2019 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a sporty fuel miser
THE hype around alternative fuel and technology of the future has recently centred on electric drivetrains and driverless vehicles.
While politicians showcase their limited knowledge - we're looking at you, Bill Shorten - Toyota has proven and honed its hybrid functionality for years.
Want proof? Take a look at taxi rank.
Hybrid Camry and Prius have become the default choice for longevity and thrifty running costs - just ask a driver about the glory days of Falcon station wagons and prepare for a long conversation about savings they're making nowadays. Oh, save yourself some more pain and don't mention Uber.
The technology was introduced into the all-new Corolla last year, and it will also feature in the upcoming RAV4.
Nearly $2000 more expensive than the Prius C Hybrid, the Corolla at just over $29,000 drive-away has emerged as an option for those who are chasing the benefits without shouting its credentials through gawky styling.
With the new Corolla costing about $1500 more than the equivalent petrol derivative, those travelling about 10,000km a year in the hybrid should save around $700 on fuel costs. It won't take long for a return on investment.
This generation has taken a bold step forward in styling, inside and out.
Open the door and an eight-inch colour screen dominates the dash in a modern yet simplistic layout.
The driver can easily scroll through a digital multi-function screen that sits within the instruments' binnacle and offers various options, including a digital speedo, trip information, a diagram showing whether energy is going in or out of the battery, and audio information.
Other standard gear includes dual-zone aircon, keyless entry, radar cruise control and a six-speaker stereo with full Bluetooth connectivity and voice control. Satnav with live traffic alerts costs another $1000, and choose any colour other than white and it will cost an extra $460.
The big absentee is smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is on virtually all rivals.
Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, and at $175 a time it's the cheapest servicing in the class.
Toyota recently bolstered its warranty coverage to five years and unlimited kilometres, while battery coverage is eight years or 160,000km. Battery replacement costs about $3000 plus fitting.
Among the biggest changes to the new Corolla was cabin space.
During recent years it became a pseudo family option, but boot space and rear seat real estate has been sacrificed for style and performance.
Even with kids in the back, the front passengers need to be mindful of leg room.
With just 217 litres of boot space, it's among the smallest you'll find, able to carry only one large suitcase or a couple of smaller, carry-on bags.
All seats offer reasonable support, with two cup-holders front and back, along with bottle accommodation in each door.
Reliability has always been on the Corolla repertoire. Add engaging, agility and confidence.
The low centre of gravity and the hybrid battery offer a planted feel that encourages the driver to push the boundaries.
No hot hatch, the Corolla can start to rev high and complain with too much right-foot vigour, and the economy-focused Dunlop Enasave rubber isn't the stickiest, but it's surprisingly handy in the bends and reasonably quick off the mark.
Average fuel consumption during the test was 4.4 litres per 100km. With a full tank of fuel the range was in excess of 900km - outstanding efficiency.
Take a bow, Toyota. All the best kit is standard, without the need to tick option boxes like some luxury marques.
Emergency braking can intervene if the driver doesn't act fast enough when a forward collision is imminent - pedestrians and cyclists included.
Lane departure systems will warn you and steer the car back into the lane if there is no indication.
Radar cruise control maintains three selectable distances from vehicles in front and the cameras can also read speed signs - they show up in the dash and one touch of the controls enables the driver to match the limit, both increase or decrease.
Headlights also have an automatic high-beam function so it dims for oncoming traffic.
I'm no tree-hugging hippie, but using less fuel is good for the environment, electric infrastructure is not there yet and EVs are still too expensive. The savings are too hard to resist for the hip pocket.
Corollas have always been rock-solid and this new generation actually looks sporty ... but I won't have to race to the servo too often.
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The primary rival, but the more expensive Prius lookalike, has more than twice the boot space of the Corolla. Slightly better fuel efficiency and has the smartphone mirroring apps along with an impressive features list as standard. A plug-in version with 200km of range starts from $38,990 plus on-roads.
VW GOLF 110TSi FROM $25,990 D/A
While not a hybrid, the 1.4-litre turbo and seven-speed, twin-clutch auto is miserly when it comes to fuel consumption at 5.4L/100km. Great drive, bigger cabin than the Corolla and larger boot.
Here is where the benchmark sits for efficiency. Cheap to run and buy, the Corolla Hybrid doesn't look gawky like a Prius and offers strong dynamics. The miniature boot and compromised rear seat space dilute its family appeal in an otherwise outstanding package.
AT A GLANCE
TOYOTA COROLLA ASCENT SPORT HYBRID
PRICE $29,068 drive-away (bargain)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/ 100,000km; $525 for 3 years/ 45,000km
ENGINE 1.8-litre 4-cyl 72kW/142Nm plus electric motor (solid)
SAFETY 5 Stars, 7 airbags, reversing camera, AEB, lane keep assist, active cruise control, road speed sign assist (excellent)
THIRST 4.2L/100km (outstanding)
SPARE Space-saver (expected)
CARGO 217L (too small)