The Corolla has been a best seller for a reason over the past fifty years.
Combining practicality and low running costs, the Corolla can now add green credentials to the list.
Toyota is one of the largest car brands making a big effort to add hybrid cars to its lineup. Beginning with the Prius way back at the turn of the millennium, adding the Camry Hybrid and the rest of the Prius family, it was only a matter of time before they added battery power to their most popular seller.
Walking past a Corolla Hybrid on the street won’t turn any heads, there’s no big flashing bells or whistles to indicate the eco-friendliness of the model. The only visual change is the blue glow added behind the front Toyota emblem, as well as the Hybrid Synergy Drive badge glued to the back.
Inside the cabin, you get the some of the best of the flagship ZR-spec Corolla – minus the leather trim and electrochromatic mirror – with added gizmos to help you track the hybrid system’s real world performance.
The biggest change at the front of the cabin is the loss of the traditional automatic gearshift for the Prius-like mini-shifter. It’s a little weird, aesthetically, especially because the smaller Prius C city car has a normal handle to select a gear, but it does the job, and that’s the main thing.
Jump into the Corolla Hybrid and start it up, you get the same silence that accompanies the other hybrids of the range.
One major change is double wishbone suspension for the rear axle, as well as bigger brakes over the regular Corolla range, probably to compensate for the extra weight of the battery pack. (Despite this, the hybrid version is only 50kg heavier than a Corolla without the battery pack.)
The ride is not so different from a regular Corolla, the new suspension set up soaks up unsettled roads in the back a little easier, especially with the hybrid system’s weight underneath the back end, but it’s not as if Toyota has turned the Corolla Hybrid into a rear-wheel drive drift machine.
Acceleration is improved thanks to the immediacy of the hybrid system, but once you’re travelling at speed the petrol engine kicks in to power you along. Cruising along, you’d be hard pressed to tell you were in a car filled with technology as clever as in the Corolla Hybrid.
The big new features on the road are the addition of ECO and EV modes into the Corolla, the former limiting the engine output and climate controls to save fuel and constrain emissions and the latter allowing for up to 2km/h of electric only travel up to 40km/h. EV mode is best for when you’re stuck in heavy traffic, and helps to tip the scales even further for the Corolla as a car for the city.
The Corolla range has always been a strong seller on its practicality, and that continues with the Hybrid model – plus you get even lower running costs.
The Corolla Hybrid benefits from much of the top-of-the-range ZR’s gear, helping itself to a generous amount of swag from the flagship Toyota hatch, including the 7” touchscreen audio system with ToyotaLink connectivity, the 4.2” full colour multi-information display in between the gauges, remote keyless entry and push-button start and dual zone climate control.
One thing the Hybrid misses out on, thanks to the added bulk of the batteries, is a full-sized spare wheel. Toyota, presumably, ditched it in order to save weight or limit the boot space (the Hybrid, admirably, has the same storage capacity as a petrol hatch), but it would be nice to have the option at least for drivers who travel long distances frequently or who don’t need the boot space (i.e. for a work vehicle.)
The dimensions inside are fine, and the backseat isn’t any more cramped with the addition of the batteries under the bench – and the boot space I just mentioned remains the same as the solely fuel-powered Corolla. All in all, you don’t notice anything above and beyond to differentiate the hybrid hatch until you get to the pump.
Toyota says the hybrid Corolla will use 3.9L/100km just driving in the city – undercutting the petrol models’ figures by more than half. In the real world, we couldn’t get this below 4.5L/100km, but this is still a miniscule figure and they engineers in Japan know what they’re doing when pairing the petrol-electric systems to work in harmony.
The Corolla Hybrid is a one-model deal at this stage, and is available in hatch version only with a CVT automatic. Starting from $27,530, you can choose from the petrol Corolla’s entire colour palette if you’re feeling like ticking the options box; Glacier White is standard.
All prices exclude on road costs including stamp duty, dealer delivery, registration or insurance.
As with all new Toyota’s, the Corolla Hybrid gets the benefits of Toyota Service Advantage with capped price servicing and roadside assistance for the first three years of ownership. Scheduled servicing is capped at $140, with service intervals due every six months or 10,000km.
The regular, petrol-powered Corolla is already an enticing proposition: practical, easy to maintain and relatively cheap to run.
The hybrid version just adds to that with an even lower running cost thanks to the halved fuel consumption, adding valuable and smart technology without costing the earth (figuratively or literally).