Hyundai Ioniq VS Toyota Corolla
- Well-tuned electric drive
- Range is about right
- Excellent energy consumption
- Feels very heavy
- Design won't be for everyone
- Still a little too pricey for mass adoption
- Fuel efficient
- Enjoyable to drive
- Good value
- Small boot
- Not much rear legroom
- Wish it was a plug-in hybrid
Hyundai's Ioniq range is nothing if not a flex in the face of Toyota.
Sure, Toyota has a dominating position in the Australian market, with its well-received range of hybrid models, but what happens after hybrid? Hyundai takes on the blocky Prius formula with not only a directly competing hybrid model, but a plug-in and a fully electric version, too.
This expansive range is as though Hyundai is trying to demonstrate it's ready for any future, near or far, and guess what, Toyota? Anything you can do; the Korean juggernaut thinks it can do better.
These cars aren't really designed to sell so much as they are offerings for early adopters, but a few years after its launch, with a host of rivals set to take it on, and an entire sub-brand based on the Ioniq just around the corner, is Hyundai's top-spec Ioniq electric worth a look? I took one for a week to find out.
The last time I drove a Toyota Corolla hybrid was a couple of years ago when I tested on by one by taking it 400km north from Sydney to a meeting of old cars with giant petrol engines, otherwise knows as a hot rod run, a pilgrimage to worship at the shortened exhaust of the combustion engine.
The good news is that nobody torched the Corolla hybrid during the night of revelry, and the other good news is that I found it to be an impressive car.
That was the previous generation Corolla hybrid, now the new-gen one is here and, while I didn’t take it on a hot rod run this time, I put it through another test – the day-to-day living challenge of pre-school drop offs and shopping, parking, commuting… I even used it to carry a 2.5m tall tree. So, is the new Corolla Hybrid just as impressive as the old one?
The grade I tested was the Ascent Sport. What does that mean? Read on to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Just like the Kona EV, Hyundai's Ioniq is still one of the best EV options on the market today. It strikes an excellent balance by offering significantly more range and better energy consumption than the more affordable Nissan Leaf or MG ZS EV, while providing the familiarity of the Hyundai spec and drive experience at a price only a little higher than a top-spec Prius.
Its relatively high score is a product of these factors, but also the way in which its interactivity offers the early adopters the engagement they will be searching for.
I’m never going to stop worshipping the combustion engine and I’ll keep going to hot rod runs in my big, old V8-powered beast, but to me, if you’re going to buy a Corolla why wouldn’t you choose the hybrid? It’s more fuel efficient than a regular petrol variant and offers a better city driving experience, by being able to run silently and smoothly as an EV at low speeds with decent off-the-mark shove when you need it. As for hybrid rivals – there are none right now, but even if there were, Toyota’s perfection of hybrid tech over the past two decades means it would likely be better than the competition.
Would you choose the petrol or hybrid version of the Corolla Ascent Sport? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Ioniq follows in the footsteps of eco hatches before it. You'll note this car's similarity in profile to the Toyota Prius, both shaped as such to secure low drag figures and therefore better economy and longer range.
While the Ioniq is a little more sedate than the wacky angles of the current Prius, there's no getting around the fact it's not exactly a cool shape. You could say it's interesting, perhaps, in the way it warps the low-drag box to Hyundai's styling cues, but dorky nonetheless. The LED headlights help lift it a little, but the filled-in grille and small 16-inch wheels hardly lend this car extra street cred.
The Ioniq is more a proof of concept for early adopters who care a little less about the way the car looks and a little more about its drivetrain and technology, which is clearly the focus here.
This can be seen in the Ioniq's interior, which has been re-worked for its most recent update. The digital features are impressive, with the floating 10.25-inch screen now totally dominating its dashboard.
I also like how the brand has given the instrument cluster a more modern design, with a cool floating bridge element over the top to eliminate glare, and, as always, Hyundai has made ergonomic use of its excellent switchgear and tidy steering wheel from the i30 and Kona ranges.
