23 November 2018

Toyota Corolla 2018 Car Review

This latest Corolla launched here in September 2018, and it’s a handsomer car than Corollas have been for some time, certainly when viewed from the pavement.


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Toyota Corolla 2018
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Toyota Corolla 2018
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Toyota Corolla 2018
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Toyota Corolla 2018
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Toyota Corolla 2018

Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that a hybrid model variant would sell at a lower price than the conventional petrol version of the same model. It would have been equally unbelievable that any manufacturer would sell a hybrid which wasn’t loaded with fancy features. After all, at the price which early adopters paid for hybrid cars, one expected plenty of extras too.

Oh how times have changed, for we swapped an entry-spec Toyota Corolla GX hybrid hatch for a top-spec ZR petrol hatch, the latter costing more – the GX hybrid asking a $3000 premium over a petrol GX, while the ZR hybrid incurs just a $1000 difference.

And there’s very little visible difference between hybrids and plain petrols. The GX hybrid and petrol cars have 16-inch alloy wheels of the same pattern, the ZR features handsome 18-inchers. The dimensions are the same, the brakes are the same – the main differences aren’t visible, for example the petrol is rated for towing, the hybrid isn’t, and the latter has a smaller fuel tank, which makes sense when you consider that overall, it drinks less petrol.

Other than that, the features of these two test cars simply reflect the different specification levels. So the ZR has blind spot monitoring and lane departure alert, the GX doesn’t. The ZR has a premium audio system with eight speakers, the GX has a plainer one, with six. The ZR’s sports seats are clad in contrast-stitched leather, the GX’s standard pews in fabric, the ZR’s get lumbar support and heating, the GX’s come without. And so it goes – but the spec goes with the model designation, not the powerplant.

Both get the likes of hands-free phone capability with mobile assistance for using Siri or Google, presumably because there are safety advantages, and both get voice recognition.

Nowadays hybrids are simply another propulsion option, with no automatic assumption about buyer status, and very little effect on price.

As for the interiors, the rear seats are disappointingly compact, smaller than this Corolla’s predecessor and unlikely to please growing teens.

Most notably, up front both cars feature a large touch screen in the centre dash top which dominates the interior view. There are remarkably few buttons and knobs – the modern trend is to site as much as possible within the screen menus, to render a simpler dash and wheel. It makes the space look cleaner and less cluttered, though how the designers integrated that laudably large screen in Corolla seems a little clumsy – almost as if it’s been glued there.

But that’s only from a visual point of view. It’s easy to reach, easy to use, and above all large, and as close to a driver’s eye line as is possible – you barely have to flick your eyes down.

The driving experience is also easy. As usual, you can ignore the hybrid system and simply leave the car to it. This Corolla’s not a rocketship, but then it’s not designed as one. It gets up, goes, stops and handles faultlessly, and the CVT responds more briskly than early iterations did, at real-world speeds. That said, as with any car using electricity for propulsion, it’s at its perkiest off the line, the quoted power figures for the petrol-only engine not really an accurate reflection of how it performs when the electric system comes into play.

Also notable is the fact the hybrid cuts fuel use most around town, so this car is more frugal on petrol in traffic jams than on the open highway, especially noticeable given our tester’s commute – which takes in a wide variety of roads, from city to highway, urban to rural, and which includes a few steep hills.

Hopping out of the hybrid into the petrol was interesting, if nothing else because the ZR naturally felt pricier, thanks to the leather wrapping the seats, the extra features, and this gorgeous hue, which almost glowed in the sunshine – and enhanced the car’s attractive design in a way our hybrid tester’s white did not: no wondered we were told it’s proving popular.

Our test took a real-world focus – no race-tracks or acceleration testing for us, as buyers rarely if ever drive like that. So immediately noticeable was the fact the hybrid pulls more strongly off the line, while the petrol quite naturally feels a little livelier at open road speeds.

However, it also drank quite a bit more fuel, especially noticeable round town, or when swooping up and down the rolling hilltops west of Auckland, where the hybrid was often in electric mode – coasting downhill and using momentum up.

Toyota claims a thirst of 4.0l/100km for the hybrid during urban running and 4.4l/100km on the highway for 4.2 overall, with the petrol at 7.5, 5.1 and 6.0, respectively. But we conducted many of our sub-70km/h hybrid drives and most of our urban ones while using under 2.0l/100, thirst only climbing when open-road speeds came into play. Our overall figure was impressively close to the claim, a testament to how efficient hybrids are at making the most of the tech.

The petrol engine, however, used more than the claim, no doubt due to the relatively high proportion of hilly driving.

Given how small the premium between petrol and hybrid is at ZR-spec levels, we’d recommend stretching to the up-spec hybrid Corolla if your budget can stretch that far. Just be sure first than any kids you transport won’t be too cramped in that back seat…

At a glance

Models

Toyota Corolla GX hybrid, Corolla ZR petrol

Engine

1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid, 2.0-litre four-cylinder DOHC petrol

Price

$32,990 (GX hybrid), $37,490 ZR petrol

ANCAP safety rating

5

Power and Torque

 72kW at 5200rpm, 142Nm at 3600rpm (hybrid), 125kW at 6600rpm, 200Nm at 4800rpm (petrol)

Transmission

CVT

Fuel economy

4.2l/100km combined (hybrid), 6.0l/100 combined (petrol) 

Towing capacity

Not rated (hybrid), 1300kg (petrol)

2WD/4WD/AWD

2WD Front Wheels

Seating capacity

5

Luggage capacity/payload

294 litres (rear seat up – 208 under tonneau) plus 88 litres under deck board

Safety systems

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking 
  • Lane Tracking Assist including lane departure alert, lane centering, steering assist and sway warning
  • Auto high beam
  • Road sign assist
  • Blind Spot Monitor
  • Active cornering assist
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