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Toyota Corolla Hybrid 2020 review: SX sedan

The Corolla SX Hybrid sedan is bigger than you might think.

It’s a Toyota Corolla and it’s a hybrid - could there be a more urban-ready car? Well, this is the Corolla SX Hybrid sedan.

Yes, the sedan, not the hatch. And that means it’s longer end-to-end than the hatch. Not only that, it’s missing something at either end which I reckon is vital for urban duties. But, as you’ll find out when you read the review, there’s a solution for that.

Are these the only downsides of the Corolla SX Hybrid sedan? I found out when it came to live with me at my home just 10km from the CBD.

After reading this you might decide that this small but spacious, fuel efficient but fun car to drive is ready for your urban adventures.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The SX grade sits in the middle of the Corolla sedan range and the hybrid version has a list price of $29,735, which is $1500 more than the petrol-only SX. By the way, the hatch version costs the same as the sedan.

And another thing, you can get a hybrid version of the top-of-the-range ZR as a hatch, but not as a sedan. Fear not, the XS sedan comes with a stack of standard features.

Coming standard are LED headlights and tail-lights, (the daytime running lights are also LED); an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; wireless phone charger, a six-speaker stereo, climate control, 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, fabric seats, proximity unlocking, and heated wing mirrors.

Coming standard are LED headlights and tail-lights. Coming standard are LED headlights and tail-lights.

Is it good value for money? Absolutely, even if it is more expensive than the petrol version.

The only direct small car rival to the Corolla SX Hybrid sedan is the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid which lists for $35,140. Mazda doesn’t have a hybrid version of the Mazda3 but the G20 Touring is fuel efficient and costs $29,240.

Kia hasn’t released a hybrid Cerato either, but it is a competitor to the Corolla and the Sport+ is the SX rival at $29,340. There’s also Subaru’s Impreza 2.0i-S, which I’ve recently tested. It’s not a hybrid either, but worth considering at $31,160.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The number of my friends who now have Corolla sedans has increased by 200 per cent. Okay, so that’s only an increase of two people from zero but I put this down to two factors: 1) I’m getting older and so are they; and 2) The Corolla sedan is now actually good looking.

Sure, it’s not as sexy as the Corolla hatch, but it’s attractive for a small sedan which mostly tend to be a bit bland.

I like the blade-like headlights and the way they extend under the bonnet lip and almost meet in the centre, and that big mesh lower grill looks tough and menacing.

I’m also taken by the rear styling (normally the weak point of a small sedan) and how the tail-lights ‘pinch’ into the tailgate. It’s refined and not at all cheap or budget looking.

Telling the Hybrid SX apart from the entry-level Ascent Sport Hybrid below it is tricky as both cars are identical from the outside. Even distinguishing them from their petrol-only twins is hard, the only giveaways being the smaller 15-inch wheels and 'Hybrid' badges on the boot lid and front wheelarches.

The Hybrid SX’s cabin is neatly designed and stylishly straightforward in its layout. The Hybrid SX’s cabin is neatly designed and stylishly straightforward in its layout.

The Hybrid SX’s cabin is neatly designed and stylishly straightforward in its layout, but I don’t think anybody is going to write it poetry about how enchanting and beautiful it is.

Nope, this is an interior design where functionality triumphs over form. Which is good for somebody who just want to jump in and drive… I’ve sat in an Alfa Romeo for days just pressing buttons trying to work out which one makes it go.

Want the dimensions? The Corolla Sedan is 4630mm long, 1780mm wide, 1435mm tall and has a wheelbase of 2700mm. In comparison the Corolla hatch is 4375mm long, 1790mm wide, the same height, with a wheelbase of 2640mm.

The Corolla Sedan is 4630mm long, 1780mm wide, 1435mm tall. The Corolla Sedan is 4630mm long, 1780mm wide, 1435mm tall.

Only one colour is standard and that’s 'Glacier White', while the optional shades are 'Crystal Pearl', 'Silver Pearl', 'Ink', 'Wildfire', 'Volcanic Red' and the 'Lunar Blue' which my test car wore.

By the way, those two friends why bought Corolla sedans, went with hybrids, too.

How practical is the space inside?

The dimensions in the section above probably give away what I’m about to tell you. The sedan has far more room inside than the hatch.

There is no way I can sit behind my driving position in the hatch without my knees wedged into the seat back and headroom is limited, too.

The sedan has far more room inside than the hatch. The sedan has far more room inside than the hatch.

Different story in the sedan which is a bigger car with a longer wheelbase and that means I can sit in the second row with space to spare (even headroom is good).

The cargo capacities of the boots are also vastly different. The sedan’s boot volume is 470 litres – much more than the hatch's 333 litres.

The sedan’s boot volume is 470 litres. The sedan’s boot volume is 470 litres.

Cabin storage is also good with four cup holders (two in the back and two up front), decent-sized door pockets, a deep centre console bin and a large shelf in front of the shifter which doubles as a wireless charging pad. There’s also a 12V outlet and a USB port.

If you’re planning to use the SX Hybrid as a small family car keep in mind that it doesn’t have directional air vents in the second row, nor rear privacy glass to shield the kids from the sun.

When I tested it my five-year-old son was back there in his car seat and it was hard to get cool air to him from the front on hot days. Also, the seatbacks don’t have map pockets which was frustrating, although there is a tray in the back of the centre console for the second row.