The climate unit has lost its tactile dials, replaced by touch-panel controls, and the lack of a transmission under the centre console has allowed plenty of negative space for the brand to play with, in this case a huge storage bay. There are also elements from more recently launched Hyundai models, which help to tidy the centre space up further, like an upright wireless-charging bay and shift-by-wire drive selector, which all looks very modern and neat.
It's a step towards things to come from the newly minted Ioniq sub-brand, which will do a lot more of this stripped-back, space-saving stuff with its next vehicle, the Ioniq 5 SUV. For now, though, the Ioniq is good as a half-step into the future. It's not as outlandish as a Tesla Model 3, for example, and will better suit a buyer looking for something a bit more familiar that still has a futuristic edge.
There’s a lot of love for the Corolla, particularly older versions of the species (just ask our editor Mal, he rescues rusty ones out of paddocks), but the previous model was never really widely adored for its looks and was beginning to age compared to new and improved rivals. Enter this new-generation Corolla, which looks sexier and more modern.
I’m especially taken by the tail lights, which are far more appealing than the previous model’s egg-splat design. The same goes for the new headlight design and that large grille.
It’s a completely different Corolla to the last one, but has kept the same pointy nose at the front and the bulbous bum.
The only indication that the hybrid isn’t a petrol variant is the Toyota badge with the blue halo aura effect and, of course, the word ‘Hybrid’ on the tailgate.
The interior is also modern feeling with a large, cleanly designed dashboard with that touchscreen sitting prominently atop it, like a billboard. I have to admit, though, the Ascent Sport’s interior lacked a bit of wow-factor, with its hard surfaces and too much use of piano-black plastic. I know Toyota can do cool interiors – just look at the C-HR, so it’s a bit disappointing that the Ascent Hybrid’s cabin isn’t more interesting.
In terms of dimensions, the Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid is 4375mm long, 1790mm wide and 1435mm tall. The small size made it easy to park in the tiny spots left outside my house by the time I get home, and easy to pilot in narrow laneways and city traffic.
As mentioned, there's actually quite a lot of space in the Ioniq cabin, and the design has been further stripped back with its most recent updates.
The front seat seems a bit high for a hatch, although ergonomically everything is correct for the driver, with a good amount of adjustability in the seat back and wheel.
The big, bright multimedia touchscreen is easy to use, and the single centrally mounted volume dial is welcome, but I do sorely miss the dials for adjusting fan speed and temperature. Touch-panel controls, to me at least, are always inferior.
As already mentioned, the centre-console area under the climate unit has been almost entirely deleted for the electric variant, granting the driver a little more knee room, and leaving a deep rubberised bay for loose objects, maybe even small bags. This area also houses two 12v power outlets and one USB port. The centre console has been re-worked to include a smart, space-saving upright wireless-charging bay for your phone, the shift-by-wire console, and controls for the heated and ventilated seats. This area also hosts two large bottle holders, and a large centre-console box.
As is usual with Hyundai models, there's also a large bottle holder in the door, alongside a practical bin.
Rear passengers are treated to decent legroom, about on par with what you'd expect in a hatchback. Headroom is a little limited, both for getting in and out, with the descending roofline, so if you have family or friends taller than my 182cm height, they might be less than pleased.
The rear-seat area gets bottle holders in the doors and in the drop-down armrest, although there are no power outlets, just dual adjustable air vents.
The hatch body of the Ioniq makes for a decent boot volume of 357 litres, enough for a large pram or, in the case of my testing, the largest of the CarsGuide luggage cases, with ease. Hyundai gives you a little satchel to tidily store the standard powerpoint to Type 2 charging cable. A Type 2 to Type 2 cable, which you will need to charge at public outlets (up to 7.2kW) is not included.
I was afraid you’d ask me that question because the answer is: not very. The legroom in the back seat is tight, so much so that at 191cm tall I can’t fit behind my driving position. I’m tall, but even our more normal-sized reviewers found the rear legroom to be limited.
