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Does it really pay to go hybrid? Prices and running costs compared for 2022 Toyota Corolla

Toyota’s Corolla is available with a hybrid or petrol engine, making a comparison of running costs easier.

Toyota has been less than subtle about rolling out hybrids, with the eco-friendly tech expanding to 10 of the brand’s 23 models in Australia.

The attention is on “hybridising” existing models as Toyota feels customers are more comfortable buying a well-known model with a more fuel-efficient petrol-electric powertrain.

So, you can buy a Corolla with a hybrid engine that looks like any other Corolla, drives pretty much like other Corollas, and has the same ownership costs and schedules with no big surprises. And you get a wallet-happy 4.2 litres per 100km (hatch) and an even better 3.5 L/100km in the sedan.

Where’s the downside?

Well, the new hybrid car may cost a bit extra than the more common petrol-only version.

Is it worth the extra money to go hybrid? What are the short- and long-term benefits, and what will you give up if you embrace a hybrid? Here’s what our research finds.

Outwardly, the Corolla Hybrid and the less exotic petrol-only Corolla are indistinguishable aside from the ‘Hybrid’ badge.

Basically, only you and the Toyota service technician will know what you’ve bought.

All the big differences are under the bonnet. Toyota likes its models to share in the brand’s hybrid technology, cherry picked from the relevant parts bins, starting with most of the systems from Prius.

In the 10 hybrid Toyota models, there’s basically three petrol engines (1.5-litre three-cylinder, 1.8-litre four-cylinder and 2.5-litre four-cylinder) as the primary power that is attached to one, or two, electric motors and fed by batteries with different energy capacities.

The Corolla Hybrid gets pretty much the same spec as the Prius – a 1.8-litre engine with two electric motors (one for power and the other for starting and regeneration) butted up against a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).

The regeneration system, activated to recharge the battery when braking or coasting, is also the same.

Energy is stored in a nickel-metal hydride (NMH) battery under the rear seat that has a rating of 1.3 kW/h. Toyota uses the NMH for Prius and Corolla mainly because it suits the packaging and is a more reliable battery for hybrid applications.

But it’s a heavy pack and one of the reasons the Yaris and Yaris Cross Hybrids have the lighter (and more expensive) lithium-ion battery.

All the rest of the bits under the body are shared with the petrol-only Corolla, including the cabin trim and features, options and even the paint colours.

Be aware that the petrol-only gets a full-size spare wheel and the Hybrids get a space saver. If you buy the upmarket ZR Hybrid, you don’t even get a round bit of rubber, instead there’s a tyre repair kit.

Also, hybrids don’t tow. There’s no ability for the hybrid Corolla models to pull anything, but the petrol-only version will tug at 1300kg braked.

The Corolla was last updated in 2018, so remains fresh and popular – it’s Australia’s best-selling passenger car – even though most go to fleets.

The hatch and sedan are on the same platform but the sedan has a stretched wheelbase, up 60mm to 2700mm. The hatch is 255mm shorter (at 4375mm) and may better suit buyers with smaller garages or consider size important for ease of driving in congested situations.

One main difference is boot space. The hatch has a small boot of 217 litres while the sedan has a relatively cavernous 470L.

For perspective, the diminutive Kia Picanto has a 255L boot and the Toyota Yaris is 281L. If you want a Corolla and want space, buy the sedan.

Toyota is strong on safety with both Corolla variants having autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian (day and night) and cyclist (day) detection, lane keep assist, lane-departure alert, adaptive cruise control, active cornering assist, speed-sign recognition, auto high beam, reversing camera, seven airbags, and rear-seat outboard ISOFIX child-seat anchors.

All the tech comes in the Corolla SX Hybrid (the cheapest variant) at $30,795 plus on-road costs and you have the choice of a hatch or the sedan – there’s no extra cost. There’s also no manual gearbox option, same as the petrol version.

The same agnostic approach applies to the petrol-only Corolla SX which is $28,795 (plus costs) regardless of the hatch or sedan shape.

So, there’s a $2000 premium for the hybrid and the promise of big fuel savings. But is the hybrid worth the extra bucks?

Corolla SX petrol hatch – $28,795 before on-road costs

This has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine rated at 125kW/200Nm attached to a CVT, and drive goes to the front wheels.

Toyota claims an average of 6.0L/100km from a 50-litre tank, indicating a theoretical range of 833km.

