Oh, what could have been – or, more accurately, what should have been.
It’s all I can think as I cruise the German countryside behind the wheel of a 2023 Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, which is a fancy-if-clumsy name for the humble wagon in a part of the world that still appreciates the finer points of practicality. Call it what you will, but this long-roof version of the Corolla should be sold in Canada instead of the hatchback.
What Is It?
As that preamble and the accompanying pictures would suggest, what you’re looking at is the latest Toyota Corolla, just longer. OK, that only tells part of the story, but it’s an important one. Compared to the hatchback version, the wheelbase has been stretched 60 mm (2.4 in) to a total of 2,700 mm (106.3 in), while it measures 4,650 mm (183.1 in) overall.
Equally important is the Corolla wagon’s 1,015-mm (40-in) rear overhang. That matters for a couple different reasons, the first being all the cargo space it adds to the back – although it isn’t nearly as impressive on paper as it is in person. That’s largely due to the different measurement standards used in Europe versus North America that result in wild capacity discrepancies depending on where you look.
Take the listed cargo capacity of 581 L behind the back seats of the Corolla Touring Sports I tested and compare it to the 660 L Toyota Canada’s website claims the hatchback version offers. Don’t be fooled, though: the same car is listed as offering just 313 L in Europe, which makes a whole lot more sense. (And even then, peering behind the wagon’s tailgate, there seems to be more room relative to what the hatchback has to offer.)
The other benefit of this wagon’s big ol’ booty is the way it uses the extra length of the wheelbase where it’s needed most: rear-seat legroom. Where the hatchback is cramped, the Corolla wagon offers the same amount of legroom as the sedan – unsurprising given their wheelbases are identical. In fact, at 884 mm (34.8 in) there’s more legroom in the back of the Corolla wagon than there is in the Corolla Cross that tops out at 813 mm (32 in).
But forget that technobabble for now and focus on how fantastic it looks. Styling may be subjective, but pictures don’t do justice to how much nicer this looks than every other Corolla out there except the unhinged GR version. That’s especially true of this GR Sport trim, which has a few aesthetic tweaks both inside and out, as well as an optional black roof on this tester. Simple put, this wagon maximizes the potential of the Corolla’s design.
What Makes It Special?
If all that didn’t make the Corolla Touring Sports special enough, there’s this: it only comes with a hybrid powertrain. Better still, it comes with the choice of two gas-electric systems – the same 1.8L offered in the Corolla sedan, or the more powerful 2.0L from the likes of the Lexus UX that’s now hybrid-only.
It’s not that the extra pep from the 2.0L is entirely necessary, but it leads to acceleration that’s far less buzzy and strained – sensations that would surely be made more noticeable by the wagon’s extra mass compared to the sedan. It also makes the most of the platform the Corolla’s built on – not that it’s especially sporty and engaging, but there’s an athleticism that shines through in spite of an efficiency-first mandate.
Ping-ponging between towns and villages outside Cologne, Germany, the Corolla wagon was poised and comfortable in ways that aren’t unlike the hybrid sedan, just better. With AutoTrader contributor Sami Haj-Assaad in the seat next to me, we marvelled at how much personality was poking through. From something like five different drive modes that feel noticeably different from one another to the general coziness of the cabin, the Corolla wagon quickly proved itself to be pleasantly surprising.
Would It Sell?
Here’s the reality: there’s simply no way Toyota will ever sell this version of the Corolla in Canada. For starters, it exists in markets where the Corolla Cross doesn’t, which is an important distinction to make. Automakers do their best to avoid cannibalizing one model with another, which is exactly what would happen here. There’s even a hybrid version of that little crossover on its way, which leaves any argument in favour of selling both dead in the water.
The other problem is an American one: they don’t like wagons as much as we do. With the cost and complexity involved in homologation – that is, the process of having a vehicle certified for sale in a new market – it’s not often automakers will sell a car in Canada and not the United States, which is one more reason Toyota wouldn’t go through the pains to offer a low-volume model like this one here and not there.
Of course, this is pure speculation, which is the fun part of my job, but let’s pretend it was an option – or better still, that our friends south of the border were interested, too; I could easily see this wagon finding about as many homes as the hatchback, which made up 16 per cent of the 33,096 Corollas sold in Canada last year. That’s a little less than 5,300, which isn’t an enormous number to contend with.
Practicality, efficiency, and familiarity is an appealing combination, if you ask me. Alas, it will never come to pass, but in many ways this wagon is the best of what the Corolla has to offer. While the name of this one in particular could use some work – calling it the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports GR Sport is up there with the Porsche Taycan Gran Turismo Sport Sport Turismo in terms of head-scratchers – it’s unquestionably one of the best commuter cars I’ve ever driven.