It looks like a Toyota Corolla, drives like a Corolla, but open the passenger doors and it is a very different story.
No rear bench seat, just a sturdy steel mesh frame behind the front seats and a solid flat floor. This Corolla Touring Sports is a van.
It is the brainchild of the Professional Commercial team at the company’s Burnaston plant at Derby where Corolla is built and has been such a success in the UK that it is likely to filter into other markets.
Why is it so significant? Since the Vauxhall Astra van was dropped nearly a decade ago there has been nothing to replace it, Ford and Vauxhall preferring to covert the smaller Fiesta and Corsa. Corolla Touring Sports (estate to most people) does not just fill the void it goes a whole lot further because this is the first van with a full self charging hybrid electric power train.
For small traders and delivery drivers this is a godsend. Switching to electric is not always feasible when long journeys have to be interrupted by recharging but Corolla should be good for well over 500 miles on a full tank thanks to its near 60mpg average, plus some electric only driving around town, while low emissions reduce the carbon footprint.
The story behind Corolla Commercial is this. It runs along the normal Touring Sports production line, same body, suspension, engine, CVT gearbox, but comes off before the rear is trimmed with seating and seat belts. In goes a steel bulkhead, plywood floor and thick rubber mat.
The side rear windows are opaque, covered in a thick black film, and the electric window switches are just for show. UK regulations do not allow for the car to be converted back its original use. The only tell-tale sign that this is a van are the steel wheels.
If you are thinking the van is devoid of creature comforts fear not. It is based on the entry Touring Sports and comes with electric windows, climate control, reversing camera, auto dipping LED lights, and heated seats, along with Toyota’s Safety Sense active safety and driver assistance features.
Sat nav is not fitted but the majority of delivery drivers are happy to sync their mobile phone ap to the touchscreen via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, an operation that takes a few seconds.
Performance from the 1.8 litre petrol is adequate and as nothing has been done to beef up the suspension for commercial use drivers enjoy the same comfort as the Touring Sport. A small drawback is extra noise from the empty load area.
That load area is quite generous with a capacity of 1326 litres and a front to back length of around 170cm so not far off six feet. The ply floor is hinged halfway for access to a large spare wheel shaped well which would take quite a few additional packages. It would be wise to cover the bumper when loading because over time it will get scratched.
If there is a downside to this car conversion it is the modest payload of 425kg while the 750kg towing capacity is no more than a small trailer.
The car comes with a three year warranty but this can be extended free to 10 years or 100,000 miles provided the car is serviced on time at a Toyota dealership.
Toyota tested the water with established customers who gave it enthusiastic support and this is the result.
Commercial has transformed the Touring Sport into a lightweight, comfortable, well equipped workhorse and is a good choice for the small trader/delivery driver who wants low running costs without switching to full electric.
Corolla Commercial CVT hybrid
1.8 litre hybrid;120bhp
0-62mph 11.1secs; 112mph
105g/km. 1st tax £160
Load space: 1326 litres
Insurance group 27