New Toyota Corolla Commercial 2022 van review
Can the Toyota Corolla Commercial estate car-based van convince UK businesses? We've taken a drive to find out...
The Toyota Corolla Commercial is a vehicle for the moment: it fills a very specific niche within the commercial vehicle sector, so much so that it's the only model of its type that's currently for sale. If you're looking to reduce your fleet's emissions, but can't quite justify the switch to electric because you need a vehicle that's able to cover a long distance at short notice, then it's well worth considering.
The limited payload capacity won't suit some applications, but on the other hand you're getting a work vehicle that's just as smooth, refined and easy to live with as a Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate, but with a work-biased interior that will handle the heavier use that commercial vehicles must withstand.
If there's one vehicle that springs to mind when looking at the Toyota Corolla Commercial, it's the Vauxhall Astravan. Bear with us here, because not only is this new-for 2022 Toyota a spiritual successor to the Astra-based van, it turns out the Astra was the inspiration behind it.
Bosses at Toyota GB, keen to expand the product portfolio of the Toyota Professional commercial vehicle brand, saw an opportunity. The Astravan used to be a fairly common sight on UK roads, but it disappeared from the Vauxhall range in 2013, leaving the car-based van sector to supermini-sized models, such as the Vauxhall Corsavan and Ford Fiesta SportVan. With no larger model on offer, buyers were forced to move to small vans instead.
However, some companies went their own way with van-style conversions of hatchbacks, SUVs and compact estate cars, so Toyota clearly saw demand for an off-the-shelf estate-based van. Numbers were crunched, a business proposal was put forward, and while the previous-generation Auris Touring Sports was considered for conversion, Toyota waited for the higher-spec Corolla to start manufacture in the UK before being transformed into a work vehicle.
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At the moment, the Corolla Commercial is a UK-only model - other markets are being evaluated – and it comes in a single specification. It's based on the 120bhp 1.8 hybrid version of the Touring Sports, while the spec list is similar to that of the entry-level Icon trim. That means you get kit such as one-touch electric windows, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, Toyota Touch 2 infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, plus Toyota Safety Sense with adaptive cruise control and a suite of safety kit. The only real difference is the inclusion of steel wheels with plastic trims in place of alloys.
Cabin quality is decent, with fabric upholstery for the heated seats (and powered lumbar support for the driver's seat), some piano black trim on the dashboard and even a bit of metal trim here and there. Even the harder plastics feel like they're built to last.
Where the differences lie is in the back of the Corolla Commercial. To meet UK construction and use regulations, it must be impossible for any car-based van to be converted back to a passenger vehicle. As a result, the Corolla does away with the folding bench seat, the doors lose their electric window mechanisms and while the internal door releases are present, they're purely aesthetic, because you can't open the back doors from the inside. It's a similar story with the driver's electric window switches - the buttons for the rear windows are present, but they don't work, and are there to fill holes in the trim.
At least the rear interior lights still work, because they shed light lost with the addition of the fully opaque side windows. These comply with the letter of the law, with a thick, matt film added to the standard glass. They're finished in black, so the Corolla Commercial still looks like the Touring Sports estate from the outside – it was felt that using body-coloured film might draw the wrong kind of attention to a vehicle that is likely to have valuables left in it. There's still a clear glass tailgate with wash/wipe, though.
The most obvious change to the Corolla Commercial from the driver's seat is the addition of a steel mesh bulkhead that divides the cargo area from the cab. In some vans - even purpose-built models - this type of bulkhead can limit how far back you can slide the driver's seat, making it hard for tall drivers to find a comfortable driving position. But here there's plenty of adjustment.
The now-empty rear features a long-flat load area with a heavy-duty plyboard floor covered in a grippy rubber topper. This is bolted in place against the bulkhead, but the rear half is hinged, so there's a deep spare wheel-shaped well hidden under the floor. This is very useful, but while some other SUV and car-based commercials add further storage where the rear footwells used to be, the Corolla's are blanked off.
Overall cargo capacity is 1.3 cubic metres (1,326 litres), while there's a payload of 425kg. In comparison, the 1.8 hybrid Touring Sports has a payload range of 405-535kg depending on spec, although of course you're running the risk of damaging interior materials if you're planning to use one of these as a work vehicle. The towing weight for the Corolla Commercial is the same as for the Touring Sports, at 750kg.
On the road, the Corolla Commercial is just as simple and easy to drive as the passenger versions. It fires up silently when there's enough charge in the hybrid battery, and the system is quiet as you're driving along. It only gets noisy under hard acceleration, which doesn't really happen that often, while the van favours electric drive in most circumstances.
At higher speeds there's a bit more of a booming sound that resonates through the open cargo space, but this varies according to the roughness of the road surface you're on. Overall, the Corolla Commercial is a more comfortable option than a small van, thanks to its car-derived suspension set-up, as well as the inherently sporty nature of Toyota's TNGA platform.
The other benefit of using the Corolla platform is the efficiency of the hybrid drive system. Toyota quotes a WLTP economy figure of 61.4mpg, and the Corolla Commercial favours electric drive that makes that figure entirely feasible in everyday driving. A full tank delivers the promise of a range in excess of 650 miles, too, which will be a major attraction for buyers who want to reduce their carbon footprint, but can't quite justify the switch to a full EV because they cover long distances at a time.
Of course, another draw will be Toyota's Relax warranty. Get the Corolla Commercial serviced at one of the 140 or so Toyota Professional centres across the UK, and it's covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. With an introductory finance offer of £261 per month including maintenance (with tyres and brakes) for three years via Toyota's Kinto finance scheme, the Corolla Commercial could be a tempting proposition.