My four-year-old is only three feet tall and he remarked that “Mummy’s seat is squashing my feet”. That was when he was in his car seat and my wife was sitting next to me. She had to move her seat almost until her knees touched the dash so that his feet weren’t squashing.
Also a bit disappointing is the boot space – 217 litres of cargo capacity if you have a space-saver spare wheel and 333 litres if you go with the tyre-repair kit. That’s too small for our CarsGuide pram, so if you’re thinking of a Corolla as your next family hatch, then I’d take your pram/golf clubs/drum kit and test out the space before handing over your money.
Cabin storage isn’t bad, with two cupholders up front and two in the back, along with bottle holders in the doors. The centre-console bin offers good storage and there’s a small tray in the second row big enough for a wallet.
As for USB ports, there’s a lonely looking one under the dash.
If it’s any consolation, I used the Corolla to transport a 2.5m tall tree that arrived at CarsGuide HQ for me after I ordered it online. My other two choices were a Mitsubishi Triton ute and a Ford Mustang and, as it turned out, the hybrid hatch was better suited to the job, as you can see in the images. So there you have it: the Corolla is more practical in some ways than a ute or a Mustang.
Price and features
On the one hand, forking out over $50k for a car which looks like this is a tall order. On the other hand, there is no other electric car that really falls into this price bracket, and when you think about it, it's only a few thousand dollars more than a top-spec Prius.
The aggro never-EV types will argue you can have a very good hot hatch, like say, Hyundai's own i30 N for less, but then this car really is for those early adopters who are after a slice of future drivetrain tech rather than a complete value offering.
In the context of the EVs currently available in our market, the Ioniq shines. Yes, it is more expensive than rivals like the Nissan Leaf or MG ZS EV, but it also offers more range than either of those, at 311km measured to the more accurate WLTP standard.
This is short of Tesla's Model 3 standard range, but also more than $10k more affordable, and as I discovered on my week of testing; 311km, and it really is 311km, is plenty for a predominantly urban commuter to get by with either routine maintenance charging, or a once-a-week stop at a DC charger.
So, value then? As this car has probably the minimum electric range you really want for an Australian city at a price only a little above rivals which fall short, it's in quite the sweet spot.
Oh, you probably want to know about equipment, too. Our Ioniq electric Premium scores familiar equipment from the facelifted Hyundai i30 range, including a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, built-in sat-nav integrated with charging-station distances, a 7.0-inch digital dash cluster, eight-speaker premium audio system, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and DRLs, single-zone climate control, leather-appointed interior trim with heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, wireless phone charger, opening sunroof, and keyless entry with push-start ignition.
It's a good array of items, and we'll touch on this car's fully equipped safety suite later. The only notable omissions for now are the lack of a holographic head-up display and the lack of dual-zone climate control.
The Ascent Sport is the entry grade into the Corolla range and the hybrid version is $1500 more than the petrol-engined variant at $25,870.
There is the Hyundai Ioniq, which is larger and a damned good thing, but the most affordable one costs way more, at $33,990. The closest car to the Corolla Hybrid isn’t really a competitor but more of a sibling rival, in the form of the Toyota Prius C, which was being offered at a driveaway price of $27,596 at the time I wrote this.
Standard features on the Ascent Sport Hybrid for the most part mirror those on the petrol version. The list includes LED head- and tail lights, LED running lights, heated and power door mirrors, an eight-inch touch screen with reversing camera, six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control and some cool advanced safety tech, which you can read about below.
As far as standard features go, Toyota hasn’t been super generous and you’re made to step up to the SX if you want sat nav and the wireless-charging pad, while you need to climb higher into the top-grade ZR if you want to swap the cloth seats for leather.
One of the bonuses of buying the hybrid version of the Ascent Sport is getting dual-zone climate – the petrol version only has single zone air conditioning.
Still, at $26K the value equation is impressive.
