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Toyota Corolla


Peugeot 308

Summary

Toyota Corolla

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Peugeot 308

There’s clearly something in the (presumably Perrier sparkling) water over at Peugeot HQ. Once a perennial European also-ran, the French brand has been on something of a hot streak of late, producing super-solid offerings right across the board, headlined by the very good 3008 and 5008 SUVs.

It is, of course, still a European company, and so if its SUVs are good, the brand's humble station wagon - a body style that remains ever popular in France - should be blooming fantastic. And a 2018 update has seen Peugeot throw in some extra safety kit, and overhaul the ownership program, at no extra cost.

But there’s only one way to really find out, of course, so we snaffled the keys to the 308 Touring in top-spec Allure trim to put it to the test.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency4.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Toyota Corolla7.6/10

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.

 


Peugeot 3087.6/10

Seriously, it's cars like the 308 Touring (and the best from Skoda and others, to be fair) that make you wonder exactly how SUVs took such a stranglehold on the Australian market. It's super easy to drive and park, as practical as a rolling Swiss Army knife, and it looks pretty damn good to boot.

The only real question mark is the price, with near-enough $40k feeling rather a lot for a wagon that misses some of the creature comforts and interior material choices of cars in that price bracket.

Is Peugeot's 308 Touring a desirable SUV alternative? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Design

Toyota Corolla

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.  


Peugeot 3087/10

It’s effortlessly understated, the 308 Touring; both inside and out. The two-tier and textured Peugeot grille looks clean and purposeful, while the rear-end design is clean and simple, too. In fact, the only angle we’re not in love with is the side-on view, where it looks somehow swollen and top-heavy in the middle.

Inside, the doors are wrapped in soft-touch materials, And I LOVE the interior. It’s unique and super understated - the very definition of minimalism - which kind of hides the fact that some of the materials feel a little hard and cheap in places. The moonroof (a cost option) is terrific, too, spanning the length of the cabin.

Practicality

Toyota Corolla

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.


Peugeot 3088/10

At 4585mm long and 2043mm wide, the 308 Touring is seriously practical, and yet small enough that it never feels intimidating to drive or park in the city.

The biggest number, of course, is reserved for that whopping boot. With the rear seats in place, you can expect 625 litres of storage space, but drop the second row and that number swells to a seriously impressive 1740 litres. That really is heaps, and it means you can carry big suitcases with a car full of passengers, or flatpack furniture should you ditch the rear-seat riders.

For passengers, the front-seat space is ample, with a single cupholder and room for bottles in each of the front doors. The entertainment connections are simple, with easy-reach USB and AUX connections and the ability to mirror your smartphone on the big screen in the cabin.

The backseat is a little tighter, though (a reminder that this car is actually based on a small hatchback). The legroom is ample behind my own (I’m 176cm) driving position, but headroom feels cramped, and the door trims protrude into the cabin in a way that will eat into shoulder room if you were to go three across the back.

Weirder still, there is nothing in the way of creature comforts back there. Rear air vents are the most obvious omission, but there’s also nowhere to plug a phone in.

You’ll find two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat, as well as two cupholders in the pull-down seat divider. Happily, there is room in each rear door for bottles.

Price and features

Toyota Corolla

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.

What other hybrids are there on the market for this price? Not many. The Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato are the top three rivals to the Corolla and none of those come with a hybrid powertrain.

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.

The rest of the hybrids available to us in Australia right now are either prestige cars or SUVs. So, while the Corolla is far from a hatchback unicorn, the hybrid version really is unique.

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.


Peugeot 3088/10

The 308 Touring is available in just the single trim level, the high-spec Allure, and will cost you a not-insignificant $37,990 plus on-road costs. Our's was then fitted with nappa leather trim and 18-inch alloys, as well as a sunroof, boosting the as-tested price to $41,690.

Tech is handled by a 9.3-inch screen with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as steering-wheel controls and standard navigation.

Engine & trans

Toyota Corolla

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.


Peugeot 3088/10

I really like the 308 Touring’s turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine. It’s loud from outside the car, sure, but its unobtrusive from the cabin, which is what matters, and the low-down power delivery really suits the city-based nature of the wagon.

It will generate 110kW at 3750rpm and 370Nm at 2000rpm. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, and sends its power to the front wheels. It's enough for a fairly leisurely 10-second sprint from 0-100km/h and a 209km/h top speed.

Fuel consumption

Toyota Corolla

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.


Peugeot 3087/10

Claimed fuel use for the Touring is a very good 4.6L/100km on the combined cycle, with emissions a claimed 199g/km. The 308 is equipped with a 53-litre fuel tank.

Driving

Toyota Corolla

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.


Peugeot 3088/10

The 308 Touring is really very impressive from behind the wheel, and feels genuinely premium on the road. That rattling diesel is loud from outside the car, but not from the cabin, and it feels solid and connected to the road below. There’s a reassuring heft to the steering, too, and it leaves you feeling like you're straddling a line between premium and mainstream.

Yes, there is a tonne of diesel delay when you first plant your right foot - so much so that you can actually get the front tyres chirping unexpectedly when it finally gets going - and the Touring is simply not that fast.

But it also, somehow, never feels underpowered. The grunt all lives at the low-end of the rev range, making it well suited to the stop-start sludge of city life.

In short, it's a solid and comfortable performer in the city, and it handles itself just fine on tighter corners (even if it takes an age to close the gap between them) too. The ride is terrific, as is often the way with French cars, the steering inspires confidence and the practicality and perks are just ridiculous.

So, who needs an SUV, then, when you can have one of these low-riders instead?

Safety

Toyota Corolla

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.  


Peugeot 3087/10

The basic safety stuff is all there, like six airbags, a reversing camera and parking sensors front and rear. But Peugeot has upped its safety game with more advanced tech, like a driver-fatigue detection system, blind-spot monitoring, active lane keep assistance, AEB and even speed-sign recognition.

The 308 range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when assessed in 2014.

Ownership

Toyota Corolla

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.

 


Peugeot 3088/10

Peugeot deserves massive kudos for overhauling its once-underwhelming ownership program, and the 308 Touring now arrives with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance offered throughout. 

Servicing is required very 12 months or 20,000km, with Peugeot’s capped-price-servicing program limiting annual maintenance costs to between $500 and $820 most years, depending on the service required.