Everyone is on a quest to make their money go further. The challenge gets greater; with the burgeoning price of everything. And then it comes to the heading entitled Car on the monthly budget sheet. You know the drill. Ridiculous petrol prices and now added tolling burdens must be borne in addition to repayments and of course maintenance. Toyota recently unveiled their Corolla Quest to help give motorists supreme bang for buck.

Toyota Corolla Quest Motion - Surf4cars

Made in Mzansi

We landed in Durban and hopped into the newcomer – instantly familiar since it is based on the previous generation Corolla. But more on the drive later: our first stop was at the Toyota manufacturing plant in Prospecton to witness the budget-beating car being made.

It was fascinating to see the process from scratch. The busy production line flows like organised chaos and the staff barely looked in our direction while we watched them go about assembly resolutely and with concentration. Although the Quest was created with affordability as the main priority; our various plant guides ensured that quality does not take a back seat.

From the US to Japan, every Toyota plant is the same. The inspection practices are thorough. Each car is reviewed scrupulously, then taken on a series of tests on the road. These include handling, braking and high speed stints to check unwanted rattles or sounds. We can vouch for their meticulous work after spending half a day in the Quest.

Toyota Corolla Quest Assembly - Surf4cars

Simply pleasant

With its proven foundation, the Corolla Quest is a simple but pleasant car to drive. The interior is spacious with comfortable seats. Its basic layout means there is little to detract from the task of motoring. Buyers wanting transport without frills or gimmicks will appreciate this. It feels sturdy and managed our lengthy driving route with ease.

Road manners are decent; with confident handling and peppy performance from the 1.6-litre engine packing 90kW and 154Nm of torque. Mind you, we sampled this engine recently in the current generation Corolla at Highveld altitudes and our gripe was that it felt a tad asthmatic. Most importantly though – because this is a full-sized sedan after all – buyers will feel like they are behind the wheel of something substantial.

On the styling front there is not much to write home about. There are no flashy trinkets or embellishments. But that is acceptable: the Quest is not pretending to be much more than a reliable saloon that ticks the boxes.

Toyota Corolla Quest Interior - Surf4cars

All the essentials

Those expecting technological wizardry are going to be disappointed. With that said, all the essentials needed to keep one content and safe on the daily drive are present.

Dual front airbags, air-conditioning, central locking and anti-lock brakes are thrown in across the board. But the Plus model grade benefits from an an audio system with a USB port as well as alloy wheels and colour-coding. Opt for the basic Quest and you will have to resort to singing; although it does come pre-wired to accept an audio device and speakers.

There is no Bluetooth phone compatibility (even the Suzuki Swift has that these days) and the radio does look a tad old fashioned in the Plus. But considering that you are not paying more than R200 000 for this car, those points are forgivable.

Toyota Corolla Quest Rear Side - Surf4cars

So affordable

The intention is to give buyers a C-segment sedan for B-segment hatchback money. It wears an appealing price tag; with things starting at R174 900 for the basic model, R197 900 for the Quest Plus and R198 900 if you want an automatic transmission. Included is a three-year/100 000-kilometre warranty and a three-year/45 000-kilometre service plan.

We doubt younger buyers will be totally lured away from the B-segment even if this Quest is priced competitively. But for those wanting simplicity and practical merits such as spaciousness, minimal running costs and the sound resale value associated with the badge, the Quest seems like a clear winner.

Andrea Hicks