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Toyota Corolla T Sport


Well, at least it looks better than it did...

The original Corolla T-Sport couldn't have looked much less like a hot hatch; it was mid-level-diesel plain. But Toyota has now given the entire Corolla range a mild facelift - new headlights, bonnet and bumpers - with the T-Sport further benefiting from a full bodykit and lowered suspension to rid it of its previous off-roader stance. And it's now available only as a three-door.

Inside, the racy theme continues, with white dials, well-bolstered red-trimmed seats and smart alloy pedal covers. Your ΂£16,000 buys you a lot of standard equipment, too.

But the T-Sport's suspension is the interesting part. It's been lowered by 20mm, its springs and dampers are stiffer and the anti-roll bars have been redesigned. Impressively, it also sports a serious-looking strut brace that Toyota calls a 'performance damper'. This stiffens the suspension mounts while also allowing a little 'give' to ensure the worst bumps aren't transmitted through the bodyshell.

The rear dampers employ rebound springs, which keep the body under tight control and increase stability. It's all very thorough - even the steering's quicker, 3.2 turns lock-to-lock instead of 3.5 - as if to make up for the half-hearted first-time attempt.

The engine is untouched. So it's still 189bhp at 7800rpm, the highest specific output among non-turbos in this class. Shame it's no less loud and thrashy. It's gutless below 5000rpm but lacks the Civic Type-R's enjoyable high-rev blare at the top end. The heads' racy cams don't cut in until 6200rpm so having to stir the Corolla around to crazy revs is a necessary chore, and one not compatible with most people's driving style. A notchy gearchange doesn't help matters much. And for all the engine's hysterics, 0-60mph in 8.4sec isn't particularly special, though 140mph is good for a spot of bar-room bragging.

The uprated chassis is sharper than before but still distinctly ordinary; the ride's firmer, restlessly so, and there's less roll through corners. Yet it's not totally focused, there's still a layer of stodge to work through, and the electric PAS remains lifeless and lacking in response. The T-Sport is improved, but by nowhere near enough. Honda dealers have nothing to worry about.


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Looks better than it did...
...but is scarcely any better to drive


Engine: 4-cyl, 1796cc, 16v
Max power: 189bhp @ 7800rpm
Max torque: 132lb ft @ 6800rpm
0 - 60mph: 8.4sec (claimed)
Top speed: 140mph (claimed)
Price: £15,995
On Sale: Now