Toyota Corolla Trek 1.8TS
The Trek variant of the Corolla is dubbed by Toyota as a "perfect travel companion for people with an active lifestyle." Being a premier athlete myself (I often walk to the shops and to the pub), the Trek should fit seamlessly into my day-to-day, and perhaps even encourage more time spent outdoors.
It seems strange to market an estate as a rugged off-roader. But Toyota also says the Trek is equally suited to the school run or an inner-city commute, with a host of practical features designed to make life easier. These daily activities have been put on hold, though, due to the End of the World (Covid-19).
City cars need to be compact. Parking is tight, roads are narrow, and space is generally a rarity. Enormous great big boots are just not needed, unless you are a set designer at Shakespeare's Globe. Driving the Trek through London feels awkward. Electric-only mode can be used to 30mph if acceleration is gentle, and although it is extremely comfortable, the car is simply not at home when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It wants to break free.
Fortunately, I was able to take the Trek out of central London and down to the south coast. The hybrid powertrain with a 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor won't blow your socks off from stationary, but the combination makes perfect sense at steady motorway speeds. Whack cruise control on and save fuel and cash. There is enough juice to overtake at higher speeds when necessary, though the engine will start to make unworldly sounds when pushed too far.
The transmission (CVT) is ultra smooth and refined. Its lengthy body does not make the Trek feel bulky, and like its smaller hatch sibling, the model sweeps around corners with relative ease.
The Corolla Trek impresses most on long journeys. As well as its worthy performance at higher speeds, the model has a well-crafted, comfy interior. Quality materials have been used throughout. There are no nasty plastics in arms reach, and everything is sturdy. Splashes of wood-like material are dotted around, exclusive to the Trek variant, bringing some colour and character without being kitsch. The two-tone grey/brown seats may look as if they might have been found in a forgotten antique store, but in a good way. It is all very calming.
Wait just a moment. This is a Toyota, and there is a touchscreen. The infotainment system feels like it was made before the turn of the century just like it does in the Corolla hatch, but thankfully it can be bypassed by using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There is plenty of space in the back seats for a full car, and the boot could be a portal to Narnia. Other storage spaces are large, such as the pockets on the doors and the glove compartment. Functionality is the name of the game.
To push the 'active lifestyle' tag, Toyota teamed up with the bicycle manufacturer Trek to offer a deal to those buying the model: buyers can get roof cross bars and two roof bike holders for £299. These can be fitted for free at Toyota dealerships. Bargain.
In the spirit of outdoorsy-ness, I decided to go for a swim off a small rocky beach near Hastings. It was cold, and I instantly regretted it. Thanks Toyota.
Price as tested (including options): £29,255