Break the fuel economy down and Toyota claims the petrol car will give an average of 7.6L/100km in the city (for a range of 658km) and 5.0L/100km in the sticks (1000km).

Note the higher efficiency of the petrol car on the open road.

Corolla SX Hybrid hatch – $30,795 before on-road costs

The 1.8-litre petrol engine and its electric motor combo also work through a CVT and drive the front wheels.

Toyota says this car will average 4.2L/100km for a range of 1024km from its 43-litre fuel tank, a smaller tank than the 50-litre one fitted in the petrol car.

The main reason for the smaller tank is simply that it’s not needed because the Hybrid is more fuel efficient. Of course, a smaller tank also allows more space for the battery and is lighter and cheaper.

In the city it claims 4.0L/100km (for a range of 1075km) and in the country, 4.4L/100km – higher than the city economy because the petrol engine is working more frequently. The rural range is still a not-too shabby 977km.

At this point you’ll recognise that owners spending a lot of time in the scrub will be better off with the petrol-only car. It’s cheaper to buy and the hybrid doesn’t have a chance to prove its worth when the engine is hammering away pretty much all the time on the open road.

Corolla SX Hybrid sedan – $30,795 before on-road costs

So, there’s a difference between the hatch and the sedan? Yep.

Same engine, same battery and same features but the sedan is more aerodynamic than the hatch.

The hybrid sedan is claimed to get an average of 3.5L/100km (range 1229km) with a city average of 3.4L/100km (range 1265km) and a country economy of 3.6L/100km (range 1194km).

It’s a significant step up on the hatch and narrows the big difference between the hatch’s city and country economy figures.

Fuel costs

Cover 12,000km a year at the claimed fuel average, and the petrol-only Corolla will incur a bill of $1008 a year (91RON petrol at $1.40/litre).

The Hybrid hatch will cost $706 a year (same fuel and cost/litre). The annual difference is $302.

On fuel alone, the $2000 difference in purchase price of the car will mean it will take 6.6 years of owning the Hybrid hatch to reach neutrality of the purchase price.

Given people are trading their cars in at about every three years, this doesn’t give the Hybrid hatch many advantages.

But consider that as an urban owner, you will predominantly be stuck in traffic or tootling around suburbia and getting closer to the 4.0L/100km average. At times, the petrol engine may not even be turned on.

Based on 4.0L/100km, the annual fuel price is $672 for the hatch, a difference from the petrol of $336 a year. That means it will pay back its $2000 higher purchase price in less time – 5.9 years in fact.

Now look at the more economical sedan. Because it averages 3.5L/100km, it has a miserly annual fuel bill of $588, to save you $420 a year compared with the petrol hatch. It will pay back the purchase price difference in only 4.8 years, even less if you spend most of the time in congestion – and saving money on fuel can only make that an enjoyable experience, right?

That’s a better bet. As a summary, if you plan to limit the bulk of your driving in the city and suburbs, go hybrid. If you’re heavily weighted to spending driving time in the country, pick the petrol.

Ownership costs

Toyota’s capped-price service costs for the Corolla covers all variants. So, the Hybrid is the same as the petrol-only versions.

The capped-price program lasts for five years or 75,000km and costs $205 a year.

The warranty is five years and unlimited distance. There is no free roadside assistance though, but there is a plan that owners can purchase.

Here is the breakdown of three years of ownership.

Corolla SX petrol hatch$3024$615$3639
Corolla SX Hybrid hatch$2118$615$2733
Corolla SX Hybrid sedan$1764$615$2379


The Hybrid hatch will be $302 a year cheaper to own and fuel than the petrol model, while the Hybrid sedan will be $420 a year cheaper.

But to get price neutrality because of the Hybrid’s $2000 price difference it will take between 4.8 years and 6.6 years to come out even.

Regardless, for city drivers, the hybrid has the ability to pare back the fuel costs, operates quietly and efficiently, is an enjoyable car and gives many buyers that smug sense that they’re reducing vehicle emissions. And that’s all good for everyone.

So, for the city, buy the hybrid. If you’re a country owner with little low-speed driving conditions, get the petrol model.

Also, country owners are better off because you’ll get a spare wheel (space-saver for the SX but a real one for the entry-level Ascent version) and be able to tow something, as long as it’s less than 1300kg. That’s something the Hybrids can’t do.