Commuter's Corolla - Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Toyota has added yet more Corollas with the introduction of a new sedan and wagon.
We’ll report on the wagon soon but meantime we’ve been channeling our inner Uber driver in the hybrid variant of the sedan. Ride hailing services are well aware of a Toyota hybrid’s cost effectiveness in terms of purchase price (admittedly most Ubers are a second-hand import Prius, but you get the gist) and real-world fuel use. And that’s the M.O. of the Toyota hybrid; affordable, reliable conveyance with low emissions. It’s hard to get overly excited about the new Corolla sedan but it makes for a sensible, practical choice in 2020 with gas prices likely to remain high.
The sedan sits on the same TNGA platform as the hatch, helping it achieve a more dynamic appearance, being 25mm lower overall than the previous model. They reckon it lends the sedan the same ‘crisp handling’ as the hatch though we reckon it’s not quite as sharp dynamically. It feels more softly sprung, and when pushed along the eco treads squeal under duress, the front end surrendering to understeer earlier. That’s not to say it’s a dull drive, the rear end lively at times but the softer suspension tune means it doesn’t turn as convincingly as we remember the hatch did.
You’ll opt for the hybrid for its economy, the output and performance numbers hardly exciting but there’s enough motivation to get by the odd straggler. Best wait for a decent straight to get it done though. At a regular highway pace, the ride is compliant and the steering filters any unwanted ‘noise’. There’s a definite hum to the progress on coarse chip however and, as can be the case with low rolling resistance rubber, the panic braking stopping distances aren’t flash. But at least the brake pedal feels okay, for a hybrid that is, as they have been pretty awful in the past.
Fuel use is only ever minimal, the average rising to 5.5L/100km after performance testing and a run up the reference hill road for good measure.
This settled at 4.2L/100km after our week with it, which was also the long term average when we collected the test car. Toyota however claims the hybrid sedan is good for 3.5L/100km overall. Guess you’d have to do more city driving in the Eco mode to lower it further. Even so, this was showing a 1000km range when full. For some, that might mean a fill is only necessary every few weeks.
While the sedan still uses a nickel metal hydride battery (located under the back seat), the ‘EV’ performance has improved over the years. We were surprised with how well the electrics can maintain your speed, even on the motorway. The hybrid sedan gets up to regular traffic pace without much need to use more than 2500rpm thanks to the electric torque boost, while the e-CVT then knocks the engine right back to 1200rpm, at both 50 and 100km/h oddly enough. The response from the powertrain is adequate when extra go is required while the refinement is polished with zero shiftshock and a smooth uptake. The round town ride is cushy too, as is the steering effort, making for an easy drive.
The sedan can be had with the regular 125kW/200Nm 2.0-litre though we’d advise paying the extra $2K for the hybrid at $34,990 (full on the road, no haggling price), with Toyota charging the same for both hatch and sedan styles. The mid-spec SX is the only variant available, replete with what we reckon is everything you really need without the fluff. The climate air con is single zone but you’ll get over that, as you will the cloth trim. For there’s a smart key, Qi wireless device charger, eight-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reverse camera and a seven-inch multi-information display in the instrument cluster. There’s also the full suite of active safety, including radar cruise, resulting in a 2018 five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The sedan we found to be more spacious than the hatch. Its boot has a decent opening, and while the gooseneck hinges are crude, the hold is wide, deep and tall. We were impressed with how much stuff we managed to pile in, offering more usable space than the hatch. And there’s split folding too (60/40) for when you have something long and skinny to haul. The rear accommodation is better as well with more legroom.
Up front, the cabin is rather grey and grim with not much to brighten the occasion while the storage holes could be larger. The driver’s seat is passable but the hard plastic door tops need remedying.
While it’s hard to get excited about such a machine, it’s also hard to fault the Corolla hybrid sedan, a sound, low-emissions choice.
Model Toyota Corolla Sedan SX Hybrid Price $34,990
Engine 1798cc, IL4, EFI, 72kW/142Nm
Transmission e-CVT, front-wheel drive
Vitals 10.78sec 0-100km/h, 3.5L/100km, 81g/km, 1377kg