On the fairly safe assumption that many people Will soon be shopping for more economical cars, we decided to look at a few more of these before the year ended. The first thought was to ask British Leyland for a High-Line Allegro but, alas, although, like Barkis, they were willing, they were unable to extract a car from the strike-bound Triumph factory where the BL fleet is now stationed. This seemed odd, because while we can understand a chauffeur, refused a rise, not wishing to drive his master’s car, we would not expect him to block the garage door and prevent it being taken out by its rightful owner. . .
Our next thought was that Peugeot make reputable small cars which we have not sampled for a long time. We put in a telephone call to their new Western Avenue headquarters but the PRO was out and the promised return call was never received. In the past MOTOR SPORT has not been among those papers which press the claims of the Japanese manufacturers against those of Europe. But there is no point in refusing to look occasionally at what the Opposition is doing, for an ostrich-like head-burying stance tells you nothing. Earlier in the year we were to have tested some Datsun and Toyota products, but for reasons outside our control no cars materialised. Now a call was put in to Toyota in this country, prompted by recent excellent rally performances of this make. They were efficiency personified, arranging at very short notice to provide us With 3 Corolla for appraisal. The car available was the least-exciting model of the Corolla ranee, the posh-rod, 1,166 c.c. de luxe Saloon, whereas we would have liked one of the twin-cam Toyotas. But MOTOR SPORT, under its present Editor, has never scorned small, non-sporting cars, believing that most cars are of some interest to most men. So we accepted this humble Corolla and a very acceptable car of its kind it turned out to be.
Japanese cars have improved since they first commenced to invade Britain but too many of the “imitation Escorts” from the Orient still have poor suspension, an indifferent ride, and brakes which leave something to he desired. Not so the Toyota Corolla!
The Japanese opposition has gone in for the smaller-engined family cars with enthusiasm. Thus you have the 1,171 c.c. Datsun 120Y at £1,239, the 1,169 c.c. Honda Civic at £1,154, the 1,277 c.c. Mazda 1300 At £1,229 and this 1,166 c.c. Toyota Corolla at £1,151 in two-door form (prices prevailing at the time of writing). Against which the Ford Escort in its most basic 1,098 c.c. farm costs £1,213 and the same-capacity Austin Allegro £1,757.
The Corolla may sound like a cigar but it is not exactly a road-burner. Its claimed top speed is 90 m.p.h. but it is happier cruising at just under 80 m.p.h. This is of little Moment, however, now that we are all restricted to 50 m.p.h. on ordinary British roads. However, speed apart, this Corolla has an alloy-head engine of 75 x 66 mm. which pokes out a claimed 73 (SAE) b,h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. This makes for enjoyably lively acceleration, reminding me of the pleasant surprise I had when first driving the now-doomed Fiat 124. The other thing which impresses with the Corolla is the lightness of the controls—a light clutch, a very smooth gear change from the long floor lever, with reverse going in so easily, and the light disc/drum brakes. The ride, too, is good, in spite of leaf springs for the back axle (this is -a front-engine& rear-drive car), although it has MacPherson struts at the front. It gets somewhat lively over had roads but no more so than other lightweight ears. Cornering is about average, with the Japanese Dunlop SP68 radial-ply tyres gripping reasonably well. Nor is the noise level of the engine at all excessive. So the Toyota Corolla is a very nice little car to drive or be driven in.
It was tested in de luxe form, for which the previously-quoted price applies. It has a matt-black interior finish and upholstery, the front-seat Squabs being tall, to provide head restraints, and springing forward under lever control for entry to the back seats, while also adjusting nicely for angle. If doors and boot shut somewhat “tinnily”, suggesting lightweight construction, the window-winding action is pleasingly smooth and the door, locks also function nicely, albeit there can he confusion over which of the two keys fits the boot-lock.
The facia has black-dialed speedometer and a matching dial containing water thermometer, and fuel gauge and warning lights labelled “Brakes”, “Chg.” and “Oil”. Total and trip mileometers read in decimals. A r.h stalk control works lamps-dipping, turn-indicators and flashers, the steering wheel spoke the horn. There is a divided under-facia shelf, a good but non-lockable cubby hole, its lid spring-loaded, and a deep rear shelf, and the facia has adjustable fresh-air vents at its extremities, Very neat are the push-button radio, the flap-covered map-lamp, and the heater with its four well-labelled control levers. One of these visibly lifts a big hot-air flap off the floor! Symbol-identified knobs look after choke-cum-hand throttle, cigarette lighter, bonnet release (on the correct side) hazard-warning lights and two-speed screen wipers-cum-electric washers. There is a steering lock, with a tiny button on the top of the column to release the ignition key, and reversing lights are provided. The rear side-windows are hinged for ventilation. The substantial fuel filler cap, with lock, is hidden under the lift up dummy air-vent on the rt/s of the body. The tank will take sufficient petrol for some 330 miles of fast driving. The consumption under normal conditions was 34.8 m.p.g. of 4-star fuel (the c.r. is 9.0 to I) and no oil had been used in 680 miles. The bonnet-lid props automatically and releases on its own and battery. dip-stick. washer-reservoir, plugs and distributor could hardly be more easily accessible.
The luggage space is not great but loading is easy. The boot interior is untidy, with some exposed wiring and a “cardboard” wall. Altogether, however, it is impossible not to be impressed with this Toyota Corolla and the delivery driver, who should know about them, said he liked them so much he was contemplating buying a Toyota 1000.
It is just as well for Europe to know the kind of competition it faces.—W.B.