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Toyota Corolla Hybrid 2016 review

Toyota’s petrol-electric Corolla uses less fuel in the traffic than on the highway

Private car buyers aren’t exactly going weak at the knees for hybrids.

So far this year, just 1,245 hybrids have sold to individuals, a drop of almost 10 per cent on last year and a fraction of the 13,000 private sales recorded in 2012.

But hybrid pioneer Toyota is undeterred, this week releasing a hybrid version of the Corolla, Australia’s favourite car for the past three years.

At $26,990 it’s not cheap — an entry level manual Corolla starts at $19,790 — but it comes well equipped.

It gets the same 16-inch alloys and seat trim as the $22,790 Ascent Sport, but also picks up features from the more expensive ZR model.

These include standard satnav, dual-zone aircon, LED headlamps and daylight running lights, keyless entry and push-button start.

It’s also the only Corolla on sale with independent rear suspension, larger brakes and three drive modes (power, economy and electric).

The hybrid Corolla uses less fuel in the traffic than on the highway.

The suspension was upgraded to a double wishbone setup at the rear so Toyota could fit the battery under the rear seats rather than in the load area. Most hybrids have compromised boot space but the suspension tweak means the hybrid Corolla has the same volume as the standard petrol version.

It’s an impressive feat but the headline act for the new model is the fuel consumption. The claim is 4.1L/100km, roughly a third less than the 6.1L claimed for the standard petrol model.

More importantly for city slickers, the hybrid Corolla uses less fuel in the traffic than on the highway.

The urban claim is 3.9L, less than half the consumption of the standard car.

We couldn’t quite manage that over the course of our first drive — our average was 4.8L — but we did see 2.0L on one short journey.

Despite its slightly smaller fuel tank, Toyota says the car has a theoretical range of 1100km, almost 300km more than the standard model. That puts it in diesel territory.

Throttle response is deliberately dull in eco mode, where revs are kept down and the car runs on electric power wherever possible. If you like quiet, comfortable, fuss-free motoring there aren’t many in the class that can match it.

It will run for less than 2km at up to 40km/h on electric power alone but will also switch off the petrol engine when you’re cruising under light throttle. It also kills the engine when you’re waiting at the lights. Many competitors have this feature but few have such a seamless restart when you hit the throttle.

The hybrid Corolla is quick off the mark thanks to the instant availability of the electric motor’s peak torque.

Driving enthusiasts will find the experience a little sanitised but those looking for a comfy, feel-good commute will enjoy the technology and the readouts that tell them how much fuel they are saving.

As with other hybrids, a readout in the instrument panel shows fuel consumption and a diagram shows whether you’re using petrol, electric or combined power. In place of the tacho is a dial that tells you how heavy you’re being with the throttle.

The centre console has a more detailed readout that shows when you’re recharging the battery under braking, and your fuel consumption in one-minute blocks. It’s all pretty addictive, especially when you’re getting low numbers.

If you’re sick of the hypermiling, you can select power mode and the throttle response will be more urgent. It won’t turn the Corolla into a rocket ship but it is a noticeable change and gives you the chance to exploit that improved rear suspension — the car feels more planted over mid-corner bumps and corrugations.

The Corolla’s roadholding has improved in recent years and it is composed through the bends, although the 100kg penalty for the electric motor and batteries occasionally makes itself felt.

The petrol engine’s outputs are well down, just 73kW/142Nm against the standard car’s 103kW/173Nm. However, the electric motor provides additional oomph, boosting total power to 103kW.

Toyota doesn’t publish a combined torque figure but the hybrid Corolla is quick off the mark thanks to the instant availability of the electric motor’s peak torque.

The Corolla hybrid slots neatly into Toyota’s five-car hybrid line-up, nestled above the baby Prius C and below the family (and taxi) size Camry.

It’s vice-free, the technology is proven and the fuel savings over the standard Corolla are attractive, while the premium over a similarly equipped petrol Corolla is reasonable.

Could the Corolla could become Australia's favourite hybrid? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Toyota Corolla Hybrid pricing and spec info.

$15,000 - $26,990

Based on 562 car listings in the last 6 months



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