Toyota adds another arrow to its Hybrid quiver with the release of the Corolla Hybrid Hatch, alongside the Camry Hybrid and Prius. It’s priced sharply, from $26990 plus ORCs and packs great value into the car thanks to borrowing features from the top of the range ZR. A Wheel Thing checks out the 2017 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatch.Visually, there’s no way to pick the Hybrid from its siblings, until you note the discreet Hybrid badging on the forward flanks and tailgate. It’s otherwise standard Corolla hatch, with a pedestrian friendly bonnet that almost straight line joins the windscreen. The broad swept tail lights have a sharply defined shelf in their diamond shape and are a defining feature of the rear of the car. Joining the front wheel arch and headlights is a swooping bifurcated line that joins to become one at the rear and draws the eyes to the privacy glass for the rear section.Wheels are ten spoke alloys at 16 inches in diameter clad in 205/55 Michelin Energy rubber. The Hybrid also pinches LED DRLs and auto levelling headlights from the ZR.
There’s further ZR touches inside with dual zone airconditioning, Suna traffic updates and satnav, Toyota Link (using a paired smartphone to provide data for onboard apps), and a 4.2 inch full colour LCD display for the driver that provides information including how the energy and drive is approportioned.The Hybrid Hatch is geared towards a better driving experience, with a double wishbone rear suspension, an electronically controlled brake system (that feeds regenerative energy back into the engine system), bigger 296 mm x 28 mm discs at the front as part of that energy recovery. The drive system itself consists of an Atkinson Cycle four cylinder petrol powered engine and a nickel metal hydride battery charged from the regenerative system and the petrol engine. Transmission is what Toyota describes as an E-CVT, an Electronically controlled Constant Variable Transmission.
At 5200 rpm the petrol engine delivers 73 kW and will give 142 torques at 4000 rpm. The specified fuel is 95RON and Toyota quotes 4.1L/3.9L/4.1L per 100 kilometres from the 45 litre tank (combined/urban/highway). In theory, that allows the Corolla Hybrid Hatch to travel somewhere close to 1000 kilometres. Considering a dry weight of 1365 kg and a gross weight of just over 1800 kilos, that seems like a pretty decent range.
The real world begs, however, to disagree.The system is programed for three drive modes: EV, Eco, and Power. Select EV, after getting in, strapping in, and pressing the blue hued Start/Stop button, then move the somewhat counter intuitive drive selector to D (it’s sprung so it will return to a central position by itself), and gently press the accelerator as the Hybrid silently moves off. Unfortunately, no matter how gently you move off, the programming activates the petrol engine at 30 kmh and flashes a warning on the dash screen to say so.
In real terms this effectively neuters the point of having an electically operated system, as from hereon in, the petrol engine is shown to either be directing power to the front wheels or momentarility topping up the battery. Once off the accelerator, the display will show the car is in Eco but still showing the petrol engine as involved. There is a B option on the selector, with that further engaging the brakes for regenerative energy and charges the battery located under a rear pew.Essentially, the petrol engine is constantly supplying a form of power to the drivetrain, rather than allowing the electrical engine to do more work. Yes, you do get kinetic energy fed back into the system but that restriction on where the petrol engine cuts in and continues to partner with the electrical is obvious with the fuel gauge showing a final figure of a quarter full, the trip meter shows 609 kilometres covered, consumption of 5.0L/100 kilometres and the bulk of the travel has been with a sole occupant…When driven with a light right foot, forward motion is…leisurely. A little bit more pressure does increade rapidity whilst a hard launch will get the Corolla to freeway speeds reasonably quickly but, again, at the expense of fuel consumption. What you’ll also get is a very good ride quality, with plenty of comfort, fluency, absorption, with the typical short travel crash and thump from shopping centre car parks, most likely the Corolla’s second most common habitat. On the highway it’s a smooth, mostly quiet ride, with bare hints of wind noise and tarmac rumble.Turn in from the steering is tight, with a ratio that promises just 2.7 turns lock to lock. There’s some numbness in regards to telling the driver about the road and coupled with tyres that never seemed to offer 100% confidence in grip in, admittedly, almost monsoonal conditions at times, there was a seat of the pants feeling of needing to back off a bit more than one would expect would be needed. It’d be interesting to drive the Hybrid in dry conditions to see what the grip level via the seat of the pants really is.In other aspects, the Hybrid Corolla is the same as any other Toyota. It’s loaded with safety features, has the same 3 year or 100,000 kilometre warranty, some very comfortable if basic looking cloth seats front (manually adjusted, by the way) and rear, a dullish looking plastic plate running across the dash, and retro style air vents left and right. The touchscreen itself is typically good Toyota in layout and usage, plus has apps which require a smartphone to be added in order to access.At The End Of The Drive.
From one point of view, it’s a curious thing that Toyota have added a hybrid to its biggest selling range considering there’s three Prius variants to choose from. BUT, the Corolla Hybrid looks like a Corolla and it IS one of the biggest selling cars going. From A Wheel Thing’s point of view, it’s got the green credentials to appeal, especially with that final fuel consumption figure, but lacks the driveability and variety it should have due to the programming restriction of being predominantly petrol, not electrically, motorvated.
To make up your own mind head over to the Toyota website and follow the links under new cars.