Toyota says it expects its all-new Corolla to permanently replace the Ford Falcon as the Holden Commodore??s chief rival when it goes on sale in mid-2007.
The 10th-generation version of the car that this year has twice knocked Commodore off its accustomed top-spot has now launched in Japan as the Auris.
Corolla, the world??s best-selling nameplate, became Australia??s best-selling car in June and July, and has surpassed the Falcon as market runner-up for all but two months this year, up to September.
Toyota Australia spokesperson Mike Breen says the company not only anticipates Corolla staying ahead of Falcon but is also hoping the small car will regularly become the country??s best-seller.
???We expect [the new Corolla] to maintain that market position [first or second] and hopefully strengthen,??? says Breen.
???The market dictates what is the market leader, but we??re hoping [the new Corolla] will make some in-roads into that [top position].???
Sales trends are certainly on Toyota??s side. While the large-car segment has fallen by a quarter (24.9%) in the past two years, the small-car category has risen by more than a quarter (25.9%) in the same period.
And the Corolla is the small car that has benefited the most, comprehensively outselling all of its rivals except for the Mazda3. It reached a peak of 5912 sales in June this year.
The new Corolla, in keeping with the trend for new-generation models, will be bigger in every dimension than the current model. It??s 45mm longer (4220mm), 65mm wider (1760mm), and 45mm taller (1515mm). The 2600mm wheelbase, however, remains unchanged.
This extra sheetmetal no doubt contributes to the higher kerb weight, listed as 1260kg for Japan's Auris hatch.
As expected, exterior styling is near-identical to the Auris Space Concept car showed at September??s Paris motor show. It??s very much an evolution of the current Corolla, but with plenty of design cues from the smaller Yaris and larger Camry ?? including the little bonnet bump above the Toyota badge.
The new interior is more radical, certainly in comparison to the current Corolla??s cabin. A funkier styling approach includes a silver-plastic centre section that rises from between the front seats, angled at about 40 degrees and blending into the main console....
A hollow area behind the ???bridge?? section provides a reminder of Volvo??s ???floating?? console in the S40 and V50. Unlike the Swedish car??s, however, this area features a small, open place for odd-bits storage.
As with cars such as the Renault Scenic II and Mitsubishi Outlander, the gearlever is positioned higher than usual, just below the audio and climate controls. The handbrake follows the angle of the bridged console, meaning it??s almost upright when engaged.
Toyota has certainly not forgotten the practicality factor. The new Corolla will be one of few cars to feature dual gloveboxes, while there are push-out cupholders incorporated below the side air vents, two in the centre rear armrest, with an extra one featured in the centre bin.
The 60/40 split-fold rear seats fold near-flat for extra storage space, while, for further convenience, both satellite navigation and rear parking camera should be optional for Australian customers.
While a variety of engines will be available for the car when it launches in Europe early next year, Australia will only offer a 1.8-litre engine expected to make about 100kW of power (identical to the output of the current Corolla before it was retuned to 93kW to meet stricter emissions regulations).
While Japan's Auris has a new dual-variable-valve-timing version of the 1.8-litre engine, delivering 100kW and 175Nm, drive.com.au spies suggest Corollas sold here might continue with the older 1.8 in the current model.
Japan??s 1.8 is linked to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), but Australia is not expected to get the CVT, instead offer the existing five-speed manual and four-speed auto. A new six-speed manual is not out of the question, though.
Toyota confirmed that Australia - the only market in the world that will use the Corolla nameplate instead of Auris - will get both hatch and sedan versions of the next-generation Corolla, but not the wagon.
The Auris name has been introduced worldwide for the new model, but Toyota Australia was successful in arguing for the retention of the Corolla name that has been in existence since 1966.
Mike Breen says Nissan??s recent problems with the Pulsar name being changed to Tiida in Australia were not used to convince Japan that the Corolla name had to stay in Australia.
???Our product planning department started negotiations [to retain the Corolla name] two years ago when they [Toyota Japan] first notified us that they were changing the name to Auris,??? says Breen. ???I think the decision [to use Corolla here] was made 12 months ago, so the Tiida experience didn??t have any effect on our decision.???
Asked if changing the Corolla name would have had a negative impact on Australian sales of the car, Breen said: ???[The Corolla] name means different things to different markets. For Australia it means the traditional Toyota quality and reliability.
"We just knew from history that we needed to maintain that [Corolla] brand.???
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Sydney Morning Herald