With a heritage stretching back more than half a century, the Toyota Corolla quickly made its name as the world’s most reliable car.

Back in the Sixties it was probably not the world’s most dynamic model, but dependability was a huge plus in an age where family cars were much less trustworthy than they are now.

Fast forward to the new 12th generation hatchback and Toyota aims to stay ahead of the game by injecting some real style, technology and a lot more fun into its ever-reliable and now British-built package.

Lower and more distinctively styled, the new Corolla shares its platform with both the latest generation Prius and the C-HR sports utility vehicle, with all the benefits of a low driving position, a lowered centre of gravity and sophisticated rear suspension.

But the really clever stuff sits under the bonnet with a choice of hybrid systems – a 1.8-litre, 120 horsepower engine and a new 2.0-litre system developing 178 horsepower.

Just one conventional engine option, a 114 horsepower, 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol unit is on offer, though Toyota expects the hybrids to be far and away the biggest sellers.

In a nutshell, the Corolla offers many of the same advantages as Toyota’s own Prius, but with more conventional styling.

Toyota’s Burnaston factory in Derbyshire is the European centre for production of the new Corolla hatchback and touring sports, with 1.8-litre hybrid engines supplied by Toyota’s factory in Deeside, North Wales.

Unlike some, the Corolla’s hybrid engine doesn’t need overnight charging, so you treat it like a petrol-powered car and let it sort out the complicated stuff for itself. With no interference from you, it will top up the charge on its battery automatically when you use the brakes and decide when using the electric motor will help improve economy or performance.

When it comes to emissions and fuel economy, the system delivers some impressive statistics and thanks to tax advantages, the Corolla is cheaper to run as a company car than its diesel rivals.

On the move, the Corolla handles with plenty of composure. If you want to go hurtling around challenging bends there are rivals that will cope better but driven sensibly the car is both predictable and reassuring.

Passengers simply loved the soft suspension which irons out the bumps and ridges and delivers a really comfortable ride – to the point that more than one nodded off even on shorter journeys.

Hybrids come into their own around town when they whisper along in heavy traffic thanks to the electric motor which can cope on its own in stop-start queues.

Safety technology has also had an upgrade, with hybrid models fitted with a range of systems including pre-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, automatic high beam and road sign display.

All models are also fitted with LED headlights, a seven-inch digital instrument display and an eight-inch, dashboard-mounted touchscreen controlling the multimedia and navigation systems.

All versions of new Corolla are also fitted with eCall, a system which can automatically contact the emergency services with the vehicle’s location and number of people on board in the event of an accident in which the airbags are deployed. It also enables occupants to communicate with the emergency operator.

The car driven here was also fitted with a system which uses a rear camera and sensors on the sides of the front bumper to spot reverse and parallel parking spaces and automatically manoeuvre the car into the space.

Plenty of clever stuff then in arguably the best-looking Corolla so far, that continues to prove that reliable does not have to mean dull.

Auto facts

Model: Toyota Corolla Design 1.8 Hybrid hatchback

Price: £25,830

Insurance group: 15E

Fuel consumption (combined): 65.9mpg

Top speed: 112mph

Length: 437cm/171.6in

Width: 179cm/70.3in

Luggage capacity: 361 litres/12.7 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.4 gallons/43 litres

CO2 emissions: 90g/km

Warranty: Five years/100,000 miles