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[NEWS] Toyota Corolla Commercial 2023 long-term test

Toyota Corolla Commercial 2023 long-term test

Toyota Corolla Commercial front lead

Why have a chuntering box for a van if you can have a smart hybrid estate instead?

Why we’re running it:  To see if this hybrid can strike the sweet spot between a car and a van

#Month 1">Month 1 - #Specs">Specs

Life with a Toyota Corolla Commercial: Month 1

Welcoming the Corolla to the fleet - 28 June 2023

Us photographers are an annoying breed: we insist on journalists driving cars out to the middle of nowhere, will always ask for one more pass and will always have a frankly ridiculous amount of kit to hand, just in case.

You would think a van would be our perfect method of transport, then, right? Well, as much kit as we have, they are if anything probably a little too big for us. Plus, thieves have a habit of viewing vans as oversized lucky-dip boxes.

So what do you do if you need a reasonable but not ridiculously large amount of cargo space in an inconspicuous package? You go for a car-based van, such as my new Toyota Corolla Commercial.

From a distance, it looks like a standard Corolla Touring Sports estate. It’s only when you get close that you notice the rear windows are blocked off with a black film (designed to make its van identity as hard to realise as possible) and you realise all is not as it initially seems.

It has the same ‘self-charging’ hybrid system as its rear-seated cousin, with a 1.8-litre four-pot petrol engine, an electric motor and a small battery. That means there’s a total of 138bhp on tap, delivered to the front wheels through an e-CVT.

There’s a fair amount of goodies included for the £24,533 (excluding VAT) base price too, including a rear-view camera, heated seats and an infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Although they are mechanically identical and almost visually so too, the differences between the Corolla car and Corolla van are immediately obvious once you open the latter’s rear doors and find that the back seats are missing (something required by law in order for anything to qualify for commercial vehicle tax benefits).

They have been replaced by a cavernous 1326-litre cargo bay and a full-metal bulkhead grille for separation between the driver and the load being transported. I’m so used to seeing seats inside a car like this that it looks simply massive, but it’s not quite as spacious as even the smallest ‘proper’ vans.

For example, the smallest Toyota Proace City variant has a load bay of 3300 litres, despite being 247mm shorter overall. Still, I’m able to transport objects up to 1860mm long and 1430mm wide.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a normal rear screen. That’s great for driving because the blacked-out side windows create blind spots large enough to lose a medium-size container ship in, but it means that whatever I leave in the back is on full display to the world.

The payload is 435kg, which sounds like a lot until you compare it with the aforementioned Proace City’s 650kg load-lugging capability. Heck, even the standard Corolla estate can carry 100kg more than our new long-termer in certain specifications.

This decreased carrying capacity is offset by the driving characteristics, though. As you would expect, this ‘van’ just feels like a car. The control weights are light around town but the steering is firm and stable at high speeds, while I’ve also been impressed by the quietness, comfort and fuel economy – all things that you want in a vehicle prone to being driven for exceedingly long periods.

Although it glides smoothly over the appalling roads around my local town of Poole, the rear feels much more softly sprung than the front, giving the car a tendency to rock back and forth for a bit after hitting large bumps. It’s not unpleasant, but it does take a little bit of getting used to.

The radar-guided adaptive cruise control is a real stress-reducer in traffic, as the car does all the work for me, with the incredibly heavy steering and accurate lane keeping assistance seeming like they would be happiest with no human intervention in the slightest.

If that’s not your cup of tea, these two systems can be turned off via the controls on the steering wheel, while other safety equipment such as automatic collision avoidance can be disabled in the menus. Best of all, it remembers your preferences for next time – which isn’t always the case on other cars.

The powertrain is keen to stay in electric mode around town, only really using the combustion engine under acceleration and above speeds of around 30mph, and the power delivery feels incredibly smooth.

The claimed WLTP figure of 64mpg seems somewhat optimistic, but even with my feet of lead, I’ve managed to average 60mpg overall so far, and a recent hour-long motorway run with fairly heavy traffic yielded an incredibly impressive 72.6mpg figure.

So, it’s big, it’s comfy and it’s economical. On first impressions, I’m going to have to try quite hard to find things to moan about during my time with this Toyota, and I doubt that “my dog doesn’t like it” would be a valid criticism.

Second Opinion

Jack’s Corolla is up there with the best vans, mainly because it doesn’t look like one. It does all those vital tasks so easily that it should be a winner for his job. One area where it may come unstuck is passenger room. He and I aren’t blessed in the leg department, yet even for us the seat is just a few inches off the bulkhead.

Piers Ward

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Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT- i Commercial specification

Specs: Price New £29,440 Price as tested £29,956 Options Silver metallic paint, £525

Test Data: Engine 138bhp at 5200rpm Torque 104lb ft at 3600rpm Kerb weight 1410kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 11.1sec Fuel economy (claimed) 61mpg CO2 105g/km Faults None Expenses None

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