We drove the Toyota Corolla hybrid: green power for millions

Toyota and Lexus are friends of the earth since decades. They offer E power in hybrid form across their whole range now, and this started already back in 1997 with the Prius, a car which has been a star on Californian (and many other) roads worldwide ever since.

The hybrid drivetrain of this car is nothing short of a stroke of genius, and therefore hardly surprising that it is also seen on the Lexus range. Faithful readers know that I am the happy owner of a Lexus CT 200h, a car which is running around with an average consumption between 3.9 and 4.6 litres/100 km.

The subject of this test is also to find out whether the continuously further developed hybrid system brings further gains in efficiency compared to my faithful Lexus.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Good looks

Let’s start here with a word of praise about the good styling and design language of the latest Corolla, both inside and out. The designers succeeded in giving this bestseller the panache and personality it rightly deserves, and in our opinion it looks good from any angle.

The proportions are also top notch, and the stylists have also succeeded in retaining model and brand identity in a very elegant manner. The same can be said about the interior, with broadly sweeping accent lines and contours, giving the impression of roominess and width. The surfaces are very well finished and our test car had artificial leather panels and surfaces with stitched surrounds, which add an upmarket touch to the cabin.

The layout of the instrumentation, the well positioned central touch screen and the judicious placement of knobs and handles make this Corolla a car which is intuitive to use, and one feels instantly at home behind the wheel. The instrument displays are quite logical and depending on the chosen driving mode, totally self explaining.

The Corolla will in ECO mode use E-power whenever possible, up to higher speeds…

The Corolla, depending on the version, includes features such as wireless phone charging, and the intuitive, easy to use combination of an 8-inch multimedia touch screen, a 7-inch multi-information display and a 10-inch head-up display.

When driven with some anticipation, the Hybrid drivetrain will deliver: as low as 3,6 liters/100 km even in tight urban traffic…

Pushing the starting knob will put the hybrid system in action, and you drive smoothly away on E power. Depending on the status of the batteries, the 1,8 litre engine will settle in a silent hum to charge the batteries, and in function of the power wanted, will also power the front wheels via the CVT transmission, and rev up a bit more accordingly. The fourth generation self-charging hybrid system, which is basically the same as that of Prius or C-HR, develops 122 DIN hp/90 kW and 142 Nm of engine torque, with the added power of a 53 kW/600V electric motor which develops maximum torque of 163 Nm from zero rpm. It is this presence of the instant torque in all driving circumstances which makes hybrid driving such a pleasure.

The self assured styling gives the Corolla a distinct personality, also from the rear…

All through your trip the hybrid system will judiciously balance the required power between engine and/or battery output, and will every second (or meter) of the way choose the ideal combination to achieve the optimal economy. In stop and go traffic under small power, the system will invariably run exclusively on battery power. The system has three modes, “Eco”, “Normal” and “Sport”, but the system software algorithms are laid out in such a way that throttle openings have priority in determining the power choice. This means that even in “Sport” mode, battery power will be used in slow stop and go traffic, while all the same retaining the general responsiveness of the “Sport” mode, notably in steering and chassis/suspension behaviour and agility.

Increasing emphasis on E-power…

Compared to the hybrid system of my Lexus, the latest generation hybrid system found in this Corolla tends to use the electric motor up to higher constant speeds, such as 75 km/h or thereabouts. Of course, when the traffic situation requires you to use more power, the system will – depending of the chosen driving mode – use the engine more or less instantly.

All this computer controlled cleverness will reward you with excellent fuel  economy, and this even more so when you adopt an anticipative driving style. It proved no trouble to achieve consumption averages around the 4 liter/100 km range, with a whopping test low of 3,6 litres, and with an overall test consumption at 5,2 litres/100 km, partly also resulting from fast motorway runs and general performance testing. The adoption of a new hybrid battery pack, Ni-mH on the Sedan, enhances fuel economy indeed.

The hybrid system, features a smaller, lighter transaxle in which a new, dual axis structure adopted for the motor and generator achieves a low loss gear train with a smaller overall width. This parallel axis structure both increases the motor’s rotation speed and reduces its size.

The gear ratio has been optimised to promote maximum fuel efficiency and dynamic performance. Allied to gear tooth surface polishing, the new gear structure further suppresses resonance and operation noise, making the hybrid drive system quieter in operation than ever before.

The well proven four-cylinder, 1,797 cm3, DOHC, Atkinson Cycle engine benefits from numerous measures designed to improve fuel efficiency, enhance acceleration performance and reduce cabin noise. Friction and heat management of the engine has been improved, and the painstaking attention to detail goes even further with the adoption of a resin cylinder head cover which combines substantial weight reduction with superior NV (Noise and Vibration) performance, and even a change in the shape of the exhaust system muffler.

Performance leaves very little to be desired. We mentioned already the ever present ample torque of the electric motor which makes you a master in dense city traffic, where instant acceleration can be much of a premium. Indeed, greater torque from the electric motor provides a more linear rpm increase under acceleration. 0 to 100 km/h acceleration costs 11 seconds and top speed is 180 km/h.

Driving pleasure is not an empty word…

The new Sedan enjoys a wide and low stance thanks to the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) GA-C platform. A lower centre of gravity, a 60% more rigid body shell and a multi-link suspension fitted as standard all contribute to better handling and stability, and indeed, the new Corolla is a joy to put through its paces on winding roads.

There is always the choice between Eco, Normal and Sport driving modes, and one can also select EV mode…

High speed stability is also excellent, and truly demonstrates the vast experience of a high volume manufacturer who truly hones its bestseller to engineering excellence.

The instruments in Eco mode…

All this does not compromise ride and comfort. The Corolla also earns very good marks here. The Sedan also benefits from the same extended 2,700 mm wheelbase as the Touring Sports, ensuring sufficient legroom and a comfortable ride also for rear seat passengers.

in “Normal” mode, with blue illumination…

Safety first…

All new Corolla variants are equipped as standard with the latest version of Toyota Safety Sense; a set of active safety technologies designed to help prevent or mitigate collisions across a wide range of traffic situations.

And then in the “Sport” mode, with red coloured background…

Toyota Safety Sense now includes upgraded versions of the Pre-Collision System (PCS), full range Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Automatic High Beam (AHB). In addition, it introduces a new intelligent Adaptive Cruiser Control (ACC) and Lane Trace Assist (LTA) for advanced driving support.


Well styled…

This Corolla hybrid Sedan struck us as a perfectly balanced car which embodies all the good qualities one would expect from a world car in this class, where we mention here that the Corolla range also includes a Hatchback and a Touring Sports version, the latter which was wholly engineered in Europe and indeed is exclusively targeted at the European market. It is therefore hardly surprising that the magazine Fleet awarded the Corolla top marks in its class in its “lease car of the year 2019” contest.

We can only wholeheartedly agree…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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