Rear wheel arches don’t eat into the doorways too much, making entry and exit easy. Rear wheel arches don’t eat into the doorways too much, making entry and exit easy.

All doors open wide and the rear wheelarches don’t eat into the doorways too much, making entry and exit easy.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid Sedan is not a plug-in hybrid - there’s no cord for charging it up. Nope, it’s a petrol-electric hybrid that recharges its batteries through regenerative braking.

So, you step on the brakes, the electric motor instantly morphs into a generator, transforming kinetic energy into electricity, which is sent back to top up the battery under the rear seat.

Not having to plug it in to recharge makes the Corolla SX Hybrid a good choice for those living in the city where you might not have access to a power point where you park.

This also means you’ll never run out of power and be stuck on the side of the road because along with the electric motor (making 53kW/163Nm) there’s a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (making 72kW/142Nm).

The SX hybrid is powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. The SX hybrid is powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

You can only have the hybrid with an automatic transmission and in this case it’s a continuously variable transmission (CVT). I’m not a big fan of these in petrol engine-only cars but the seamless nature of a CVT suits this hybrid powertrain perfectly.

While I think plug-in hybrids are superior to the system used here, it’s an exceptionally good powertrain that provide more than adequate acceleration.

How much fuel does it consume?

Toyota says if you were to stick to just urban driving the Corolla SX Hybrid sedan should use no more than 3.4L/100km of petrol. If you plan to do longer trips with motorway and country roads thrown in you’ll be happy to know Toyota’s official economy for a combination of open and urban use is only a smidge higher at 3.5L/100km.

In my own fuel test I started with a full tank and drove a route through Sydney’s CBD in peak hour traffic before returning back to my home in the inner suburbs less than 10km away, and continued the loop for 47km.

I finished at a petrol station where it took 1.52 litres to top up the 43-litre tank. The trip computer said my average fuel consumption was 3.7L/100km but my own calculations had my mileage at 3.2L/100km. Outstanding fuel economy.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Corolla hatch scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2018, and the sedan which came out in 2019 adopted the same rating.

Coming standard on the Corolla SX Hybrid sedan is advanced safety equipment such as AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, auto high beam, blind spot monitoring, and lane trace assist with lane centering and speed sign recognition.

The AEB system is functional from 10km/h to 180km/h covering you for urban and city use, as well as the open road.

Along with this there are seven airbags and a reversing camera.

A space saver spare wheel is under the boot floor. A space saver spare wheel is under the boot floor.

For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX points across the second row. 

A space saver spare wheel is under the boot floor.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The Corolla Sedan is covered by Toyota’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Hybrid versions are covered by the same warranty, including the battery.

Servicing is recommended annually or every 15,000km with the first four services capped at $175.

What's it like to drive around town?

If you’ve never driven a hybrid before, take it from me, right now you won’t drive a better one than this.

Some hybrids are noisy when their petrol engines ‘kick in’. Some have brake pedals that feel like wooden blocks. Some have dual clutch transmissions which lead to jerky movements. Don’t even get me started on the ones that hardly save you any fuel.

The Toyota Corolla SX’s hybrid powertrain is as good as they currently come. It makes sense, Toyota has been selling petrol-electric hybrid vehicles since 1997 and over that almost quarter of a century it’s mastered the technology. You only have to drive a hybrid from one of its rivals to feel how much more refined the Toyota is.

The dance between the engine and motor, or both operating together,  is almost unnoticeable, and the CVT performs smoothly. The result is a pretty much seamless driving experience that feels natural once you’ve been in the car a day or two.

The new-gen platform the Corolla is built on is excellent in that not only does it provide a comfortable ride, but handling is great for the segment, too. Add to this the little nudges of acceleration from the electric motor and the Corolla SX Hybrid is fun to drive.

Steering is light and accurate, while the 10.6m turning circle is what you can expect out of most small cars.

It’s not all good though. Remember right at the start I mentioned how the sedan was longer than the hatch and that there was something missing at either end?

Steering is light and accurate. Steering is light and accurate.

Well, the sedan is almost 26cm longer than the hatch. That’s about the distance between two parked cars, and from what I experienced the difference between fitting into a car space and not.

Not only is the sedan less likely to fit into a smaller spaces, but making this part of daily urban life harder is a lack of front and rear parking sensors.

Yep, parking sensors aren’t on the standard features list and must be fitted as a dealer option. For an urban car not to have parking sensors as a standard isn’t good enough.

I wouldn’t let this put you off, though, because it’s one of very few downsides to the car and it can be solved by optioning the parking sensors. Dealers can be open to a little bit of persuasion, too.

For urban folk like me, living just 10km from the CDB, but having to sit in traffic for 50 minutes to get there on disjointed concrete and bitumen roads, the Corolla SX Hybrid makes these journeys easier and a bit fun.

The Corolla has been an urban favourite for decades and a hybrid version just makes so much sense for anybody who feels they spend more time in traffic than on deserted open roads. Sure, the sedan is longer than the hatch, and yes, you’ll have to option parking sensors but the Corolla SX Hybrid sedan could well be the ultimate urban vehicle. It’s easy and comfortable to drive, has outstanding fuel economy, and is roomy enough for a small family.

Social call to action (formerly comment call to action):  Is the Corolla SX Hybrid sedan the ultimate urban car or does it miss the mark? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

$22,990 - $38,970

Based on 225 car listings in the last 6 months



Price Guide

$22,990 - $38,970

Based on 225 car listings in the last 6 months

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