THERE were gasps of disbelief throughout the auto industry when Toyota withdrew the world's most popular and most globally recognised car, the Corolla, from the European market 12 years ago and replaced it with the Auris.
But now it's back and it's better than ever.
The 2019 Corolla, which is in its 12generation, is available in three body styles - hatchback, Sedan (saloon) and Touring Sports (estate) and there's a choice of four trim levels called Icon, Icon Tech, Design and Excel.
There is also a choice of powertrains with Toyota throwing all its hybrid development and know-how at the car with an improved 1.8-litre self-charging hybrid system developing 120bhp along with a new 2.0-litre system developing 178bhp.
There is just one conventional engine option which is a 1.2-litre 114bhp turbo petrol.
The car is built on Toyota's TNGA GA-C platform which is used for the C-HR and Prius allowing plenty of scope for fine-tuning. In addition, there has been a reduction in weight and height, along with improved aerodynamics.
The new Corolla looks more appealing and delivers better fuel efficiency along the way and each car is distinctively designed and will have its own individual appeal.
The Corolla hatchback is the most dynamic in its appearance with sporty lines, a sweeping roofline, rising waistline, contrast colour roof and rear spoiler.
The saloon is more sophisticated and will appeal to its own niche market with traditional four-door styling and the Touring Sports introduces all the practicality required for any active family with a boot capacity of 1,606 litres - that's big enough for a 29-inch mountain bike to fit in without removing the saddle.
The interior of each model is clutter-free but well equipped with an intuitive touchscreen, along with Toyota Touch 2 with Go navigation system as standard on all but the entry-level Icon model.
There are heated seats (along with heated rear seats in the saloon), Bluetooth, DAB, automatic dual-zone air conditioning and plenty more besides.
At present, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto but Toyota has confirmed this will be addressed later in the year.
The spacious interior is beautifully designed across the model line-up with plenty of soft-touch surfaces, piano black and chrome trim, powered lumbar support, plus part leather upholstery on the Excel cars.
When it comes to cost, the Corolla is competitively priced with the Icon, costing from £21,300 and expected to account for just five per cent of sales.
The Icon Tech is likely to be the most popular grade with Toyota predicting it will account for 45 per cent of sales - this model costs from £22,350. The Design (20 per cent of sales) costs from £23,375 and the range-topping Excel (30 per cent of sales) starts from £27,345. The most expensive Corolla is the Touring Sports 2.0 Hybrid in Excel trim priced at £30,340.
We had the opportunity to try out all three body styles on the fabulously smooth roads of Majorca and it's only when you drive each Corolla that you realise how very different they are.
It was also the ideal opportunity to sample the latest hybrid technology and, as is generally the case, it proved most impressive.
First up was the Corolla Hatchback powered by the new 2.0-litre hybrid engine. This car could complete the 0-62mph sprint in an impressive 7.9 seconds, topping out at 112mph.
According to official figures, it can deliver up to 60mpg with CO2 of 89g/km (WLTP).
Out on country lanes the Corolla hatchback was a delight to drive and there was instant power at your disposal making overtaking a doddle.
Motorway driving was also effortless and the car is well insulated against any engine, road surface or wind noise.
There are driving modes called Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport with the latter setting livening up the handling even further. It's also worth mentioning how smooth the CVT on this car is. There is only any sign of whining noise if driven with a heavy right foot.
Next up was the Sedan or as it will be commonly talked about on UK shores, the saloon. This car was powered by the upgraded 1.8-litre hybrid engine and could complete the 0-62mph dash in 11.0 seconds, topping out at 112mph. It could achieve up to 65mpg with carbon emissions of 77g/km.
This seemed the most grown up member of the Corolla family and delivered a very smooth driving experience.
It can be pushed hard into bends with confidence and the road holding is faultless. Once again, the cabin was beautifully hushed against noise intrusion and just like the hatchback, all the controls and dials are easy to use and adjust on the move.
Although Toyota believes the saloon model will only account for about five per cent of sales, it will have its own appeal to customers wanting a proper boot.
Finally, the Touring Sports was put through its paces and this car featured the 2.0-litre hybrid unit. This car could reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.1 seconds and topped out at 112mph. It could deliver combined fuel economy up to 60mpg with CO2 figures of 89g/km .
Despite its larger dimensions, the estate car performed admirably and brings plenty of practicality to the mix. Toyota engineers have worked hard to improve the insulation as estate models are prone to more noise intrusion and it has been successful on the whole. There is a little more echo sound along long motorway stretches at higher speeds, but in fairness, we were listening out for it.
The handling impressed and the all-round visibility is also excellent on all three models.
Factor in a raft of safety features including pre-collision system, automatic high beam, lane departure alert, sway warning, lane keep assist, a new night-time pedestrian detection system, a new day-time cyclist detection system and the latest Toyota Corolla would seem to be the complete package.
Since Corolla sales began way back in 1966, more than 46 million models have been sold globally. Now, it's back in the UK again and is guaranteed to make an impact across the hatch, saloon and estate sectors.