Corolla Hy­brid an ideal al­ter­na­tive

Albany Extra - - Motoring - Alis­tair Kennedy

If ever there was a car that needed no in­tro­duc­tion, it’s the Toy­ota Corolla. In pro­duc­tion con­tin­u­ously since 1966, and with sales in ex­cess of 44 mil­lion, it is the big­gest-sell­ing car of all time.

In mid-2016, Toy­ota added a petrol/elec­tric hy­brid vari­ant to the Aus­tralian Corolla range for the first time.

The Ja­panese gi­ant was one of the pioneers of vol­ume pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cles us­ing this fuel-sav­ing tech­nol­ogy with its Prius hatch­back, which ar­rived here in 2001.

The orig­i­nal Corolla Hy­brid only came in the base grade for­mat but now, as part of the MY2018 up­grade, it is avail­able in the same three vari­ants as the rest of the range: As­cent Sport, SX and ZR.

Apart from a “hy­brid” badge at the rear, there is no visual dif­fer­ence be­tween the Corolla Hy­brid and the rest of the range, which makes sense be­cause, to our eyes, this is the best-look­ing Corolla yet.

It’s longer, lower and wider than be­fore with a more coupe-like sil­hou­ette which com­bine to give a much bolder, stronger road pres­ence.

All mod­els get LED head­lights with au­to­matic high-beam, LED day­time run­ning lights and LED tail­lights.

The As­cent Sport and SX have 16inch al­loy wheels, with the ZR jump­ing up to 18-inches. All have a tem­po­rary spare wheel.

The in­te­rior is neat and tidy, with ev­ery­thing in the right place.

Seats are wide, com­fort­able and sup­port­ive. Head­room is fine in the front seats but mar­ginal for taller rear-seat pas­sen­gers. There’s no sun­roof op­tion which would oth­er­wise re­duce space.

The Corolla Hy­brid comes with the same pow­er­train as the cur­rent Prius. Called the Hy­brid Syn­ergy Drive, it uses a 1.8-litre four-cylin­der Atkin­son Cy­cle petrol engine sup­ported by a nickel-metal hy­dride bat­tery to put out a max­i­mum 90kW of power and 207Nm of torque.

Fuel con­sump­tion is listed at 4.2 litres per 100km. The bat­ter­ies for the elec­tric mo­tor can be charged by the petrol engine when it no longer needs full power to drive the ve­hi­cle and also by the brak­ing sys­tem that takes the en­ergy from the car as it slows down or goes down­hill. This is prob­a­bly the big­gest at­tribute of a hy­brid ve­hi­cle in the real world.

The Toy­ota CVT has seven pre­set over­rides via the gearshift lever, with the SX and ZR also get­ting steer­ing wheel shift pad­dles.

There are three driv­ing modes: ECO, Nor­mal and Sport.

In ad­di­tion to stan­dard safety fea­tures (seven airbags, en­hanced ABS brakes, sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol) all mod­els get the Toy­ota Safety Sys­tem which in­cludes au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, emer­gency brake as­sist, pedes­trian and cy­clist de­tec­tion, ac­tive cruise con­trol, lane-de­par­ture alert, and lane trace as­sist which, for the inat­ten­tive driver, pro­vides steer­ing as­sist when nec­es­sary to en­sure the car stays in the lane.

There’s also au­to­matic high/ low-beam, a re­vers­ing cam­era, hill-start as­sist and Iso­fix child seat an­chor points in the two outer rear seats. A first for any Toy­ota model in Aus­tralia is a wind­screen-mounted cam­era that rec­og­nizes speed limit signs.

The SX and ZR add a blind-spot mon­i­tor and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, with the ZR also get­ting a colour head-up dis­play.

All mod­els get a cen­trally mounted eight-inch touch­screen op­er­ated ei­ther through big but­tons or voice recog­ni­tion. A new fea­ture called Mira­cast al­lows smart­phone screens to be du­pli­cated onto the touch­screen.

The As­cent Sport and SX get sixs­peaker au­dio, and the ZR steps up to an eight-speaker JBL premium sys­tem. Satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion with SUNA live traf­fic is stan­dard on the SX and ZR. At this stage, nei­ther Ap­ple CarPlay nor An­droid Auto are avail­able but can be ex­pected with the next up­grade.

The more we drive SUVs, the more we ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing able to en­ter cars with­out scrap­ing our age­ing heads on the top of the door open­ing, so we found the low stance a bit an­noy­ing. Once set­tled in, though, the seats are com­fort­able and sup­port­ive.

The MY2018 Corolla comes from the new mod­u­lar global ar­chi­tec­ture that’s grad­u­ally be­ing used across many of the Toy­ota ranges. It in­creases body rigid­ity by 60 per cent, lower cen­tre of grav­ity and multi-link rear sus­pen­sion. This is fi­nally a Corolla that can be re­ally fun to drive. This is in­creas­ingly

im­por­tant for Toy­ota in its bat­tle with the Mazda3 and Hyundai i30.

The dom­i­nant fea­ture of hy­brid ve­hi­cles is fuel ef­fi­ciency but the ben­e­fit of bat­tery power is it also pro­vides ex­tra low-rev torque for faster take-off. Al­ter­na­tively, with some light pedal pres­sure, you can tra­verse your lo­cal su­per­mar­ket carpark in si­lence, be­ing on the alert for un­ob­ser­vant pedes­tri­ans.

There’s ex­cel­lent vi­sion al­laround and sharp ac­cel­er­a­tion for safe ur­ban ma­noeu­vring.

On the open road the new Corolla feels like a car the next size up, which it ef­fec­tively is.

It cruised through the hilly mo­tor­way seg­ment of our test route with­out any stress and with lit­tle of the hunt­ing that can plague CVTs thanks to the in­clu­sion of a torque con­verter. Steer­ing is nicely weighted and re­spon­sive with safe and de­pend­able cor­ner­ing.

Al­though it’s far from be­ing a per­for­mance car, there is a sportier feel to the lat­est Corolla than in pre­vi­ous mod­els.

Dur­ing our pe­riod with the test car it clocked up fuel con­sump­tion of 4.5 litres per 100km on a mix of sub­ur­ban and mo­tor­way driv­ing, com­pared to the of­fi­cial fig­ure of 4.1 litres un­der sim­i­lar con­di­tions.

That of­fi­cial fuel con­sump­tion of 4.1 litres com­pares with 6.1 litres per 100km for au­to­matic Corolla pure petrol hatches.

The Corolla Hy­brid of­fers ex­cel­lent value, with prices rang­ing from $25,870 to $31,870 or just $1500 above those of the equiv­a­lent petrol-only mod­els.

For these prices you get a great­look­ing small car with a large range of both safety and con­ve­nience fea­tures, and one that’s now fun to drive.

Toy­ota con­tin­ues to buck the in­creas­ing war­ranty trend by stick­ing to the old stan­dard of three years/100,000km.

With buy­ers aban­don­ing large fam­ily cars, the Corolla Hy­brid is an ideal al­ter­na­tive — small and eco­nom­i­cal enough for city com­mut­ing but large enough for longdis­tance fam­ily hol­i­day travel.

The 2018 Toy­ota Corolla As­cent Sport Hy­brid with op­tional sat nav.

The new Corolla Hy­brid looks great and is ex­cel­lent value for money.

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