- What’s Good: Toyota built quality and attention to detail with proven hybrid technology.
- What’s Bad: Leisurely acceleration when pushed and miniscule battery-only EV range.
CALGARY, AB: It’s been more half a century since the Toyota Corolla went on sale in Canada and now it’s time for something completely new.
With the 2020 model year, the Corolla is now available for the first time as a hybrid.
The Corolla uses that newest generation of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, as does the Prius, and is considered a mild hybrid with gasoline engine and electric motor that are separate from one another.
Each can run separately. During normal acceleration the hybrid primarily uses the gasoline engine with the electric motor providing an added boost of power when needed.
The engine is a 1.8-litre direct injection, inline four-cylinder producing 121 hp and 105 lb/ft of torque running on the Atkinson Cycle combustion system engineered for most fuel efficient consumption.
The electric motor puts out 71 hp and 121 lb/ft of torque for a combined stated 121 hp, but no overall torque number, as Toyota always declines to publish it.
The battery is still nickel metal hydride, which is not as power dense as lithium-ion, but is non-toxic and fully recyclable.
The battery uses a new process called Hyper-Prime Nickle that increases power capacity and is also now small enough to fit under the back seat with the bonus of no intrusion into the cargo area and allowing the 60/40 split/fold back seat to fold flat for increased storage.
Front-drive only, the Hybrid uses a CVT, which results in fuel economy of 4.4/4.5/4.5L/100 km (64/63/63 mpg) city/highway/combined.
During my afternoon of mostly highway driving, I averaged 4.5L/100 km just as Toyota stated.
On the centre console there is a Mode switch, which allows the driver to select Normal, Eco and Sport with the first for everyday driving, Sport for improved response and Eco for the most efficient engine/motor operation.
There is also another switch marked EV for electric only operation, which gives the Hybrid a range of just two km which is good for limited travel around town.
Acceleration is not neck-snapping, but adequate for most needs and one soon learns how to use the regenerative braking to supplement the battery.
The Hybrid, like the 2020 Corolla Sedan reviewed on these pages, features a seven-inch Multi-Information Display (MID) as the primary gauge cluster with speedometer and hybrid system, plus battery charge status indictor.
It also offers a guideline for maximizing fuel economy by “coaching” the driver on best use of the accelerator to match driving conditions. And for those who want to monitor engine rpm, the MID can display a digital tach.
The Corolla brings to seven the number of hybrids available from Toyota joining the Prius C in the small car segment.
Like the Sedan and Prius, the Hybrid is one of the first to ride on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, making it roomy enough for five adults and their luggage.
And like the Sedan, the Hybrid has as standard eight-inch centre stack infotainment touchscreen with a host of functions for Apple CarPlay, Siri Eyes Free, voice recognition, Bluetooth music streaming and weather/traffic information with the Toyota Entune App Suite.
The most important standard feature is the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver/safety aids including Pre-Collision System (PCS), full-radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist and automatic high beams.
The interior is pretty basic, but not unpleasant, although for another $2,000, the Premium Package adds amenities such as heated steering wheel and back seats, LED ambient lighting and Toyota’s SofTex leather seating surfaces, not to mention wireless smartphone charging with indicator light.
One thing I did notice during the driving portion of the Canadian media introduction held recently in Calgary was how quiet the hybrid powertrain was in operation and, more to the point, the minimal noise intrusion into the cabin at highway speeds.
Considering the 2020 Corolla Hybrid has a starting price of $24,790 and $26,790 for the trim enhanced Premium Package model, the Hybrid is well-placed in terms of value for the dollar, but it does not qualify for the $5,000 federal incentive because it is not a plug-in or full electric vehicle.
If it had, the idea of a hybrid at under twenty grand would have been an offer that no one could refuse.
Having said that, having the ability to take advantage of on-board electric boost and stretch more range as the same time does make it more than attractive when fuel prices in Canada are now being predicted for record highs this summer and fall.