First report: We’re invited to see how our new Toyota Corolla Commercial takes shape
4.0 out of 5
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Toyota has taken the Corolla Touring Sports and created a truly unique work vehicle that fills quite a specific niche. It’s proving to be an efficient and comfortable machine so far, and these traits help to offset some of its compromises in terms of ultimate cargo-carrying ability.
- Mileage: 1,437
- Economy: 60.5mpg
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It’s not often that we’re able to see our long-term cars being built, so when we were invited to check out how our new Toyota Corolla Commercial is put together, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
Not only is the Corolla Commercial built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Burnaston, Derbyshire, but the idea of the van version was devised in the UK, too. Bosses saw a gap in the market for a modern version of the Vauxhall Astravan, and this hybrid model fills the brief for business users in need of practical transport that’s not as bulky as a traditional van. It’s based on the Corolla Touring Sports, and comes with Toyota’s 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain in a trim that’s based on the entry-level Icon passenger car.
The Corolla Commercial goes down the same line as the hatch and estate (including badge-engineered Suzuki Swace), while a build sheet specifies a car’s finish. In the case of the Corolla Commercial, it’s what’s missing that matters, and comprises all of the parts pictured– the back seats, boot floor, load cover and assorted switches and electrics.
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With these parts left out, the Commercial model is whisked away to Toyota’s catchily titled Business Revenue Centre, where a steel mesh bulkhead is bolted in, the flat floor is inserted, a grippy rubber covering is laid on top and opaque window tints are fitted to the rear side windows. Seeing the Corolla Touring Sports without a back seat and still with clear glass makes it look like it’s in the process of being stripped for parts, but it doesn’t take long to smarten up its appearance by adding the new kit.
The tints are made on a large vinyl cutting machine, and are slid into place on wet glass, while a large heater bakes them on when fitted. A rack holds all of the other parts ready to be added, with the bulkhead bolted in and the flat floor holding it in place. It’s a pretty simple process, and the end result is a work vehicle that’s a lot more car-like than any van. That bulkhead creates a distinct line between the front and rear of the Corolla Commercial’s interior, with the only clues to its work focus being the reflection of the mesh bulkhead in the rear-view mirror.
The tech on board is identical to the passenger model’s, with the same upmarket quality, while heated seats, dual-zone climate control and Toyota Touch 2 infotainment with smartphone connectivity are included.
One other exclusive for the Commercial model is its 15-inch steel wheels with plastic trims – buy a passenger version and the lowest spec you get is 16-inch alloys. The Commercial’s wheel and tyre combination delivers a surprisingly comfortable ride, which is another advantage it carries over a traditional small van. I’ll be honest and admit that I ditched the wheel trims as soon as we finished our first shoot with the car – it gives a more utilitarian look, and means I’m less worried about kerbing, too.
As a practical machine, the Corolla Commercial has its plus and minus points. The fact it’s a two-seater means it won’t be for all business needs, but then any small van with three-abreast seating is often cramped and only really suitable for short trips.
Access to the cargo area is via the tailgate or rear doors, although the latter can be a bit of a fiddle if you’ve got large items you want to load. One quirk of the Commercial model is that there are window switches for the back doors, but the electrics have been removed – it’s a requirement that converted cars such as the Corolla can’t be turned back into a passenger model, but then Toyota didn’t want to leave holes in the door cards.
You also miss out on a small van’s payload weight with the Corolla Commercial. While models such as the Citroen Berlingo can carry up to one tonne, the Toyota only manages 425kg. Cargo volume is also on the small side, at 0.65 cubic metres, but then the kind of business users that the Corolla Commercial is pitched towards won’t be looking to maximise either of these potentials.
Instead, the Corolla Commercial offers benefits in terms of low emissions and fuel efficiency. It has a driving range that’s more than double that of any electric van currently on sale, plus it’s ready to go whenever it’s needed – there’s no hanging around for recharging, which can be a real bonus for firms that need to be on call 24/7.
I’ve averaged 60.1mpg so far in the Toyota without really trying to be efficient and including a number of motorway drives, while a range of more than 550 miles from a full tank is easily possible.
|Model:||Toyota Corolla Commercial 1.8 VVT-i|
|On fleet since:||October 2022|
|Price new:||£22,591 (ex. VAT)|
|Engine:||1.8-litre 4cyl hybrid, 120bhp|
|Insurance:||Group: 27/Quote: £377|
|Any problems?||None so far|
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
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