with well controlled damping, high levels of absorption of bumps, and minimal body roll. Dry road cornering is competent and confident too, with dynamics sure to please anyone with a modicum of driving ability.

The first gear cog in the CVT makes a world of difference in getting off the line. Response is zippier, sharper, and blends nicely into the CVT’s own mechanism without issue. Rolling acceleration is improved too, with highway driving and overtaking easier to perform without issue. Downhill drives have the CVT hold and work as an engine brake and it’s all nicely integrated. The engine itself is muted for the most part, and really only aurally intrudes at the higher end of the rev range. There is a Sport button in the centre console and is pretty much superfluous in usage.What About Safety?: Toyota could be said to lead the way when it comes to safety packages. Lobbed under the umbrella name of SafetySense, the range features Active Cruise Control (ACC), Pre-Collision Safety System (PCS) with Pedestrian and Cyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Auto High Beam (AHB) plus reverse camera with fixed guidelines are standard in the SX and ZR. Driving is assisted by the usual traction aids including Hill-Start Assist, plus Active Cornering Assist. This is a system that gently applies brakes to the front driven wheels if required in cornering at speed. Seven airbags are common to both.

And The Warranty?: Simple. Five years and unlimited kilometres. And by ensuring the car is serviced as per the service schedule, Toyota will extend the engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years. Servicing is capped price, at $180 for the first four services at a 12 month or 15,000 kilometre spacing.At The End Of The Drive: In 2.0L and CVT spec there is a question mark for the Ascent Sport and SX differentiation. A retail price difference of $5,000 is a substantial ask for a car that in essence only has digital audio, satnav, and a wireless charge pad over the model below. The wheels and tyres are the same, the body is the same, driving performance is the same. It’s a curious question and one only a buyer can answer when in the showroom. You can compare the specs here.

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