Review and road test of the Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid

HYER LOVE

Toyota's Corolla Hybrid has improved, especially in 1.8-litre form. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review of the Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid

With this updated version of its Corolla family hatch, Toyota wants to make full-Hybrids more universally acceptable in the family hatchback segment. If that's going to work, this volume 1.8-litre petrol/electric model needs to be deeply impressive. And in this improved form, it is.

Background

The Corolla lineage is certainly impressive. It's still the world's most successful automotive model nameplate, dating back to 1966, since when 46 million cars have been produced. Away from naming semantics, there's much of interest here, not least the fact that the primary engines offered are petrol/electric hybrids. There are currently two of them from the brand, a 1.8 and a 2.0-litre unit, both of the 'self-charging' non-plug-in full-Hybrid variety. This Corolla also aims to change customer perceptions of Toyota in this sector, which tend to centre around expectations of drab interior quality, forgettable looks and boring drive dynamics. The improved version of the twelth generation Corolla that we're looking at here in 1.8-litre Hybrid form aims to turn those expectations around. As usual with a Corolla, there are two body styles on offer, a five-door hatch and the alternative 'Touring Sports' estate. All are built on the 'TNGA' 'Toyota New Global Architecture' platform and the hatch and estate are constructed at the brand's British factory in Burnaston, Derbyshire.

Driving Experience

The big differences with this revised 1.8-litre Corolla Hybrid come with the smaller capacity of this engine, with power output up from 120 to 138bhp, bringing a 1.7s reduction in the 0-62mph sprint time to 9.2s. A lot of that's down to weight-saving (the hybrid system's more powerful lithium-ion battery is 18kgs lighter), plus driveability's been improved too, thanks to a redesign for the power control unit and the transaxle motor. In addition, the hybrid control has been recalibrated to provide acceleration feel closer to throttle pedal use, with less of the previous 'rubber band' effect. As before, it all works via CVT auto gearbox with six speeds. If you've owned one of the brand's petrol/electric models before, you'll notice that this one is more driveable. But the whole point here is to garner conquest sales from customers previously used to a small diesel. These folk will still have to adapt to the way that big throttle inputs cause a flare of revs that the set-up initially struggles to translate into rapid forward movement. And they'll also still need to accept a vast reduction in mid-range pulling power; this engine's very modest torque output is about 40% down on what you'd get from a typical 1.5 or 1.6-litre rival small diesel unit, something you'll really notice in give-and-take motoring; overtakes have to be planned much further in advance. Push on and you should find this Toyota far more dynamically able than its segment predecessors. Throw the car into a corner and you'll find that though this Corolla is no Focus, it far from disgraces itself, with a decent level of front end grip and steering that's predictable and accurate, though rather light.

Design and Build

Subtle updates mark out this revised version of the 12th generation Corolla. These include changes to the front grille mesh pattern, fog light bezels and alloy wheel designs. Higher grades of the hatchback and Touring Sports estate models gain smarter bi-LED headlights with an Adaptive High-beam System. In addition to these two core body styles, there's also a completely separate Corolla Cross SUV model, though that's not our focus here. Size-wise, the standard Corolla hatch that most customers choose is pitched plumb in the centre of its segment, slightly shorter than a Ford Focus and quite a bit longer than a Golf. Inside, the changes are farer-reaching, the key one being a much-needed upgrade to the central infotainment screen, which grows in size to 10.5-inches and gains the facility for over-the-air updates. Plus from mid-range trim levels upwards, the driver's instrument display gains a 12.3-inch combimeter that can be customised to preference across four different modes - 'Casual', 'Smart', 'Sport' and 'Tough'. The driver can also make use of a new on-board voice agent that recognises natural, conversational requests to operate the multimedia, or vehicle functions such as opening or closing windows. The cabin's now of higher quality too, with new graphics, trims and embossed patterns that add three-dimensional depth and tactile appeal to the upholsteries, surfaces and finishes. The trim and seat upholstery combinations follow smarter Dark and Light Harmony themes with co-ordinated colours and finishes to give the interior a contemporary, elegant feel. Otherwise, it's much as you were. Rear seat space isn't hugely generous, but two adults will fit OK. Boot space for the 1.8-litre models is rated at 361-litres or the hatch and 598-litres for the Touring Sports estate. Bear in mind that these figures are slightly reduced if you choose the 2.0-litre version.

