5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Impressive CBD fuel economy; Apple CarPlay/Android Auto equipped; boot space
Interior graphics look dated; no top-spec ZR Hybrid; is it still too bland?
The Wheels Verdict: The Toyota Corolla sedan is one of those cars that simply does what it says on the packet. There is little room for surprises. You expect it to be a booted version of the acclaimed hatch with added four-door pragmatism, efficiency and dependability – and it is. The Corolla sedan ticks all the boxes buyers want accounted for on their checklist. Now there is added frugality thanks to the hybrid-electric gubbins.
WHAT IS IT?
The Corolla Hybrid sedan is a frugal, practical and spacious solution for a wide range of buyers, from young families retirees alike. With ‘edgier’ styling and up-to-date infotainment, the four-door Corolla stays true to Toyota’s hallmark of ease of ownership. The updated 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol (with an extra 22kW and 27Nm) is also offered within the range.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The Toyota Corolla sedan, for the first time in its history, is now offered with a hybrid drivetrain. This petrol-electric technology is a proven winner in the hatch, as well as seven other Toyota nameplates, so we’re keen to find out if it’s the preferred powertrain for the overhauled Corolla sedan.
TOYOTA COROLLA HYBRID SEDAN 2020 REVIEW
Just about everyone has a Corolla story. If you haven’t owned or driven one to have your own tale, you’ll know someone who has. It’s a high probability given some 47 million units have been sold since its inception in 1966 – that’s one Corolla sold globally every 20 seconds.
So well-honed is the Corolla formula that Toyota has rarely dared to be different. That changed in generation 12, as the hatch debuted with TNGA underpinnings, Lexus-esque design elements and a more tech-heavy cabin. Now the sedan gains the same treatment – and for once, the four-door variant doesn’t look like an afterthought. Plus, for the first time, the sedan version gains a hybrid powertrain.
That’s the headline news in terms of variants, with the petrol Ascent Sport manual kicking off the range at $23,335 and topping out at $33,635 for the ZR petrol. The hybrid is only offered in Ascent Sport and SX guises, with prices of $26,335 and $29,735 respectively.
Even the Ascent Sport Hybrid gains Toyota Safety Sense, with features like AEB with day and night-time pedestrian detection, daytime cyclist detection, lane-departure warning with steering assist, road-sign assist and auto high beam. The entire Corolla range has a five-star ANCAP safety
Inside, the sedan follows the upmarket push found in the hatch. The dash is dominated by the 8.0-inch touchscreen display that, at long last, has support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Using either of the screen-mirroring apps transforms the experience as without either, the graphics already look outdated. Still, even the Ascent Sport has a newfound premium feel and the multifunction steering wheel is an ergonomic triumph. Essentially, you shouldn’t get too confused in this cabin. The general design is interesting, while fit and finish is perceptibly good – although the base model has to do without a leather steering wheel.
Read next: Hybrid hype is paying dividends for Toyota
The cabin is relatively quiet, with road noise decently suppressed. However, it’s impressively spacious, with plenty of head and legroom in all pews for adults. Cargo capacity is H.U.G.E – in fact, its Camry-rivalling at 470 litres. That’s a massive jump of 253 litres on the Corolla hatch. Plus, you’re not disadvantaged by going hybrid, either, as both engine types gain the same litre count and 60/40-split rear seats. It makes stepping up to the Camry, which has only 25 litres more capacity, a much tougher decision.
Paired with the frugal drivetrain, one that can achieve a combined fuel consumption of 3.5L/100km, it makes a lot of sense. The total system output is a modest 90kW and 142Nm, however, it’s enough oomph to keep up with traffic within the CBD or on the highway. In the city is where the hybrid-electric drive does its best work. Below 60km/h and with a light throttle, you can sneak around without using the 1.8-litre naturally aspirated motor. And it’s not a plug-in, meaning the self-charging system doesn’t need to be plugged in to charge. The e-CVT ties in well and only pitches revs high for prolonged periods of wide-open throttle. The regenerative braking isn’t overly intrusive, either.
According to Toyota, the TNGA platform has increased body rigidity by 60 percent, while also increasing comfort at the same time. It uses a more sophisticated multi-link rear-end (as opposed to torsion beam) and utilises MacPherson struts up front. In reality the sedan largely contains its movements (although there is a bit of rebound over smooth undulations) and offers a plush ride quality. The steering is well judged, but the Bridgestone Ecopia EP150 rubber is clearly more focused on rolling resistance over outright grip. Still, there’s more fun to be had here than the Corolla generally gains credit for.
The real hidden gem that no-one will buy is the entry-level six-speed-manual found in the Ascent Sport. It’s paired with the 125kW/200Nm four-cylinder petrol and, wait for it, has rev matching – yes, in a Corolla. While the CVT-equipped versions are fit for purpose, the three-pedal sedan is full of verve and character. When shifting down gears, the system intuitively blips the throttle to increase revs to make down changes a lot smoother.
Age hasn’t wearied the Corolla sedan. In fact, with the latest design language it’s looking younger than ever, opening up sales to a younger demographic. With the addition of hybrid propulsion and efficiency, an old favourite has just got even better.
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PRICING AND SPECS
Model: Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid sedan
Engine: 1798cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Electric motor: AC synchronous, permanent magnet
Max power: 90kW (combined)
Max torque: 142Nm @ 3600rpm
On sale: Now