FUTURISTIC BUT IT’S NO SPACE ROCKET
As Corolla styling enters a new dimension, the clever Hybrid makes sedate progress
The just-released new generation of the Toyota Corolla, the world’s bestselling car, includes Hybrid variants for a mere $1500 premium. Toyota expects the Hybrid to account for 20 per cent of Corolla sales, truly normalising the technology. With startling styling and impressive fuel economy, will our family of four embrace hybrid life?
IAIN: Guarantees in life are death, taxes and no schoolboy will ever have a Toyota Corolla Hybrid poster on his bedroom wall.
JULES: No man ever tempted a girl on a dirty weekend away by saying, “We’ll take the Corolla Hybrid.”
IAIN: OK, point made. This is a car attracting the eco-conscious rather than rebels, playboys and hedonists.
JULES: At least the design isn’t boring. These new Corollas are truly futuristic and this isn’t screaming green credentials with dorky “I’m a hybrid” styling like Toyota’s Prius.
IAIN: The all-new Corolla range is making good on Toyota’s promise of emotional styling. It’s not a clean design but is certainly different. I wonder what the older Corolla buyer will think?
JULES: Older people buy SUVs and sports cars aimed at the young. They’re the ones who have the money.
IAIN: Well, these new Corollas aren’t cheap by small car class standards. This Hybrid at $25,870 looks good value for the technology, and is only $1500 more than the equivalent petrol version.
JULES: It’s not tech to be scared of. No plugging in needed, the batteries are charged during deceleration and braking.
IAIN: If I were Corolla shopping, I’d pay the extra money to go hybrid.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: The dashboard design is edgy and that’s a fine big infotainment screen.
IAIN: Sadly no Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or built-in satnav.
JULES: Again, it’s not shouting it’s a hybrid in here. I like the start button and the soft plastic on the dash and door tops.
IAIN: The door cards are still big slabs of plastic but the dash buttons have a nice metal feel to them.
JULES: Seats are really comfortable but as a passenger the funky curved dash really restricts your leg position.
IAIN: At entry level, the inclusions are good. Dual zone climate control, auto headlights, 4.2-inch driver display and electric park brake. Only one USB port — that’s stingy these days.
JULES: I press the start button but no noise. I like how it just pulls away silently on electric power only. Great for creeping up on people.
IAIN: It uses battery only up to about 35km/h, then wakes the petrol engine for normal driving.
JULES: It feels quite quick with the instant electric torque shove.
IAIN: Really? I find it sluggish. Certainly if I suddenly ask for power it has a long old think about it. Then again, the constantly variable transmission works well — better than most rivals I’ve tested — and once cruising it all feels very normal. You forget you’re in a hybrid.
JULES: Exactly. On the highway or in traffic, turn on the radar cruise control and the Corolla Hybrid seems at its most relevant. Really easy to drive, well insulated and comfy.
IAIN: Mung beans and kale for dinner? Good, because not much else is going to fit in that tiny boot. JULES: It is ridiculous. There’s practically no depth to it. IAIN: And there’s still just a space-saver spare underneath.
JULES: The reversing camera is good quality but there are no parking sensors.
IAIN: The engine and gearbox may not bring much joy but the steering and handling are really well sorted.
JULES: I’ll take your word for it. My pleasure was in the electric-only serene wafting.
IAIN: There’s a drive mode called “Power”. You select it, and hey presto, no difference. Except a bit more noise.
JULES: Nobody buying this car will care. They want comfort, lack of fuss and economy. We returned 4.2L/100km, just like Toyota quotes, and that’s brilliant.
IAIN: My petrol-only VW Golf does 5.2L/100km, is far more enjoyable to drive and has loads more cabin space.
JULES: It is cramped in the rear seats; a lot less space than our Golf. Adults really struggle to fit in and, in their child seats, the kids’ legs were right on the front seats.
IAIN: It’s fine for the two up front but space-wise everywhere else there are better hatch choices for families.
JULES: Really good safety kit though, including seven airbags.
IAIN: I turned off the lane keep assist. It didn’t work reliably and was forever beeping at me.
JULES: Jimmy (son, age six) loved watching the screen infographic showing when the battery was charging, and when we were driving with battery or petrol.
IAIN: He made me drive at 30km/h along our road so as not to “waste petrol”. He’s ready for our electric car future.
JULES: The little eco warrior.
IAIN: If you’re buying a Corolla, spend the extra $1500 and go Hybrid. It’s clever tech, the economy is superb and it works in the background so you forget you’re in a hybrid. That said, I’d choose other hatches ahead of the Corolla. I want more fun from the drive and the cabin space is too limited.
JULES: If the bulk of your journeys are stuck in traffic or on the highway, the fuel saving and ease of use with radar cruise control means the Corolla Hybrid makes lots of sense. As a mum of two though, it’s just not practical enough for family life.