University can be a difficult time. It gets even more difficult when you have to juggle a full-time job, several side gigs and studies. This was my reality for most of the year. When most people had snuggled into their beds by 10pm, I would either be opening my laptop to start writing a new report after a full day of work or would be making my way back from night classes.
When it was finally over, I needed to breathe.
My need for breathing space became even more evident when I was given the opportunity to experience what it feels like to not be mistaken for an Uber driver (yes, I drive that car) in Johannesburg.
I was given the keys to the Toyota Hatch in the colour blue flame. I immediately connected my iPhone, using Bluetooth, and chose Stevie Wonder’s Something out of Blue as the soundtrack for my first drive in the car. (It was around the Mail & Guardian’s offices.)
The lyrics of the 1970s track are simple, playful and unpretentious and reminded me of my first impressions of the Hatch.
The car lives up to the Corolla name of practicality, reliability and fuel efficiency. I drove the car at least 40km on each of the four days I had in it, between Johannesburg and Pretoria. It came with a full tank of petrol and by the time I had to let it go, the tank was about three-quarters full.
The interior of the car is not as edgy as the outside, which boasts, among others, chrome finishes, smartly styled LED headlights, a reverse camera and a cute shark fin antenna. The inside is a mix of what can be expected from a Toyota such as comfortable seats, great quality materials on the dashboard and an easy to use sound system.
The blind-spot monitoring also provided me with much needed help as I was mostly driving through highveld thunderstorms. The excellent ride quality also came in handy as I drove on the wet roads.
The downside of what is otherwise an overall great car is space. I’m 1.53cm and could nearly reach the roof without adjusting my seat. The 217 litres of boot space couldn’t fit all my mid-week groceries, my laptop bag and other sundry items, which had to be moved to the back seat.
By the end of the week I had decided on blasting Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 album AM through the speakers.
The United Kingdom music publication NME gave the album an impressive maximum five stars when it was released and described it as the work of a “band still growing, still fine-tuning, still learning and still experimenting”.
Those words fit the Hatch perfectly. It’s a great starter car but leaves the driver wanting more — which can be expected from Toyota with future iterations of the car.