Toyota has become a bit of a specialist of the “standard hybrid” — the non-pluggable type. The Japanese giant now offers no less than five hybrid models in Canada. It’s no surprise then that the manufacturer set a new hybrid electric vehicle sales record in 2019. For 2020, Toyota even added a new player to its green team: the all-new 2020 Corolla Hybrid. You read that right: Toyota’s smallest sedan is taking the green turn.
The Corolla hybrid is based on the new generation of the model introduced in 2018, with the addition of a battery pack. Look-wise, not everyone agrees, but I kind of like what Toyota is doing — the arrow-head headlight design looks good on the Corolla.
The interior is just your run of the mill entry-level Toyota. The dashboard is minimalistic and the black-on-beige colour scheme, a little predictable. The ensemble looks a little bland but you get all the features you need from heated seats to wireless charging to navigation so nothing unless you’re all about interior design, there’s nothing really to make you dismiss the Corolla.
While the model ranks as a compact, there is ample and comfortable seating for five passengers. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of legroom at the back. The space is fairly spacious and actually usable. The battery is positioned under the rear seat so it doesn’t chomp away at the cargo volume.
Performance-wise, the Corolla shines as a hybrid. On the trip home from picking the car up, I dealt with a healthy mix of highway cruising and rush hour traffic. By the time I got home, I had managed to 3.9L/100km, a spectacular performance for a standard hybrid. As soon as the mercury dropped, however, the number understandably went up. The engine had to do more work because of the cold, leaving less room for the battery to intervene and balance things out. I had to settle for an average of 5.5L for the week — which, all things considered, is still a really good number
You have the option of driving in electric mode only but unlike a plug-in hybrid that can easily offer you a few dozen kilometers of full-electric range, a standard hybrid doesn’t perform as well in all-electric. And that’s perfectly ok, it’s not meant to go full electric for a prolonged period. A standard hybrid like the Corolla is meant to balance fuel and electricity in the most efficient way possible and that, it does really well.
It uses a 1.8L, four-cylinder engine which is a decent size but it feels much smaller, especially when you need to react quickly. For example, when accelerating on a highway ramp, you can hear the engine struggle to get you there. The fact that the transmission is a CVT doesn’t help either and reaction times can be a little sluggish. You eventually adapt to it but keep in mind that it’s the kind of trade-off you have to make when you choose this type of powertrain.
Cabin insulation is a little on the thin side. If you turn the radio off or lower the volume, you hear almost everything happening under the hood, from buzzing to struggling revolutions to the electric motor’s jet-engine-like sound. Let’s call the powertrain “vocal.” To be fair, it got really cold during my week with the Corolla which required the powertrain to work a bit harder which might explain the symphony.
Even better is the price point. Loaded with the premium package, the Corolla Hybrid comes in just above the $28,500 mark — including the environmental charges and freight but before taxes. That makes owning a hybrid vehicle — and a pretty good one at that — more affordable than ever.
Model: 2020 Toyota Corolla hybrid
Engine: 1.8L, I-4with Hybrid Synergy Drive, 121 horsepower (combined)
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
NRCan rating (L/100km city/highway): 4.4 / 4.5
Length: 4,630 mm
Width: 1,780 mm
Wheelbase: 2,700 mm
Weight: 1,380 kg
Price: base, $24,790 as tested, $28,566 including freight
Competition: Honda Insight
Standard features: AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA, Bluetooth Capability, Audio Auxiliary Input Jack, USB Audio Input, Voice Recognition, six Speakers, Glass Imprinted Antenna, SIRI Eyes-Free, works with Apple CarPlay, Scout GPS Link, Backup Camera,Steering Wheel Audio Controls, Heated Front Seats, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Bicycle Detection, Auto High Beam, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Road Edge Detection