Toyota Corolla Hybrid: SAs answer to EVs

Can you believe it’s been 25 years of the Prius as a commercial hybrid vehicle? And that we are already into 5th gen Toyota hybrids today?

This is an enviable track record of consistent and persistent development down the hybrid avenue of new energy vehicle (NEV) exploration. And all this development is shown to best effect in these latest generation models of the hybrid Corolla.

The Corolla sedan hybrid has in fact been around for over a year but the all new Corolla hatch I am afraid steals the show. It is a looker from all angles and despite the relatively shopping sized boot at the rear it’s a no brainer hands down pick of the two. For me anyway.

Pricing for the top of the range is around R530k, and drops to R481k for the entry level hybrid. There is a 2.0l non hybrid powered version which slots in between the rest taking total model complement to 5. The sedan however has 3 models to choose from in a price range from R491k to R512k.

In the case of the hybrids you are getting a Toyota subsidised price (in anticipation of the white paper and policy that brings South Africa into line with the rest of the world in NEV). You’re also getting a ton of features and safety with Toyota’s newest iteration, Safety Sense 3.0 which adds safe exit assist and intelligent clearance sonar (in the hatch) whilst the sedan gets rear cross traffic alert – more details on these will come in the road test because there is simply too much to split out here.

Crucially though you’re getting the 5th generation version of the hybrid system with a 14.1 kW storage battery and 1.8l petrol motor. On occasion I found myself unsure as to the power source driving the wheels without looking at the info graphic on the infotainment system. This is purely due to the seamless nature of the power plant – how the engine starts so smoothly, silently, surreptitiously is beyond my technical abilities to understand, much less describe.

The quoted power output is 103kW. It feels like more power than this though and perhaps this is because some of that power isn’t affected by less oxygen at altitude. It is plenty grunt and in the hatch it is what I like to call ‘approaching sportiness’.

Not that sportiness came to mind much as I find hybrids turn me into a fuel saver where the competition becomes about how little fuel you can use and how to maximise battery usage.

Then Toyota showed us the new plug in electric hybrid RAV4. With 225kW total on tap and a range of around 80km on electric charge only this 2.5l petrol engine and 18.1 kWhr battery pack push the RAV4 to 100 in around 6 seconds. That’s spritely. On electric only the sprint is already not shabby but add in petrol power and you’re off in a hurry. Economical driving my sainted aunt.

A figure of 1.15l/100 was posted in a presentation somewhere. It was flashed up so quickly I didn’t get the context – but the number fixated. Can you imagine?

Except that you cannot buy a RAV4 PHEV (Plug in Hybrid EV). In typical Toyota fashion they are doing their homework first – checking infrastructure, support and backup, customer appeal and the corporate nine yards that has made them synonymous with what their brand represents. Reliability, support, longevity and so forth.

No matte your preference – be it Corolla / or the wait for the RAV 4 – the future few years is going to be interesting and these hybrid derivatives are paving the way. Given the demand for Cross hybrids already have blown Toyota’s expectations out of the water I am sure that these models will continue in the same vein and that we can expect to see them on the roads in meaningful numbers as fast as Toyota is able to supply. And if you have not driven a hybrid yet, do so. It’s game changing.

William Kelly

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