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Toyota Corolla 2019 review: ZR Hybrid


Finally, Australians are starting to dip more than that solitary toe into the hybrid pool, seriously looking at how they can incorporate less conventionally powered vehicles into their daily drives.

The Toyota Corolla Hybrid ZR not only features an alternate energy source, it does so in a small car. Not the usual pick for families. Yet it can work especially for families living in the inner city or those looking for a second family car.

The Corolla hybrid also started an environmentally conscious conversation in our home that had our kids questioning whether recycling was the only thing they could do to make a difference.  

What does it look like?

The Corolla has borne the brunt of “boring” styling talk in the past, but this latest edition will have tongues wagging for altogether different reasons.

The Corolla has borne the brunt of “boring” styling talk in the past. The Corolla has borne the brunt of “boring” styling talk in the past.

The Corolla ZR is sharpishly stylish with the angles and purposefully defined lines adding that modern twist that Toyota hopes will appeal to new buyers. This is mirrored on the inside to some extent with a sloping swooping dash defined by contoured stitching and a brushed metal strip running its length. The ZR logos and sporty seating work well with a mix of materials and excellent finishing to help give the cabin a quality feel.

The Corolla ZR is sharpishly stylish with the angles and purposefully defined lines. The Corolla ZR is sharpishly stylish with the angles and purposefully defined lines.

How does it drive?

Twin electric motors and a 1.8-litre petrol engine provide the Corolla ZR with much more zip than the 90kW combined power figure might suggest. This is a fun small car to drive, whether or not you have the kids in the back, easily manoeuvrable and really light on its feet around traffic circles, along narrow streets and in tight carparks.

The Corolla ZR has a twin electric motors and a 1.8-litre petrol engine (SX variant shown). The Corolla ZR has a twin electric motors and a 1.8-litre petrol engine (SX variant shown).

The Corolla ZR is just as usable on the highway as it is around town, although you don’t get the full advantage of its hybrid capabilities on the open road. It will overtake with little urging, steering is pretty direct and the road noise much improved. Under load, the Corolla ZR will pause to gather its breath up steeper hills but will more than make up for it around the corners on the way down.

Steering is direct on the ZR. Steering is direct on the ZR.

Electric power is available at low speeds with the petrol engine chiming in barely noticeably as needed. The electric units also help under quick and heavy acceleration to keep fuel consumption low. Hybrids like the Corolla are super easy to incorporate into your life with no plug-ins to worry about and a petrol engine to help dim range anxiety. The batteries recharge from regenerative braking or the petrol engine and its interesting how quickly you change your driving style to watch those batteries reach capacity.

How spacious is it?

Surprisingly, the Corolla ZR features less interior space than many of its competitors. Lodgings for those in the front seats are fairly accommodating although the protruding dash does impose on the front passenger somewhat. The rear pew will hold two child car restraints secured to the ISOFIX fastenings, but fixed booster seats may not be able to extend to their full height because of the sloping roof.

The rear will hold two child car restraints, but fixed booster seats may not be able to extend to their full height because of the sloping roof. The rear will hold two child car restraints, but fixed booster seats may not be able to extend to their full height because of the sloping roof.

The boot is pretty compact, although, at 333 litres, the hybrid does get the largest boot in the new Corolla hatch range. It is a deep space, making it easier to carry a pram or school bags but the depth comes at the sacrifice of a spare, so you will have to make do with a patch-kit.

This is a small car, after all. Tailor your expectations accordingly and you won’t be disappointed.

The Corolla ZR features less interior space than many of its competitors. The Corolla ZR features less interior space than many of its competitors.

How easy is it to use every day?

The Corolla hatch, especially the top-of-the-range ZR, is packed with creature comforts but storage feels at a premium. There are two cupholders up front, with the door pockets able to hold a small water bottle and little other than a stingy centre console bin and a difficult to access glovebox to hold your bits and pieces. The phone charging pad is almost lost under the dash which is rather a shame while the buttons for the climate control functions are tricky to access on the move.

Passengers in the back get air vents and a cup holder in their doors. Passengers in the back get air vents and a cup holder in their doors.

Passengers in the back get air vents and a cup holder in their doors, no deep bins though or seat pockets which can be a bit trying.

The Corolla doesn’t disappoint with its inclusions list however featuring everything from dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, satellite navigation and head-up display to keyless entry, push-button start and 18-inch alloys. It does miss out on parking sensors but is small enough not to really need them.

Feature include dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and satellite navigation. Feature include dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and satellite navigation.

 

How safe is it?

With autonomous emergency braking that detects both pedestrians and cyclists, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and seven airbags, you can trust the Corolla hatch to carry your family safely.

You can trust the Corolla hatch to carry your family safely. You can trust the Corolla hatch to carry your family safely.

As an aside, the Corolla also features a lane-centring function which can feel over sensitive in trying to keep the car dead centre. This is not always practical in everyday use especially if you are trying to choose a more economical drive line but can be switched off if it gets annoying.

What’s the tech like?

I felt a touch let down by the technology offered in the Corolla and the kids were of a similar mind. It was nice to have eight-inch screen as the face of the infotainment system instead of the smaller units in some competitors and I didn’t mind that it perched on top of the dash. The buttons surrounding the touchscreen are a little too cumbersome to be practical and the system itself is slow to respond with poor graphic quality and colour.

The buttons surrounding the touchscreen are a little too cumbersome to be practical. The buttons surrounding the touchscreen are a little too cumbersome to be practical.

The biggest inconvenience is the lack of smartphone mirroring, however, Toyota Australia has advised that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are coming later this year and can be retro fittted. The screen is also difficult to see with the sun shining in which can be annoying.

We did love the instrument cluster with the funky 7.0-inch multi-information display. Bright and vibrant, it gives the hybrid some added jazz.

How much does it cost to own?

The hybrid ZR is $1500 more than the conventional petrol, which is really very reasonable, more so given the fuel savings you are likely to see. Official consumption figures are 4.2L/100km and we recorded a close enough 4.7L/100km during our week in the seat.

Cars purchased after 1 January 2019, get a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty rather than the three year/100,000km warranty previously offered by Toyota. The battery is covered for 10 years on condition you complete the annual Hybrid Health Check.

Toyota’s capped-price servicing plan will see you pay $175 for each of your first five services with service intervals at 12 months or 15,000km.


The Wrap

The Corolla Hybrid ZR is an interesting little package. We love the edgier styling, the generous inclusions and the fact that can easily incorporate hybrid living into everyday living. If you are willing to compromise on space, then small cars can live with young families too, certainly as a second car.

Likes

Fun to drive
Edgier styling
Improved warranty

Dislikes

No smartphone mirroring

Scores

Vani:

3.5

The Kids:

3

$31,870

Based on new car retail price

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