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Toyota Corolla ZR sedan

 

There’s a flagship version of the Corolla sedan called ZR. But we’re not convinced it looks or feels special enough compared with its lesser siblings.

Base price: $43,690.

Powertrain and performance: 1.8-litre petrol four, 103kW173Nm, continuously variable transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 6.6 litres per 100km.

Vital statistics: 4620mm long, 1460mm high, 2700mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 470 litres, fuel tank 55 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels on 205/55 tyres.

We like: Extra space of sedan version, good sat-nav with Suna traffic.

We don’t like: Doesn’t stand out from crowd like the Corolla Levin ZR hatch, not special enough to justify $6200 over GLX sedan.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The Toyota Corolla was the single biggest-selling new vehicle of 2014. No surprise there: it’s always been the model for everyman, ticking boxes and winning friends wherever it goes. It’s certainly a favourite fleet and rental model.

But one change with the latest model, launched in 2013, has been Toyota New Zealand’s desire to take the top-end versions into a more upmarket space. It introduced a flagship ZR model grade intended to appeal to private buyers looking for something a bit more premium than your everyday Corolla.

This strategy is particularly relevant for the Corolla ZR sedan, which is a larger vehicle than the hatchback (there’s an extra 100mm in the wheelbase and 345mm overall) and has become something of a default mid-sizer.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? More equipment with the ZR grade does not mean more performance. A Corolla is still a Corolla regardless of the specification and all models have the same 1.8-litre powerplant and continuously variable transmission (CVT) – unless you opt for the entry GX sedan, which is also offered as manual.

The engine is adequate but hardly exciting. The CVT is smooth around town but can be a struggler at high speed, despite software that prevents it holding high revs for too long.

The chassis is competent and the sedan brings an advantage in ride over the hatchback, thanks to that extra 100mm in the wheelbase. It’s an excellent car at 7/10ths but hardly one that urges you to really enjoy the drive.

The ZR gets slightly larger 16-inch wheels than the base Corolla GX, but they’re same size (if not style) as the GLX and they’re hardly sporting. The modest footwear plays a part in the car’s excellent ride quality, but looks and feel undernourished on what is a relatively large car.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? So, what lavish equipment comes with the ZR package? There’s leather upholstery, climate control for the air conditioning and the 6.1-inch touch screen has a satellite navigation system with Suna traffic assistance.

That’s much pretty much it, which makes for adequate but not exceptional value over the $6200-cheaper Corolla GLX sedan. It’s all equipment worth having, but none of it really succeeds in giving the ZR a more premium ambience than its lower-spec siblings.

No denying that the Corolla sedan is a usefully large family or business car, though. The rear seat is truly spacious and the 470-litre boot is massive – albeit with a disappointingly small load-though are into the cabin.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? If we can return to the Corolla five-door for moment: the Levin ZR hatchback does a reasonable job of presenting itself as a premium Corolla. There’s quite a bit of styling differentiation from other five-door models, noticeably larger 17-inch wheels and some interesting equipment, such as automatic high-beam lights and the option of a glass roof.

The Corolla ZR sedan doesn’t go as far and it isn’t as successful in moving the model upmarket. For our money, the GLX sedan is still the better package – there’s just not enough extra presence and equipment in the ZR to make the move up from GLX worthwhile.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Intelligent headlights: No
  • Parking radar: Yes with camera
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Head-up display: No
  • Satellite navigation: Yes with Suna traffic alerts
  • Keyless entry/start: No/Yes
  • Stop-start: No
  • Air conditioning: Single-zone climate
  • Heated/ventilated seats: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Leather upholstery: Yes
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40

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