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Toyota reaffirms its rich brand heritage by introducing the Levin nameplate to two top models in the 2013 Corolla hatch line-up.
For the first time in New Zealand, Toyota's legendary Corolla will boast Levin model designations, drawing on a Japanese market heritage stretching right back to the second generation Corolla (E20) of 1970.
The name (which is an historic Old English word meaning 'lightning') has traditionally been ascribed to top Corolla models in Japan - both in terms of specification and performance - and the Levin models within the new 11th generation Corolla line-up prove no exception to this rule.
"We've expanded our Corolla hatch line-up from two to four grades," confirms Toyota New Zealand General Manager of Product Planning, Neeraj Lala. "Joining the improved GX and GLX models we also now have a sporty Levin SX and a top-of-the-range Levin ZR offering.
"We've always enjoyed a broad audience with Corolla. Now we've got an improved model line that can tackle the wants and needs of any small car buyer; from the most practical fleet car, to something that exhibits a more premium feel. The new Corolla Levin models provide a bridge between small hatches and medium sized sedans allowing customer to up or downgrade to suit their lifestyle."
All four grades of Corolla feature an in-line four cylinder 1.8-litre dual VVT-i petrol engine, featuring Toyota's Acoustic Controlled variable Induction System (ACIS). The engine boasts a maximum output of 103kW at 6,400rpm and 173Nm of torque at 4000rpm.
All Corolla models are also available with a fuel-efficient seven-step Multi-Drive Sport Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Driver involvement is increased in the two Levin models with the addition of paddle-shifters on the steering column, enabling drivers to manually shift through ratios creating the opportunity for a more dynamic driving experience. In addition to the CVT, the Corolla GX is also available with a six-speed manual gearbox.
"This new Corolla was designed and built to deliver a level of excitement and engagement not seen before," says Lala. "It was designed to meet the expectations of the keenest drivers; there has been a real focus on sports styling, driving position, steering accuracy, high speed stability and responsiveness for sudden acceleration and deceleration."
This increased focus on handling and stability is evident throughout the new Corolla range, but perhaps best exemplified by the new Levin SX and ZR offerings.
The car's roofline sits 55mm lower than its predecessor and it enjoys a lower centre of gravity. This in turn allows for a reduction in spring rates and anti-roll bar diameter, improving ride comfort and body control. Weight has been reduced by up to 60kg through extensive use of high tensile steel in the body shell construction which, again, improves the car's agility on-road.
The electric power steering (EPS) has been revised offering a smoother, more direct feel. In addition to paddle-shifters for the automatic gearbox, the Levin SX and ZR also feature sports seats that sit 40mm lower than those in the previous generation car, giving the driver another key 'performance feel' touch-point. The vertical seat height adjustment has also been extended to allow customers to optimise their own seating position.
The 2013 Corolla Levin SX and ZR models boast 17" alloy wheels, a front grille with chrome accents, a premium LCD multi-information display panel in the instrument cluster and - on the top-level ZR - leather trimmed and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, smart key entry and keyless start, automatically activating High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights with an Automatic High Beam (AHB) system and Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS). The Levin ZR also gives customers the option of a panoramic roof with electric sunshade.
The recommended retail price of the new Toyota Corolla Levin SX hatch is $38,990, while the range-topping Corolla Levin ZR hatch is priced at $43,690. The panorama sunroof is available as an option for Levin ZR at $1800.