THERE was little fanfare when Toyota added a hybrid model to its best-selling Corolla range earlier this year but there should have been. It’s the most convincing hybrid we’ve driven.
In the few weeks it’s spent in the Carsguide garage it’s been a model of quiet efficiency.
The electric motor cuts in and out unobtrusively at lights, saving fuel before providing an extra surge of torque to get the Corolla off the mark swiftly.
In bumper-to-bumper commuting, it’s relatively easy to use less than 5.0L/100km — roughly half what you’d use in the petrol version. And that’s before the hybrid bug bites.
It wasn’t long before we were turning off the aircon, winding down the windows and coasting up to the lights if we saw them turn red, looking to save every last drop of fuel.
The Corolla is that type of car — everything encourages you to go easy on the accelerator. There’s no tacho, only a gauge that tells you whether you’re recharging the battery or driving in Eco or Power mode.
Before long, you begin to realise that you’ve been using the accelerator more than necessary in city traffic, needlessly racing between sets of red traffic lights. Fighting that urge is hard, especially when other cars dart into your lane the second you show a moment’s tardiness.
But fight it we did, to be rewarded with a personal (no aircon) best of 3.5L/100km, scooter-like fuel consumption, yet with a roof over your head.
And the accelerator isn’t the only thing to get a rest — slip the gear selector into “B” mode for more aggressive engine braking and you don’t have to be so heavy on the brake.
It’s not all good news, though. The centre touchscreen is fiddly to use on the move and you can’t pair a phone unless the car is stopped.
The Corolla also beeps loudly, like a truck, when you’re reversing. It’s not to warn pedestrians — you can’t hear it outside. It’s not like reversing sensors that beep more quickly the closer you get to a wall or post. It’s just plain annoying.
Apart from that, though, our stint in the Corolla has been fun in a geeky sort of way.
WITH RICHARD BLACKBURN AND JOSHUA DOWLING