The 1.8-litre hybrid with CVT is less convincing on the open road. It can be a little breathless when overtaking and doesn’t deliver the same fuel advantage over the 2.0-litre petrol models as it does in the city, while also generating more of the characteristic CVT slurring noise. In sustained regional and country driving, the 2.0-litre petrol models feel stronger and more composed.
Government fuel consumption testing gives an overall figure for hybrid models of 4.2L/100km, and 6.0L/100km for the petrol CVT – or 0.3L/100km better than the six-speed petrol manual. On-road figures will be around 18 per cent higher, but both engines will run on 91-RON fuel. More significantly, hybrid models produce substantially fewer CO2 emissions.
The new Corolla is particularly praiseworthy for its revised ride quality and handling package. A new multi-link rear suspension set-up, combined with a bigger footprint, lower ride height and vastly improved electric steering, give the new model sharper dynamics as well as good driver feel and feedback.
Together with Active Cornering Assist, there is controlled suppleness that works well over all manner of undulating and patched roads. The only criticism is for the Hybrid’s energy-saving tyres – they are designed for enhanced economy around town, but are less grippy on a high-speed country road.
With buyers hungry for ever-higher equipment levels, Toyota has dropped the entry-level model of the previous generation. That means pricing now starts at $22,890 for the low-volume petrol/manual model before adding on-road costs. A CVT auto adds $1500, and hybrid-drive an additional $1500. Optional satellite navigation and privacy glass add $1000 to the Ascent Sport, while premium paint is $550 on all models.
The better-presented SX petrol and Hybrid are $26,870 and $28,370 respectively, pushing them over $30,000 on the road. ZR petrol and Hybrid start at $30,370 and $31,870 respectively, plus ORC.
Equipment levels have also improved in line with the price hike, most notably a comprehensive safety package that includes an advanced pre-collision safety system, active cruise control, auto high beam, reversing camera, and – for SX and ZR – blind-spot monitoring.
Although Toyota continues with a conservative three-year warranty, fixed-price servicing is just $175 up to the first six services, which are scheduled at 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.