_FORGET _ everything you think you know about Toyota Corollas because this will blow you out of the water.
Being a Corolla driver myself, I scoffed at the idea that the "new and improved" 11th-generation version was going to be any different to my own 2009 model. After all, a Corolla is a Corolla, right?
My first Corolla experience came just over a year ago when, after a series of fun, frivolous (and high-maintenance) old European cars, I decided to go for the "sensible" option.
No manufacturer is better known for building stalwart, reliable cars than Toyota and the Corolla is its star pupil.
While I was sure this reputation was worthy, I was less than impressed by its basic interior and no-frills mentality.
Granted, the 10th-generation Corolla (2008-2012) made quite a leap forward from the ninth (2003-2008) and its predecessors in terms of aesthetics and mod-cons, but nothing like this latest one.
We're talking a leap from Corolla territory to BMW territory - without the price tag.
Though the new Corolla sedan won't be launched until later this year, I was lucky enough to be high-tailing it in the top-of-the-range Levin ZR hatch, which is priced at $28,490 plus on-roads for the six-speed manual.
The seven-speed CVT version costs an extra $2000.
It is powered by a 1.8-litre, in-line four-cylinder engine that has been revised to make it more powerful and more fuel efficient than its predecessor.
It also comes with some pretty cool features like cruise control, seat heaters, dual-zone climate control, steering wheel controls, auto-folding door mirrors and a reversing camera.
There also is a 6.1-inch LCD touch screen system with voice recognition, Bluetooth, SD card slot, USB input and satellite navigation, which, while great in theory, presented the only problems I had with the car.
The voice navigation was like talking to any "interactive" automated voice - enunciate or you'll end up with the windscreen wipers going, the air-con blowing on high and the stereo volume maxed out. The Bluetooth also often failed to register my phone when I got in the car.
On the road it was a very comfortable drive. It handled beautifully (U-turns and parking were a piece of cake) and it has a lot of power for a small car.
The test car was also fitted with what Toyota calls a Skyview roof. It's an extra $1500 and available on the Levin ZR only, but is the biggest sunroof I have seen.
The new-look body, with its sleek front and neat hatchback, speaks to my love of European style. But the best part - being a woman who always loses her keys in the depths of her handbag - was the keyless entry.
It means you can drop your keys in your handbag and never have to fish them out. As long as the key is somewhere on your person, just touch the handle to lock and unlock the car, and once inside it's just a press of a button to start up the engine.
It's made a convert out of me. I'd like an upgrade, please.
- TOYOTA COROLLA *
- Model * Levin ZR Hatch
- Price *$30,990 as tested
- Engine * 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol
- Outputs *103kW/173Nm
- Transmission * Seven-speed MultiDrive CVT
- Thirst * 6.6L/100km
- Safety * Five stars
- Five-door hatch varieties *
- Ascent *$19,990/$21,990 (six-speed manual/CVT automatic)
- Ascent Sport *$20,990/$22,990
- Levin SX *$23,990/$25,990
- Levin ZR *$28,990/$30,990
_*All have 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engines _