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First drive: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid. Image by Toyota.

First drive: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid
Time to try out the Toyota Corolla Mk12 in likely top-selling 1.8 Hybrid hatchback guise.

 



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Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Toyota UK reckons most of us will opt for the hatchback body style in the revived Corolla range, with the two Hybrid models taking as much as 90 per cent of the sales mix. Thus, here's the most economical version, the five-door in 1.8-litre Hybrid guise.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid Design
Pricing: hatch from £21,300, 1.8 Hybrid Design from £25,825
Hybrid system: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with synchronous permanent magnet electric motor
Transmission: front-wheel drive, Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 87g/km* (VED Band 76-90 for alternative fuel vehicles: £95 first 12 months, then £130 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: c.60.9mpg**
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
Power: maximum system output 122hp at 5,200rpm (petrol engine plus 53kW [71hp] electric motor)
Torque: petrol 142Nm at 3,600rpm, electric motor 163Nm from 0rpm, no system maximum torque output quoted
Boot space: 361-1,176 litres
* figure quoted in WLTP
** figure quoted as average of NEDC-correlated figures from WLTP testing

What's this?

It's the hatchback Toyota Corolla, sampled after we've already had a go in the 2.0-litre version of the Touring Sports. Like the estate, it's built in the UK and it has more dramatic exterior styling than the third model of Corolla, the saloon, which is expected to be minority interest here in the UK. Anyway, back to the hatchback and it looks great - arguably the best of the three Corollas, given those dramatic, upswept swage lines and the option of having a two-tone colour scheme that coats the roof in black (although this appears to be a vinyl wrap, rather than paint). There's no doubt the Corolla is one of the most attractive cars in the C-segment hatchback market, so it should tempt plenty of new customers into showrooms on its looks alone.

And those punters won't be put off by the same high-quality interior as we sampled on the Touring Sports, although it should be noted the hatchback is the only Corolla of the three to sit on the slightly shorter (-60mm) 2,640mm variant of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) chassis, so room in the rear row is most at a premium in this five-door car. It's not bad in the back, but by no means is it class-leading, either. Perhaps better news comes courtesy of a 361-litre boot, certainly on this 1.8-litre Hybrid model, because the more powerful 2.0-litre has a bigger battery pack that cannot fit in the engine bay and so it eats into the cargo capacity, reducing that number to 313 litres. Still, there are bigger boots available on rival products in this class.

A word, in this review, on the UK line-up. The same three engine choices - 116hp 1.2 Turbo, 122hp 1.8 Hybrid and 180hp 2.0 Hybrid - can be found in the hatchback, as in the Touring Sports. And it's the same four trim lines, too, the hatchback starting at £21,300 for an Icon, £22,350 for an Icon Tech, £23,375 for a Design and £27,345 for an Excel. Part of the seemingly big price jump from Design to Excel is because the 1.2-litre petrol is only available up to Design spec, and the 1.8 Hybrid is £2,450 more than the 1.2 model-for-model; in reality, an Excel is only £1,520 more than a Design with the same engine. Icon Tech (45 per cent of the mix) is expected to be the favourite grade here, building on the Icon's (5 per cent of the mix) generous spec of 16-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and a reversing camera by adding in the seven-inch digital instrument cluster, satnav and voice control for the Toyota Touch infotainment, and parking sensors all round. After Icon Tech, customers are expected to go for the flagship Excel (30 per cent of the mix) trim, with its 18-inch alloys, part-leather sports seats and keyless entry/go, while the Design (20 per cent of the mix) has 17-inch wheels and is the first grade at which the bicolour exterior becomes an option.

It's the safety, though, that deserves closer scrutiny. Every Corolla, from Icon upwards, comes with the following as standard as part of Toyota Safety Sense 2: Pre-Collision System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Trace Assist, Night Time Pedestrian Detection, Cyclist Detection, Auto High Beam and Road Sign Assist, items which the Japanese manufacturer is only too keen to point out are cost options on many equivalently specified rivals. For good reason, given the Corolla has seven airbags and a tougher shell courtesy of its TNGA underpinnings, Toyota is expecting this car to get a full five-star rating when Euro NCAP gets around to safety-testing it.

How does it drive?

The hatchback has all the chassis verve and refinement of the Touring Sports, which is most excellent news, and because it's also a shade lighter (30-60kg, depending on the model), then there's a sense the hatch has the potential to become the greatest Corolla of all. It's not beyond the whit of man to imagine that a GR Sport model isn't too far down the line, bringing in even more striking exterior styling, while we're positively salivating at the thought of a Corolla GRMN, which might wipe the smiles off the chops of its fellow Asian hot hatchbacks like the Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai i30 N.

At the moment, though, the Corolla's brilliance is only 'potential'. While we love the way the car rides, the way it suppresses exterior noise, the sharp and rather involving handling, and the fact that (while we've been critics of this 1.8-litre, CVT-equipped drivetrain before) the company has obviously taken sufficient steps to ensure the best possible mechanical isolation of the engine's exertions... it's still a frustrating driving experience in the 1.8 Hybrid. Below 50 per cent throttle, it's admirably quiet and velvet smooth, because one of the strengths of a CVT is that it isn't actually switching physical cogs, so there's not even the slightest, momentary lapse to forward drive as it doesn't need to 'shift up'. So, for the sort of people who buy hybrid hatchbacks like this, you could say this drivetrain is a peach.

But, in our cut-and-thrust motoring world, and with typical European driving styles, there are going to be plenty of occasions when you want more than 50 per cent throttle, whereupon you get all the usual drawbacks of CVT. While the 1.8 is more muffled at higher revs, it's still too loud and raucous in such situations, and there's absolutely no doubt the new 2.0 Hybrid is much better in this department. There's less of a linear feel to the acceleration, too, that old CVT bugbear of 'clutch slip' (when there's no clutch actually there, of course) rearing its head, while it takes a while for the engine/CVT to respond to applications of the throttle on corner exit or while coming out of junctions. It also never feels even acceptably quick or particularly torque-rich, which is weird because the electric motor is serving up 163Nm from the instant you touch the right-hand pedal. Yes, Toyota has made great strides with the 1.8-litre Hybrid, but - knowing how sweet that 1.2 Turbo is in some of the company's other applications and also having sampled the excellent 2.0 Hybrid in the Touring Sports - it remains our least favourite drivetrain for the smashing new Toyota Corolla. And by some distance, too.

Verdict

Our grousing about the 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain aside, the hatchback is a deeply impressive return to the UK for the Corolla nameplate. It looks superb inside and out, there's loads of equipment and some truly talented chassis dynamics to play with. Obviously, the 1.8 Hybrid will be the biggest seller, because its super-green USP will be the main reason people are looking at the Corolla in the first place, but we think there are better choices to be made elsewhere in the range. That said, what a great start for the Corolla Mk12 - this is so far apart from the stodgy Auris predecessors that it's hard to believe it's even from the same manufacturer. We therefore very much look forward to more Corolla developments, as the model line expands in the coming months and years.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 25 Feb 2019









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2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.

2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback. Image by Toyota.








 

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