Toyota Corolla 2.0 XSE CVT 2019 review

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Rather than sitting before an ugly, cliff-like dashboard assembled from an assortment of unyielding plastics, you now view an appealing, sculpted, part-stitched and sheathed facia crowned by a conveniently protuberant infotainment screen and, ahead of the driver, a neat instrument binnacle filled with blue-glowing instruments.

The infotainment system is easy to use, too. The climate control knobs are rubber, as are the bits you grip of the door pulls, the upholstery you’d consider for a domestic sofa and the cabin architecture shows plentiful signs of sculptural flair.

It’s hardly a revolution, but this is a cabin designed with more than the perfunctory box-ticking mindset evident in many Toyotas past. The powertrain in this US-spec Corolla won’t be coming to the UK because this a straightforward petrol 2.0-litre. But it’s only 10bhp shy of the output of the more powerful 1.8 VVTi hybrid that we’ll get here and, set-up details apart, it has the same chassis. True, the all-up weight, and its distribution, will be different, but this car should provide a solid clue to the Corolla’s dynamic character.

Which is a mix of the familiar and the surprising. The familiar is a CVT automatic, which, on a twisty road demanding much work with the accelerator, produces the kind of hammering, yammering sounds that CVTs too often induce from four-cylinder engines. It’s less strident than many, which is good, but it’s fortunate that you can partly mitigate its 5000rpm whinings by using the Corolla’s paddle shifts, especially as this is not the sweetest of 2.0 litres.

You might think all this irrelevant in a Corolla, a car that’s as much about the joy of driving as battling to get your bag into an Airbus overhead locker is about the joy of flight.

But on the wet, switchback twists of the Angeles Crest Highway, this Corolla XSE offered plenty of grip, balance and the kind of supple compliance that encourages you to push hard. And discover steering that actually provides physical messaging. And all in a cabin that you can actually enjoy sitting in.

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