Everything you know and like about one of the world’s most popular small cars, Toyota Corolla, carries over to the new hybrid model. Only now, thanks to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, fuel consumption is cut by more than 2.0L/100km, and CO2 tailpipe emissions drop by 33 per cent.
It’s a significant step in the story of a car that has just celebrated 50 years on the market with sales of well over 40 million.
No cost premium
Unlike early hybrid vehicles, there is no cost premium on this model, which slots into the middle of the Corolla hatch range at $26,990 plus on road costs. Around town, the hybrid economy advantage is actually greater, because the electric motor is used more frequently in stop/start traffic and the battery is recharged when braking. The counterpoint to cost savings is a requirement for a minimum of 95-octane petrol.
Corolla is the latest beneficiary, following Prius and Camry, of Toyota’s stride towards hybrid versions for every vehicle in its range.
Technology keeps improving
The application is the same as with other Toyotas but the technology improves with each generation. Corolla gains an electric drive motor linked to its standard 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and seven-speed CVT transmission. The petrol engine is retuned for economy with a lower maximum power figure, but the overall power output of 100kW is comparable with the regular Corolla. Most importantly the large battery pack is well concealed beneath the rear seat, which means the hybrid model retains the full split-fold rear seat loading practicality. Fuel tank capacity drops slightly to 45 litres and there’s a small step between the boot floor and folded seat, plus – unlike other Corollas – it unfortunately carries a space-saver spare wheel.
The cabin, which has good occupant space for its class and will easily seat four adults, mirrors the latest Corollas with smart presentation and familiar controls. The square dash design ensures good positioning of functions such as air-vents while information and energy read-outs from the hybrid drive are neatly incorporated. In our review, we noted Corolla’s improved front-seat comfort and, for drivers, the tactile and fully adjustable steering wheel. Cabin presentation is enhanced with soft touch pads or trim inserts, particularly in the door panels.
Gains convenience features
The hybrid gains a few convenience features over the base cars, including dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, seven-inch touch-screen audio, voice recognition and inbuilt satellite navigation. A rear-view camera, seven airbags and a five-star ANCAP rating ensure sound safety credentials, yet some fundamental convenience features are missing, such as rain-sensing wipers or auto headlights, nor is there the option of safety additions such as blind spot monitoring.
Overall performance is good, and again not dissimilar to the standard petrol versions, although noise levels are higher with the CVT when overtaking. There’s a slightly slower throttle response on hill starts and a whirring noise from the electric motor on acceleration that are more characteristics than annoyances.
Likewise, a slight change in brake pedal feel between the initial electric retardation and full braking is occasionally apparent around town but indistinguishable at speed on the open road. Emergency braking and pedal feel are surprisingly good.
Ride and handling characteristics have improved across the Corolla range with the latest version, which always felt solid and surefooted. The electric power steering has a progressive feel, the Michelin tyres provide a good balance of ride comfort and grip and the overall suspension set-up delivers a more engaging drive than might be expected from such a practical small car.
The hybrid Corolla brings sizeable reductions in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. Significantly, this well-equipped and competitively priced mid-spec model loses none of its inherent space and practicality.
Car review: Ernest Litera
Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Price: $26,990 + $3663 (est.) ORC. Metallic paint $450.
Safety: ESC. ABS. 7 airbags. Reversing camera. LED daytime running lights. ISOFIX child-seat fittings. Fog lights.
Connectivity: Seven-inch touch-screen. Bluetooth with voice recognition. Toyota Link connected mobility system.
Driver features: Proximity key/push-button start. Sat-nav with traffic updates. Fully adjustable steering. Cruise control.
Vehicle features: Dual-zone climate-control. Single CD/MP3 audio. LED headlights.
Specifications: Drivetrain: 1798cc 4cyl petrol engine, 73kW@5200rpm (100kW with electric motor). 142Nm@4000rpm. CVT. Front-wheel-drive. 95 RON petrol. 45L tank. 5.2L/100km (RACV test), 4.1L/100km (govt figure).
Wheels: 16” alloy, 205/55 R16 tyres. Space-saver spare wheel.
Acceleration: 0-60km/h, 5.2 sec. 0-80, 8.0. 0-100, 11.8. 50-80, 4.4. 60-100, 7.4. 0-400m, 18.3.
Braking: from 80km/h, 22.4m.
Towing: Not recommended.
Environment: 96g/km CO2.
Service/repairs: 6-month/10,000km capped-price services. 3yr/100,000km warranty.
RACV OVERALL RATING: * * * *