Hybrid a Corolla with a conscience
While other automobile manufacturers take varying roads to low emissions, Toyota is steadfastly sticking to the petrol-electric hybrid route with its new addition to the genre, the Corolla Hybrid.
With official fuel consumption put at 4.1 litres per 100km on the combined urban/highway cycle, this is good enough to give the vehicle a range of almost 1100km, depending on driving style.
The hybrid version of the popular Corolla arrives just months shy of the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first model in Japan.
With a comprehensive list of equipment, some not offered on other Corollas in Australia, the hybrid is priced from $26,990, putting it between the petrol-only SX and ZR hatches.
A chiselled front end sees the radiator grille in two sections, the upper section dominated by the Toyota logo and flanked by autolevelling bi-LED headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, the lower portion with fog lamps.
A steeply raked windscreen ensures the car slices through the air cleanly, which is then directed over a roof that slopes to a small spoiler. Rear lights wrap around the corners, giving the Corolla a broad stance from behind.
The car rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels with five sets of V-twin spokes. The car comes in any of the eight exterior paint colours.
The passenger cabin exhibits the premium materials and quality of a more expensive vehicle, with dark upholstery and soft-touch surfaces all round.
Headroom is adequate, but rear seat legroom is tight, even with average-sized occupants up front.
With the hybrid battery positioned under rear seat and temporary spare wheel under the floor, the latest Corolla retains the standard hatch's 360 litres of luggage space. The rear seat backs fold flat for even more room.
A small 4.2-inch colour touchscreen is positioned just below aircon vents in the central dashboard, not quite at the driver’s eye level.
The Corolla's Hybrid Synergy Drive system uses an Atkinsoncycle 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and 60kW electric motor.
Efficiency features for the petrol engine include cooled exhaust-gas recirculation, an electric water pump and a compression ratio of 13.0:1, compared with 10.0:1 on the petrol-only Corolla.
The nickel-metal hydride battery, which puts out maximum power of 60kW and top torque of 207Nm, is charged by the petrol engine and regenerative braking.
The first pleasant surprise about the Corolla Hybrid test vehicle was the keyless entry and petrol engine start.
During our period with the test car, it clocked up fuel consumption of 4.6 litres per 100km on a mix of suburban and motorway driving.
Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology is capable of operating in petrol and electric modes alone, or a combination of both, depending on driving conditions.
Setting off under electric power alone is ponderous and needs the input of the petrol engine to push it along. An econometer in the instrument panel shows how the systems are working, with charge, economy and power on the dial helping the driver to maintain a desired result.
The independent rear suspension delivers stable ride and handling. The continuously variable transmissions is operated via a neat mini-me shift lever on the centre console.
With 40,800 sales, the Corolla retained its title as Australia’s best-selling car in the financial year ended June 30, making it the top seller in each of the past three calendar years. The Hybrid can only add to the success.