Head to Head: Toyota Corolla Vs Holden Astra
Australians still like a hatchback, so let’s grab two of the names Aussies hold most dearly in their hearts: the Toyota Corolla and the Holden Astra.
2017 Holden Astra
PRICING From $21,990+ORC WARRANTY Three years, 100,000km ENGINE 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 110kW/240kW or 245Nm (1.4L); 147kW/300Nm TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto; six-speed manual DRIVE Front-wheel drive BODY 4386mm (L); 1809mm (W EXC MIRRORS); 1003mm (H) SEATS 5 BOOT SPACE 360L WEIGHT 1283kg-1363kg (depending on variant) FUEL TANK 48L THIRST 5.8L-6.3L/100KM FUEL 91RON in the 1.4L; 95RON in the 1.6L
2017 Toyota Corolla
PRICING $20,190+ORC WARRANTY Three years, 100,000km ENGINE 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 103kW/173Nm TRANSMISSION Manual or CVT DRIVE Front-wheel drive BODY 4275mm (L); 1760mm (W); 1460mm (H); 2600mm (WB) SEATS 5 BOOT SPACE 360L/1120L WEIGHT From 1250kg FUEL TANK 50L THIRST 6.6L-7.1L/100km FUEL 91RON
What are we testing?
Here’s a funny thing. During the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Holden stopped slapping Astra badges on Nissan Pulsars and for some reason put Nova badges on…a Toyota Corolla. Until 1995 when they started importing Vauxhall Astras to save on having to change the badges.
Toyota has never engaged in such tomfoolery. The Corolla badge has been on the back of hatchbacks and sedans for over five decades, at least in Australia where local management vehemently opposed the daft renaming of its mainstay to Auris. Perhaps they learned from the Pulsar becoming Tiida. This is becoming more complicated than Twin Peaks.
Anyway. Today in Australia you can buy a five-door hatch from Toyota and Holden, named Corolla and Astra respectively.
The Toyota starts at $20,190 for the Ascent manual, rising through the Ascent Sport, SX, diverting briefly to the Hybrid and then back to the ZR Auto for $30,020. Every man jack of them features a 1.8-litre four-cylinder driving the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The Hybrid obviously adds the electric motor and batteries, but the package is fundamentally the same. We like the look of the SX, so that’s the one we’ll be looking at, selling at $26,000. The SX ships with sat nav, 17-inch alloys, power windows and upgraded front seats.
The Astra starts higher at $21,490 for the manual R, rising through R+, RS, and RS-V (we’re ignoring the three-door GTC and VXR). The R and R+ run a 1.4-litre turbo while the rest of them run a 1.6-litre turbo in various states of tune. We’re looking at the RS auto, which retails at $26,490. Spec highlights include auto-parking, front and rear parking sensors, good safety package and a powerful 1.6-litre engine.
So, that’s a win to the Astra – the $490 difference is more than bridged by the extra stuff in the Holden.
What’s the interior like?
The Corolla’s interior is very good if super-bland. Recent efforts to lift its appearance are regular reminders that the people who buy the Corolla are after low maintenance and low fuss. A good chunk of the Corollas sales go to fleets, so things like super-soft plastics and good media systems are not what sells. Of course, the fit and finish is impeccable, the materials hard-wearing and, look, this car is built to last forever and will last forever. That’s what you get with a Corolla. What you also get is the tired, cheap 7.0-inch media screen system that is diabolical to look at and almost as bad to use. The USB cable is up in the dash and it’s basically not at all neat or good.
If it’s a bit more style you want, the Astra is the clear winner. Holden seems to have thrown the kitchen sink at the Astra. Once again, the build is excellent if not as tight as the Corolla’s, but few cars are. It’s slightly less bland and the materials are a little more adventurous than those in the ‘Rolla. The media system is properly installed and integrated with USB ports that are Somewhere Else out of the way. It comes with DAB+, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and is much, much better.
Another win to Astra
What’s the passenger space like?
Both are very, very roomy. The Corolla has obviously expanded like any 50 year-old does, growing in all directions. That means tons of space front and rear for a comfortable four-up excursion. The Corolla’s more upright stance means easier entry and exit for the rear passengers, while the more shapely Astra means you’ll need to duck a bit when securing the bairns.
The Toyota’s driving position isn’t as friendly as the Astra’s, with a big, chunky steering wheel that adjusts for tilt and reach but I’ve always found it hard to get just right. The view out is excellent and both front occupants have plenty of space. It’s also worth noting that the SX scores a better pair of front seats than the lower grades.
Most of the same things can be said of the Astra, although rear headroom is slightly inferior to the Corolla’s. Like the Toyota, you’ve got a good view out from the front seat but it’s better positioned and slightly lower. There feels to be more adjustment as well, making it easier to get comfortable.
This one’s a dead heat.
What’s the boot space like?
The Corolla’s boot will swallow 360 litres and so will the Astra’s. Except…Corolla’s volume is based on the VDA standard whereas with the Astra’s, we just have to take Holden’s word for it. Both will take a reasonably-sized three-wheeler pram without too much difficulty and both will cheerfully lay down their 60/40 split rear seats so that you may carry much, much more. Both feature cargo blinds and easy-to-load boots.
What are they like to drive?
The Toyota (there’s a theme here) is a very competent, reasonably quiet machine. The 1.8-litre twin cam pumps out 103kW and 173Nm. That seems a little on the weak side, but Toyota likes to keep engine stress low. The CVT makes the most of the comparatively skinny torque figure but it’s a bit of a droner which gets super-dull on long trips. The ride is quite impressive but, as ever, it’s not exactly light on its feet. Nobody is buying a Corolla to corner carve, at least not in standard spec. The steering is light and easy to operate in parking while isolating you from the road. The 1.8 runs on standard unleaded and Toyota reckons you’ll get 6.1L/100km on the combined cycle.
The Astra is a lot more interesting. Fitted with a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, Astra drivers have 147kW and 300Nm. That’s hot hatch power. The chassis doesn’t quite match up to the engine, but is lots more fun to drive than the Corolla and reasonably quick off the mark, hitting 100km/h in 7.8 seconds. Claimed combined fuel economy 6.5L/100km but needs 95 RON fuel and, er, well, you won’t get 6.5L/100km. Nowhere near it if you like using the throttle with the six-speed automatic. Ride and handling are on the sportier side without being crashy-bashy and it’s very quiet in most circumstances.
Clear win for the Astra again.
What are the safety features like?
The Corolla’s seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, as well as a few other bits and pieces scored the Corolla a five-star ANCAP safety rating. If you want to get anywhere near matching the Astra’s safety spec list, though, you have to spend a further $750 for AEB, collision and lane departure warnings and auto high beam. You do get a reversing camera, though, matching the Holden.
The Astra arrives with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, forward AEB and collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. Again, a five-star safety rating was awarded to the Astra, but as you can see, not all five star ratings are equal.
Another win to the Astra.
So, which one wins and why?
The Astra takes the honours here when you look at spec, driver enjoyment, looks and interior tech. The Corolla just isn’t in the hunt except when you throw in half-a-century of reputation, strong resale and good old-fashioned over-engineering. The Astra, though, is better value, has that aura of German engineering and is a genuine looker. You can love both of them, but the Astra is the better car.