Engine & trans
The Ioniq electric has a single motor on the front axle producing 100kW/295Nm. It's the least powerful EV in Hyundai's range, but still out-punches cars like the Toyota Prius on raw power. It drives the front wheels via a single reduction-gear transmission, and the Ioniq electric also has re-worked regenerative braking for its most recent update.
This is powered by a huge-for-its-size 38.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the floor.
So, you’re thinking of a petrol-electric hybrid, eh? Well you’ve come to the right review because Toyota has been producing hybrid cars on a huge scale longer than anybody, which has given the company decades to refine and develop the tech.
The Ascent Sport Hybrid doesn’t plug into a power point. Toyota doesn’t currently sell any plug-in hybrids in Australia. Nope, this one builds the charge back up in its batteries from the energy captured when you brake.
Those nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries are in the back of the car and under the bonnet you’ll find an a 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 53kW/162Nm electric motor. The engine and motor take turns and also work together to drive the front wheels, and the transition between one power source and another is smoother than any other hybrid I’ve driven.
The transmission is a CVT, which is an automatic and, while I’m not a fan of them in petrol variants, because they cause the engine to rev without much in the way of shove to go with it, in a hybrid the extra torque from the motor means acceleration is pretty good.
The huge 38.3kWh battery pack and official combined energy consumption of 15.7kWh/100km, grants the Ioniq electric an impressive 311km (WLTP) range. As already mentioned in the pricing section, this lets the Hyundai electric hatch strike a good balance for urban commuters, however, under our mostly urban testing, it's an even better story.
For context, electric cars are far more efficient when operating in an urban scenario than they are on the open road. This is because they can regenerate energy more often and are less susceptible to losses from drag. The Ioniq has a superb regenerative-braking system, which can be completely customised to the user's preference. Want to drive it with no regen braking (like a normal car)? You can. Want to have the full eco experience, and have the car's motor bring it to a halt even without using the brake pedal, thereby maximising the amount of energy recouped? You can absolutely do that, too.
For most of my week, I stuck the Ioniq in its maximum regenerative setting and was very impressed to find it return an efficiency rating of 12.3kWh/100km. Not only is this number well below its claim, it's by far the most efficient electric car I have driven, and the only one I haven't tried yet is the brand-new MG ZS EV.
Colour me very impressed. The Ioniq charges via the most popular socket, the European Mennekes Type 2 combo. On DC, the Ioniq can charge as fast as 100kW allowing for a charge time of 54 minutes from empty to 80 per cent. On AC, its max charge input is a frustratingly low 7.2kW, making for a charge time of six hours and five minutes (more expensive rivals will charge at 11kW or even the max 22kW), while from a 240v wall outlet (~2.3kW) it will charge in 17 hours and 30 minutes.
My single charge session was at a council-supported clean-energy Tritium charger with a max output on DC of 112kW. It charged my Ioniq from about 35 to 80 per cent in 32 minutes, and cost around $7.
This is what it’s all about right? Well, sort of. Hybrids of this kind don’t achieve fuel economy as good as, say, a plug-in hybrid and while Toyota claims the Ascent Sport Hybrid should only use 4.2L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads, after mainly city testing I measured 7.7L/100km when I filled up at the petrol station. It takes 91 RON, by the way.
That fuel economy is still good, considering our testing of the regular petrol variant saw it use 9.0L/100km.
The Ioniq's familiar Hyundai switchgear makes it largely feel like the brand's i30 from behind the wheel, and this is a very good thing. This car is immediately ergonomic and user friendly, although the seating position is a little high, preventing it from feeling particularly sporty.
The Ioniq emits a pleasant choral tone at low speeds, which enhances the perception you're steering something from the near future. It also helps alert pedestrians nearby, which was one of my pet peeves about the silent Tesla Model 3. The noise is interesting enough that you'll have people peering closely at it to figure out what's going on. It even gets louder as you accelerate, as though the motor is making it and it's not entirely artificial. Cool.
This EV is silky smooth to drive and accelerate. Like other Hyundai electric cars, it doesn't have the unleashed electric torque of a Tesla, but it feels well attuned to driving around in an urban scenario, with viscous acceleration and regenerative braking. I was surprised to discover how heavy it feels, though.
