When you say the word "appliance" you immediately think of certain things: a fridge, for example, or a washing machine. Or a Toyota Corolla wagon.
There is little in the automotive world that screams "appliance" louder and more generically than a Corolla wagon. Simple, functional and practical, a wagon version of the world's most popular car is a utilitarian tool, pure and simple.
Mainly bought by companies and businesses that want something cheap, reliable and spacious, frivolous things like comfort and style are very much unimportant.
And I have always had a soft spot for the Corolla wagon for that very reason. It was like a pair of Ugg boots; deeply unfashionable, yet reassuringly cosy. It drove fine, handled fine and was comfortable and utterly unpretentious.
But it was also not really a Corolla - the "Corolla wagon" we got here was actually a long wheelbase Yaris under the skin, while the Europeans got the sleeker, significantly more modern version based on the then-new Corolla.
I have always had a soft spot for the Corolla wagon because it was like a pair of Ugg boots; deeply unfashionable, yet reassuringly cosy.
But since 2020 we have had the 'real' Corolla wagon, and it is available in a way you would totally expect it to be: a single, low spec model available in black, silver or two shades of white. And that's it.
Oh, and it is also the cheapest Corolla you can buy - at $35,990 the wagon slips under the base Corolla hatch by just $1000, but because the hatch emits 101g/km of CO2 and moves into the newly adjusted Clean Car Discount zero band (neither a rebate nor a fee), while the wagon is rated at just 88.3g/km and stays in the rebate zone, it scores a further $2415 off the price.
The wagon also uses less fuel than the hatch (3.8L/100km compared to the hatch's 4.4) and while it is actually lighter than the hatch, it is only by around 35kg.
But where the last hybrid hatch I had struggled to get close to its fuel consumption claim, the wagon nails it effortlessly. And it totally doesn't matter how you drive it. In fact, I made a concerted effort to not care in the slightest about driving carefully and economically while I had the wagon, and it simply didn't care.
Recording a grand total of 4.0L/100km during my week thrashing it around like the photocopier repair technician who is likely to get one for his company car, the Corolla wagon was totally unbothered by the aggressive driving style. It just goes to show: big wheels are far more detrimental to your fuel consumption than driving like a stressed company rep.
Oh, and it is also the cheapest Corolla you can buy - at $35,990 the wagon slips under the base Corolla hatch by just $1000
Speaking of wheels, the Corolla wagon runs on 16-inch alloys (no billy-basic steel wheels here anymore) and also scores LED headlights and power adjustable mirrors on the outside.
Because the new Corolla wagon is based on the current hatch, it has also had a massive upgrade in terms of technology. The wagon features the full Toyota Safety Sense system that includes emergency autonomous braking with pedestrian, cyclist and motorcycle detection, intersection turn assist, dynamic radar cruise control, lane keep assist, road sign assist and automatic high beams, as well as a backing camera with dynamic guide lines.
On the inside things are kept simple and basic: you get standard fabric seats with manual adjustment, a urethane steering wheel, analogue gauges and single zone climate control. But you do get niceties such as push button start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (including wireless CarPlay) and two USB-C ports.
Impressively Toyota have kept the price of the wagon admirably wallet friendly, yet still included the basic modern comforts we expect (there's no wind up windows or blanking plates where the stereo should be here), along with something else that is very nice to have - comfort.
The Corolla wagon is a very easy car to spend time in, thanks to its comfortable seats, supple ride and smooth powertrain. Yes, it does have a continuously variable transmission, but the refinement of the engine and the sheer amount of running you can do on the battery alone make it less intrusive than CVTs traditionally are. Plus, if you crank the stereo up, all you notice is the slick, seamless power delivery anyway...
Oh, and then there's space: lots of it. The wagon can swallow 598 litres of cargo with the rear seats in place, which goes up to 800 litres when you fold them down.
While it is easy to write off the Corolla wagon as a mere appliance (and, indeed, that is appealing to a lot of buyers who want just that), that is doing it a disservice, as it is a wonderfully comfortable, seriously frugal an impressively practical small wagon that could slot effortlessly into many lifestyles.
As long as you like silver, black or white, that is.
Toyota Corolla Wagon GX Hybrid
ENGINE: 1.8-litre petrol hybrid
GEARBOX: Continuously variable transmission, FWD
CONSUMPTION: 3.8l/100km (3P-WLTP)