The Toyota Corolla Hybrid looks stylish, it’s good to drive, and it’s very efficient – around town and also on the motorway.
The Prius is probably Toyota’s best-known hybrid, but with more demand for efficient cars, hybrid technology has been appearing in a wider range of Toyota models, and increasingly as the only powertrain option. So if you want a Toyota Hybrid, but something more compact than the Prius, should you consider the Corolla?
The Toyota Corolla, which sits on a new platform, has a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine (2.0-litre in the case of our test car) together with a battery (nickel-metal hydride for our car) and an electric motor. Toyota refers to its powertrain as a ‘self-charging hybrid’.
We think the Corolla is one of Toyota’s best-looking models, with a sporty yet efficient-looking appearance. The dashboard generally works well, but if you need a decent amount of space in the interior, then you may need to opt for the Touring Sports model.
Toyota’s hybrid system captures energy that would otherwise be lost from braking and stores it in the battery for later use. This isn’t a plug-in hybrid, so you can’t charge it from the mains and drive for miles on electric power, but you can drive on electric power for short distances at low loads, or the car can run on the battery at standstill.
Toyota has been developing its hybrid system including the CVT gearbox over the years, with the result that the excessive revviness of the earlier systems has now almost been eliminated.
You also now get a range of drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport (with a note that the drive mode switch is very small and there’s not much to grip onto when you want to make a selection). Sport does result in more revviness than the other modes, especially when accelerating.
The Corolla has a CVT gearbox although Toyota refers to it as a “six-speed sequential shiftmatic transmission” (with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters). There’s also a ‘B’ setting to recover more brake regeneration.
There’s an EV button to allow you to select battery power to drive on rather than the petrol engine, but the car doesn’t allow you to do this very often due to insufficient charge in the battery.
The Corolla is a car that you’re happy to drive on twisting B-roads, which is something that can’t be said for all previous Toyota hybrids – although it still can’t be described as a direct driving experience. The Corolla is even better suited to driving around town, when it demonstrates a comfortable ride, and it can also handle motorways, when it’s mostly quiet, but there can be a lot of road noise on certain surfaces.
You can even get a decent driving position, despite the seat adjustment mechanism not being particularly precise.
The interior is another area of improvement compared to some previous Toyota models, now with the obligatory touchscreen, which has shortcut buttons around the edge, however these are small.
Perhaps the main area of weakness with the Corolla is the satnav, particularly the mapping graphics, and the size of the map on screen is very small – making it hard to see what’s ahead. However it’s the guidance instructions – such as the detailed directions for turning left and right in urban areas – which could be much better. If Toyota’s engineers want to know how to improve this, all they need to do is try out the latest BMW 3 Series which gives incredibly clear navigation instructions – on the touchscreen, in the instrument display in front of the driver, and on the head-up display.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Toyota Corolla Hybrid is 50.45 – 54.32 mpg, with NEDC correlated CO2 emissions of 89 g/km. When this figure is based on WLTP it rises to 120 g/km, showing the significant difference in emissions for a hybrid between the old NEDC test and the new, more realistic WLTP test.
So what fuel economy did we get in real life? At 70mph on the motorway the Corolla returned 70mpg. During very long 50mph stretches it managed 76.3mpg. Overall, after a week of mixed driving, the Corolla averaged 59.1mpg, which is impressive. It also had a useful projected driving range of 469 miles.
The Toyota Corolla Hybrid Excel 2.0 Hatchback costs £29,075. There are two engines to choose from, a 120bhp 1.8-litre and the 181bhp 2.0-litre hybrid as tested.
There are four Corolla model grades – Icon, Icon Tech, Design and Excel. There are also three body styles: Hatchback, Touring Sports and Saloon.
The Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a good all-round car that’s decent to drive. Averaging 59.1mpg over a week, it’s also very efficient in real-life use. So if you want an economical, low emission car, and if you can’t make a pure electric car or a plug-in hybrid work for you, then the Corolla Hybrid is a good option; it gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.