I was expecting it to be heavier than its hybrid or PHEV counterparts but compared to the hybrid Prius I drove only a week or two prior, the electric Ioniq feels obese.
Upon closer examination, the Ioniq electric weighs 200kg more than the Prius, at 1575kg. It doesn't sound outrageous but it's enough to have this little car's suspension wallowing and occasionally crashing over bumps that wouldn't bother its hybrid versions or, indeed, the Prius.
This is perhaps emblematic of the issues facing smaller EVs like this. To get more than 300 kilometres of range, they need a lot of heavy batteries. Manufacturers can better hide this with the existing heft and better suspension travel of SUVs. The Kona EV, for example, feels less hefty than this little hatch.
Regardless, the electric motor dispatches with the Ioniq's weight easily when you really want to accelerate, and while it doesn't provide the hold-on-for-dear-life acceleration of Teslas, it's more than enough for a daily commuter. Unlike the Prius, the Ioniq does genuinely feel pretty sporty in the corners, thanks to steering that's on the heavier side, and a firm, responsive damper tune.
The regenerative braking is particularly good on the Ioniq. Using paddle-shifters usually reserved for changing gears, the Ioniq instead lets you alter the amount of regenerative braking available. Feel like coasting a bit faster? Flick the Regen braking off. Feel like maximising economy and range? Max it out in the drive mode of your choosing, and you can use it as essentially a ‘single pedal' car (you can go or stop by using the throttle alone).
It even has an auto mode, which I found to be pretty intuitive. Paired with a few different display options to let you get superior feedback on how you're tracking with battery usage, it's brilliant, and more electric vehicles should take note.
So, this is an eco-focused electric car that is reasonably engaging to drive if a little heavy. Most importantly for the electric era, it's highly interactive, helping you really understand how your inputs are affecting its battery usage, and how you can better drive it to maximise range.
Welcome to the driving bit, which will make even more sense if you read the section above, which explains how the hybrid system isn’t alien technology, but rather a petrol engine and an electric motor engaged in a constant dance to provide drive to the front wheels.
That engine-motor combination works superbly and more seamlessly than any other hybrid I’ve driven. I even like the CVT transmission, which is something I thought I’d never write, because when this type of automatic is in a petrol variant it provides a lucklustre feel to the acceleration. It's not the case here, thanks to the help of the motor, which adds instant torque and good off-the line shove.
Combine this with great steering, good handling, a comfortable ride and a very quiet cabin, and you have a hatch that’s enjoyable to drive. I’m not going to say outstanding (it’s not quite an 8 out of 10) because the Mazda3 is also impressive to drive and so are the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato. But the Corolla Ascent Hybrid is right up there with them.
The Ioniq electric comes with the full suite of Hyundai SmartSense safety features, with active items including freeway-speed auto emergency braking (detects vehicles up to 180km/h, detects pedestrians up to 70km/h), lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, driver-attention alert, and auto high-beam assist.
This is backed by the usual stability, brake, and traction systems, as well as seven airbags (the standard dual front, side, and head array, plus a driver's knee) securing the Ioniq a maximum five star ANCAP safety rating dating back to its launch in 2018. It scored highly across all categories.
The Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2018. Coming standard are AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, speed-sign recognition and auto high beam headlights.
There are also seven airbags and for child seats you’ll find three top-tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
Hyundais are all covered by a competitive five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty, which includes 12 months of roadside assist. The roadside assist is topped up for an additional 12 months with every genuine service, and the battery pack in EV models like the Ioniq is covered for eight years or 160,000km.
Hyundai's service pricing is amongst the best in the business, and with less moving parts, the electric Ioniq is the cheapest in the range with the first five services for the life of the warranty fixed at just $160 per 12 monthly or 15,000km interval.
The Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a five-year capped-price servicing plan. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km and you can expect to pay $175 for each of the first four services.