A CLI­MATE CHANGER

Safe and af­ford­able, the Corolla hy­brid steps up in driv­ing en­joy­ment

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - BILL McK­IN­NON

Toy­ota’s Corolla is Aus­tralia’s and the world’s favourite car, with about 45 mil­lion sold over 11 gen­er­a­tions and 52 years. So when a new Corolla comes along, you know ex­actly what you’re go­ing to get — a more highly evolved ver­sion of the same ge­netic se­quence.

Why would Toy­ota de­liver any­thing else? Toy­ota tried to amp up Corolla’s driver sat­is­fac­tion fac­tor with this 12th gen­er­a­tion’s pre­de­ces­sor, in line with global boss Akio Toy­oda’s 2011 edict that all of the com­pany’s cars should be fun to drive.

The new 2018 hatch ex­pands upon that theme. The Zeit­geist may suit it, too.

Hy­brids haven’t re­ally done the busi­ness here yet, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but the sales cli­mate may be chang­ing.

The lat­est spike in petrol prices, the im­mi­nent demise of diesel, the fact that a vi­able elec­tric car recharg­ing in­fra­struc­ture is still many years away and the grow­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that global warm­ing is no longer a de­bate but a threat may prompt an in­creas­ing num­ber of new car buy­ers to look at hy­brid power.

That’s why Toy­ota Aus­tralia has a hy­brid op­tion, at $1500, in each of the 2018 Corolla’s three grades. To­day, we’re test­ing the most af­ford­able: the As­cent Sport.

VALUE

In the pre­vi­ous Corolla range, there was one hy­brid and you needed $27,350 to get into it. The 2018 As­cent Sport hy­brid is $25,870.

As in the Prius stable­mate, it com­bines a 1.8-litre petrol en­gine, twin elec­tric mo­tors/ gen­er­a­tors and a nickel me­tal hy­dride bat­tery. A con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion drives the front wheels.

Toy­ota claims 4.2L/100km on reg­u­lar unleaded. Our test car did 4.5L-4.8L around town, where a hy­brid works with max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency.

Auto stop-start kills the en­gine at rest and, in Eco mode with a gen­tle right foot, driv­ing at sub­ur­ban street speeds, you’ll of­ten run on bat­tery power alone for short dis­tances.

In city traf­fic, ex­pect the hy­brid to use about half the fuel of the con­ven­tion­ally pow­ered 2.0-litre Corolla with CVT.

On the high­way, though, where the en­gine is run­ning all the time, there’s lit­tle dif­fer­ence. Our test car drank 5.5L at 100km/h in Eco mode, ris­ing to 6.2L in Power mode when taken for a bit of a fang through the hills.

Its CO2 emis­sions of 97g/km are by far the low­est in its class. VW’s Golf 110TSi DSG pro­duces 128g and Hyundai’s i30 auto 173g.

Toy­ota has ex­tended the Corolla’s ser­vice in­ter­vals to a mar­ket av­er­age 12 months/ 15,000km, and at $175 a time it’s the cheap­est ser­vic­ing in the class.

How­ever three years’ war­ranty is stingy. Kia backs its cars for seven years; Hyundai, Honda, Holden, Mazda and Ford for five.

As the base model, the As­cent Sport gets a plas­tic steer­ing wheel, tinny au­dio and just one USB and 12V socket. Dual-zone air­con, au­to­matic LED head­lights, key­less en­try and start­ing and heated side mir­rors are stan­dard. The Corolla’s in­fo­tain­ment fea­tures a high­mounted eight-inch touch­screen, voice con­trol that works for all func­tions and seam­less Blue­tooth with email and SMS. Nav­i­ga­tion with live traf­fic alerts adds $1000.

COM­FORT

A sup­port­ive, well-bol­stered driver’s seat (with am­ple ad­just­ment) and an ex­cep­tion­ally quiet, con­trolled, com­pli­ant ride make this Corolla the most com­fort­able to date. Tyre noise can in­trude on coarse bi­tu­men, though.

De­spite the larger new body, adults in the rear still suf­fer re­stricted legroom and tight ac­cess. Min­i­mal stor­age and no vents or de­vice con­nec­tors make the back stalls a grim space, too, while the boot is tiny for a car of this size.

SAFETY

De­cent safety spec­i­fi­ca­tion, long over­due in the Corolla, is now up with the class lead­ers at this pri­ce­point. Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing works across the full speed range and in­cludes pedes­trian and cy­clist de­tec­tion.

Adap­tive cruise fea­tures ef­fec­tive lane keep­ing, in­clud­ing Mercedes-style lane cen­tring — it can be hit-and-miss, de­pend­ing on am­bi­ent light and the clar­ity of road mark­ings. Speed sign mon­i­tor­ing and au­to­matic high-beams are also stan­dard.

DRIV­ING

Toy­ota has been do­ing main­stream hy­brids for longer than any other brand and it shows in Corolla’s beau­ti­fully re­fined, ef­fi­cient, seam­less oper­a­tion.

The CVT now hooks up quickly and de­ci­sively from rest and, at any speed, pins the en­gine’s revs im­me­di­ately and ex­actly where your right foot says they should be, ac­com­pa­nied by a strong, smooth turbo-style shove as high-volt­age torque kicks in. Over­tak­ing is quick and ef­fort­less.

In this class, ev­ery­body strives to em­u­late the Golf ’s sub­lime ride-han­dling com­pro­mise. The Corolla hy­brid now comes pretty close.

In­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion is stan­dard across the range. It’s heavy at 1400kg, though the hy­brid’s cen­tre of grav­ity is close to the ground.

It’s ag­ile, re­spon­sive, planted — and, yes, al­most sporty, would you be­lieve? — with a no­tice­ably tighter body and light, pre­cise steer­ing. Dun­lop Enasave tyres aren’t the stick­i­est, though.

HEART SAYS

Our politi­cians seem in­ca­pable of do­ing any­thing con­struc­tive about cli­mate change, so I will.

HEAD SAYS

Elec­tric cars and the in­fra­struc­ture needed for them are still too far from the main­stream to be vi­able. Plug-in hy­brids are ex­pen­sive. This is af­ford­able, proven, ef­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES HYUNDAI IONIQ

Launches in Oc­to­ber, with elec­tric, plug-in and Corolla-style full hy­brid ver­sions. Hyundai claims 3.9L/100km for the hy­brid. Boot space is more than twice the Corolla’s. Pric­ing ex­pected to be about $30,000.

VW GOLF 110TSI FROM $26,490

The most fuel-ef­fi­cient con­ven­tional set-up in the class, a 1.4-litre turbo and seven-speed twin­clutch auto that re­turns a claimed 5.4L/100km. The bench­mark car in many re­spects, though re­li­a­bil­ity can be an is­sue.

ROAD TEST

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