A hatch and a sedan prove that there are great alternatives to the SUV…

All business: Toyota Corolla XR

WHAT IS IT?

Every single person reading this knows exactly what a Corolla is: it’s Toyota’s mid-size sedan, which has sold around 50 million units since it was launched and is a firm South African favourite. But this Corolla is different from the rest because you’ll want it for its looks as much as its personality.

WHY THIS?

It’s a Corolla, known for its traditional values, but it has definitely moved up a notch in terms of ticking more boxes than just being a sensible buy. It is a car you could buy because you like the way it looks, the way it drives or the premium interior.

OUTSIDE

Yes, the Corolla may be a sedan (although there is also the Corolla Hatch) but have a gander at just how foxy it is these days. Gone is the rental-car styling, replaced by a design that actually generates desire – not something that Corollas have been renowned for.

Upfront it’s the arrow-shaped LED headlights, big lower grille and sculpted air dams that make it enticing, while the overall profile is flowing and sporty, more like that of a coupé than a sedan. Big, bold 18-inch wheels and low-profile tyres in flared wheel arches add another dimension of visual interest.

INSIDE

The dash is dominated by straight lines, but in a modern, minimalist way as opposed to a lack-of-imagination kind of way. A big 7-inch multi-information display (touchscreen) rises out of the dash, and it is this that your attention focusses on. It has multiple levels of connectivity, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and USB, while other features of the Corolla include climate control with Eco mode, a reverse camera, power seat adjustment, one-touch functionality for the electric windows, keyless entry, tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, steering switches and cruise control. It’s safe too, with seven airbags, ISOFIX and an alphabet soup of active electronic safety aids (ABS, EBD, BAS, VSC, HAC). The XR model also gets Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), which has a pre-collision system, blind spot monitor, all-speed cruise control, automatic high-beam and Lane Trace Assist.

THE DRIVE

Driving a sedan is almost always more relaxing and comforting, and engaging at the same time, than an equivalent SUV. Physics deem it so. The 12th-generation Corolla is a wonderful example of this – it is quiet and very restful, and yet if you decide to take a corner at pace the car sits confidently where it’s supposed to, no grumbles and no fuss, and without any electronic aids needing to sheepdog it back into line.

Engines are limited to two options: 2.0-litre petrol (125kW/200Nm) and 1.8-litre petrol (103kW/171Nm). The former is available with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a CVT gearbox, while the latter is manual only. Fuel economy is a good 6.0L/100km for the 2.0 CVT, 6.5L/100km for the 2.0 manual and 6.2L/100km for the 1.8 manual.

FINAL WORD

Long live the sedan, and long live the Corolla! Yes, everyone seems to be choosing SUVs over sedans, but there is always a chance that the trend will change in the future. The Corolla is a car that deserves to be successful, because it is an incredible all-round package in a sexy wrapper, and if you take one for a test drive you’ll see how easy it is to be tempted.

GO GET IT

The Corolla 2.0 XR manual is priced at R420,500, slotting in between the 1.8 XS at R380,200 and the 2.0 XR CVT at R433,700. Included in the price are a 6-service/90,000km service plan and a 3-year/100,000km warranty. Visit www.toyota.co.za for more information.

Fun at heart: BMW 135i M

WHAT IS IT?

In the BMW world, the 1 Series is the starter kit – the gateway drug that gets you hooked on Bavarian products. The 135i M, though, is anything but a starter car – it is a muscle car in a hatchback body.

WHY THIS?

If you like going fast, you’re doing well professionally, and you don’t need anything bigger, the 135i M delivers a compelling argument. The real selling point can be experienced only from behind the steering wheel, on an open road, with your foot on the right pedal.

|inline|https://cms.contactmedia.co.za/image/46d82fcced62f8cba0535de39cfe74bf|landscape|c|jpeg|BMW 135 3.jpg||center|OUTSIDE

In Misano blue, the 135i M is an arresting sight, especially from the front where a kidney-shaped grille is bigger than anything kidney-shaped really should be. It’s so big that it spills onto the bonnet. But that’s the way grilles are going in the BMW universe – bigger and more “kidnier”. It works, though, in conjunction with a grinning lower grille, rakish headlights and a scalloped bonnet, while the overall look is that of a purposeful wedge of a hatch. Big 100mm-diameter tailpipes at the back are a hint of what the 135i M can do…

INSIDE

It’s hard to look or feel past the cosseting bucket seats, but once you do, you realise that the 1 Series has got bigger and roomier, and there is a lot of technology packed in there. The 10-inch screens are inset into the dash and look spectacular. Basically, the 1 Series has adopted the 3 Series interior, and that is a very good thing indeed!

THE DRIVE

In terms of drivability, the 135i M is a hard car to put your finger on. It’s a BMW, which means something when it comes to dynamic driving, but the 1 Series is the only BMW that isn’t rear-wheel-drive in its base form. Most 1 Series cars are front-wheel-drive, which does affect the way they feel, but the 135i M xDrive is all-wheel-drive, which makes it different again. It feels utterly settled and composed at almost any speed, on straight roads or twisty ones, and it allows you to get the most out of the significant power.

Speaking of which, the sensational 2-litre turbocharged engine produces 225kW of power and 450Nm of torque, sending it from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds! It is a hoot.

FINAL WORD

This car is all about performance, an area that BMW excels in, especially when the car in question has an M designation. It’s fast, exhilarating to drive, comfortable and practical. It’s another complete package, in a very different way to the Corolla.

GO GET IT

Take a pew in one of the bucket seats – the base price of the BMW 135i M is R763,300. You can push this ever-higher if you’ve got more money burning a hole in your wallet because the options list is lengthy. The scary thing – this car is definitely worth the money!

All new BMWs sold in South Africa include a 5-year/100,000km motorplan maintenance plan. Visit www.BMW.co.za for more information.

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