Toyota Corolla Hatch Hybrid is a compelling alternative

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Until about now, Toyotas Hybrids have kind of been Ubers. Plain white cars that offer great economy, Toyota quality, dependability, and reliability, and a most probably a great return on your investment, no matter how far you drive it. Travel around Europe and you’ll soon see how many Prius taxis there are. For all those good reasons. Thus the Uber analogy.

Until now, that is, This Corolla 1.8 Hybrid Xr Hatch changes the game a little. The Corolla flagship until the wild GR’s imminent arrival, this one is a bit different for a Toyota Hybrid. Gone are the staid looks, to make way for a really sexy demeanour. This one has an aggressive stance, fortified by cool two-inch-up turbine alloys in low profile rubber, which make this one pop all on their own.


A Corolla hybrid hatch with Stormtrooper looks

Even if ours was still white, its blackened roof, wing mirrors and trim, as well as a broader air dam conspire to gave it a George Lucas Stormtrooper feel. An all-black one would be more like Vader! Imposing new Bi-LED headlamps get J-shaped DRL elements and slick fog lamp bezels to add effect. The sexy continues inside, where this Xr model comes fully specced with all the exec wannabe bits in a smart, slick and well-presented space.

Comfy white stitched black leathery sided cloth pews dominate the silver trimmed LED lit black cabin. Easy to read dials gain a new 7-inch multi-info display. Good, basic capacitive switched Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible 8-inch touchscreen infotainment has enough buttons and voice recognition for regular folk to easily operate. It has different display modes, navigation, a new wireless charger, and extra USB ports including a USB-C jack.


Hatch steals a bit of that Corolla sedan space

If there’s any criticism inside, it’s a lack of rear cabin space and a crumby boot that wasn’t thought out very well. A little imagination would have made it half useful. If you need the extra space, there’s always the Sedan, but then you’re back to uber spec. As incognito as that is, a Sedan in this spec would be a welcome option to hybrid sedan owners looking for the extra room along with a bit of good old Vader style. Besides that, the Corolla Hatch is great inside.

Riding on Toyota’s refined TNGA platform, and blessed with hybrid efficiency, it is sporty to look at, and to an extent to drive too. Yet despite this fifth-gen 1.8-litre Petrol-Electric Hybrid powertrain’s enhanced performance, a more powerful electric motor now powered by better cooled Lithium-Ion battery and working in tandem with a that stronger engine to turn the front axle via step-shift-capable CVT transmission, it’s hardly standout quick.


Better hybrid punch. But is it enough?

If anything, this car lacks the go to match the show. Even if there’s a mad GR Corolla just around the corner and also a few powerful Prime plug-in hybrids in the global range, it would be great to finally see what petrol-electric pioneer Toyota can do with a performance hybrid. Come on guys, a hybrid to salute your WEC and WRC successes, is long overdue!

That said, the extra hybrid grunt is evident on the road. Both in the butt and on the fuel readout. It delivers mid-3 litre per hundred economy urban driving. So if your school or daily commute is bumper to bumper, it’s pretty well unbeatable. Efficiency however drops on the open road, especially if the freeway is flowing. Still, our overall average was better than Toyota’s meagre claims and the fuel gauge took 150 km to even budge.


Corolla Hatch Hybrid is a smart, sharp bargain

The Toyota Corolla Xr sedan is easy to live with in other ways too. We enjoyed the intuitive infotainment, dials, and energy flow dioramas on both the dash and centre screen in the sharp and smart cabin. The climate control keeps you fresh and its comfy in there too. Access front and rear is easy, even for physically challenged passengers, but the back is cramped for bigger folk.

But there’s far more to the Corolla Hybrid than just all that. Toyota’s world bestselling badge now offers a broad selection of bargain Hybrid models. Hybrid cars traditionally come at a premium, but at just 555 grand, this petrol electric flagship is a smart, sharp bargain to go with all those hybrid driving plusses. – Michele Lupini

Images & Testing – Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.8 Hybrid Xr
Engine: 103 kW 142+e Nm 1.8-litre petrol I4 + e-motor
Drive: CVT FWD
0-60 km/h:        4.26 sec
0-100 km/h:       9.73 sec
0-120 km/h:       13.70 sec
0-160 km/h:       26.56 sec
400m:             16.9 sec @ 134 km/h
80-120 km/h:      7.03sec
120-160 km/h:     12.86 sec
VMax:             180 km/h
Fuel:             4 l/100 km
CO2:              91 g/km
Range:            1050 km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/6 service 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R555K
RATED:            8
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