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First Drive

Toyota Corolla Commercial review: car-based van tested

£26,510 when new
Published: 30 Jun 2022

I'm a serious workperson. That's surely not for me. It looks just like a Corolla estate…

Corolla Touring Sports if you please. This, the Corolla Commercial, is a car-based van but Toyota did the research and realised that vans that look like vans attract thieves when parked outside their drivers' houses overnight. So they left the glass in place, but layered it with a black burst-proof film.

So apart from the diminished visibility – outward and inward – what's different?

The back seats are gone, and their seat belt mounts. The back door inner handles are rendered inoperative. A steel partition separates the people from the cargo. There's a robust lining on the floor. It's a little vanette. But it drives like a pleasant car – the Corolla is pleasant if unsparkling.

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Who's it for?

Ideal for people who travel for work and have tools or equipment since the payload is a healthy 425kg with 1,326 litres of space. As a work vehicle it brings huge tax advantages in BIK versus the estate - Touring Sports, soz – it's based on.

Fleets of first-responders are showing an interest too: paramedics and police dog units f'rinstance, as well as local authorities for things like housing maintenance. While these users are pushing toward electric, there's a lot to be said for a pure hybrid that's never tethered by a charge cable and always ready to go.

Hybrid. Not exactly a driver's favourite?

Well no, it has the 1.8 version of the Corolla drivetrain. The Corolla Touring Sports, remember, has a 2.0 option, but that has a bigger battery which cuts boot space, and anyway flat-out performance isn't really a thing for a van.

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This engine will do an easy 60mpg in mixed driving, and it's pretty refined on motorways or in town. The only time it does the noisy elastic-revving thing is when you're at full acceleration. Which, at 11.1 seconds to 62mph even with no load in the back, is fairly leisurely. So take a chill pill.

Does it feel like a car?

Very much so. Like a Corolla. The only real difference is extra road noise from the echo-chamber rear. Otherwise it rides smoothly, steers accurately and can actually show some agility in a set of bends, albeit without much grip from the eco tyres. (But then the back is probably full of your delicate work tools and equipment and you don't want to throw them about.) Toyota is getting the hang of making hybrid brakes feel progressive too.

There's car-like gear cockpit equipment too, useful on long work trips. Phone mirroring lets you navigate to the site. Adaptive cruise control and lane centring take the strain on motorways. Collision mitigation shows your employer's duty of care.

But it's OK as a two-seat car with a big boot?

Yup – take out your work gear and fill it with your tent, mountain bikes, snow gear, whatever, and head for the weekend.

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Couldn't I quietly *cough* turn it back into the actual car it began as?

Nope. HMRC has thought of that. To qualify it as a van for tax purposes there has to be no possibility of that dodge. So the Toyota production line in Derbyshire has left off the back seat mounts and other vital bracketry.

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