Market and Model

Corolla hybrid pricing starts from around £30,000 - which gets you the hatch version. A Touring Sports estate body style is also available for around £1,300 more and there's a choice between four trim levels, 'Icon', 'Design', 'GR Sport' and 'Excel'. As an alternative to the 138hp 1.8-litre unit, Toyota also offers a 180hp 2.0-litre Hybrid unit at a premium of around £1,700 more. This improved Corolla is equipped with Toyota T-Mate, which combines the latest generation Toyota Safety Sense package with other active driving and parking assistance features. Improvements in the operation and functionality of the systems include Acceleration Suppression, which reacts to sudden use of the accelerator when travelling at low speed; collision avoidance support when making a turn at an intersection; Emergency Steering Assist that can now react to oncoming vehicles; lateral collision avoidance and curve speed reduction. There's also now a 'Safe Exit Assist' system, which stops doors being opened in the face on oncoming vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians. And a 'Rear Seat Reminder' has been added, which alerts the driver to look at the rear seats as they leave the car.

Cost of Ownership

We've got to the point where a 'self-charging' (ie. a 'non-plug-in') full-Hybrid model costs hardly any more to buy than an equivalent small diesel. But have we also got to the point where such an engine can match or beat its diesel counterpart in terms of real-world fuel economy? Let's see. The stats are pretty eye-catching, a typical 1.8-litre Hybrid Corolla Hatch with 'Icon' trim managing up to 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and up to 102g/km of CO2. That's further helped, Toyota expects, by the fact that for typical customers, up to 50% of typical commuting journeys will be accomplished in all-electric drive. For the 2.0-litre Hybrid hatch, the best stats are up to 57.7mpg and up to 107g/km. The Japanese maker describes the Corolla's Hybrid technology as being of the 'self-charging' variety, which means that it isn't of the currently popular Plug-in variety. The brand of course has PHEV technology (it's available on top versions of its Prius model) but currently feels it isn't necessary for the Corolla line-up. What else? Well, the five year 100,000 mile warranty is extremely good and even after that runs out, you'll find that you can extend it for nothing up to a maximum of ten years, providing you have the car regularly serviced at a Toyota dealer. There's also three years warranty against rust and 12 years of anti-corrosion protection.

Summary

So what do we have here? A name from the past which packages up technology from the future. Very soon, all family hatchback-class models will feature model line-ups that are primarily electrified. But Toyota has brought us that right now. In a car its volume brand competitors will continue to take very seriously indeed. If you're going the Hybrid route with a car in this sector, it makes sense to buy into the brand that has most experience in producing this kind of powertrain - and that's unquestionably Toyota. Which leaves us saluting Toyota's strongest ever proposition in the family hatchback segment. Because the market for Hybrid models still isn't fully formed, the Corolla still won't threaten the class leaders in terms of overall sales. But this revised model is probably the cleverest choice you could make in the sector, especially in this revised form with this much improved 1.8-litre Hybrid engine. If you're looking for a car in this class, this one probably isn't currently on your shopping list. We think it ought to be.

Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid review by Jonathan Crouch

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Overview

Car review: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid
Manufacturer:Toyota
Model:Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid
Category:Family Hatchbacks
Rating:8 out of 10

Gallery

Car review: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid
Car review: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid
Car review: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid

Scores

Performace:
70%
Handling:
80%
Comfort:
80%
Space:
70%
Styling:
80%
Build:
80%
Value:
80%
Equipment:
80%
Economy:
90%
Depreciation:
80%
Performace:
70%
Total:
78%