Toyota is expanding its wagon line-up with the all-new Prius V seven-seater and the latest Corolla wagon joining Avensis.
Prius V introduces a larger, more practical hybrid with a third row of compact seats lifting from the boot floor. But it will be outsold by the humble Corolla wagon, which heralds the 11th generation hatch's arrival in October.
This is a smaller wagon that's 60mm shorter via a 50mm cut in front overhang, though the wheelbase remains the same at 2600mm. That, plus clever cabin design, liberates more space and a larger boot, with 470 litres or 872 with the second row folded.
This 80kW, 138Nm 1.5-litre engine carries over through diff ratios changed to improve economy; updates to the CVT auto make it quieter and lighter.
The MacPherson strut front suspension has reworked shocks and firmer bushes which, with changes to the steering ratio, improve comfort and control. The manual's lighter by 80kg, the CVT by 90kg and fuel economy is slightly better, the manual claiming 5.7l/100km and the auto 5.1.
The company line
"Corolla needs to deliver. It's the most important car for Toyota and makes up a third of global annual sales," says general manager sales and operations, Steve Prangnell. Few markets get the wagon which is a domestic market model with improved specification focused on safety - ESP is standard now along with five three-point belts. The price matches the outgoing model at $30,490 for the manual, with the $32,490 CVT auto due in July. Favourable exchange rates allow a price drop to $47,990 for the Avensis wagon, while Prius V starts at $50,990.
What we say
Prius V needs more space to do it justice and we'll await a drive on home roads. Meanwhile, the Corolla wagon reveals little about the incoming hatch with only the platform and none of the sheet metal shared, and it doesn't live up to the increased excitement and performance promised by its chief engineer. But many people just seek reliable transport and Corolla wagon delivers, with a competent, if unexciting, engine, handling, economy and practicality in a smarter package. We really like the dual gloveboxes and matte-carbon-weave effect of the dash.
On the road
Corolla wagon's engine is too relaxed for me, but it handles competently, and promises reasonable economy. Our short taster suggests the much larger Prius V feels its weight at times, but not at the pump. Our drive, mostly on open, hilly roads which don't play to this hybrid's strengths, returned a 5.8l/100km average thirst.
Why you'll buy one
Prius V because you want a hybrid and need sensible wagon space. The Corolla because you need a reliable runabout and prefer improved safety over excitement.
Why you won't
Prius V's beyond your price range; Corolla wagon's too bland for you.