Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
In what seems like a blink of an eye, Toyota has popularised hybrid technology and propelled it as a genuine choice for mainstream buyers.
What was once the domain of the taxi industry and environmentalists is now a desirable proposition for the rest of us. This is largely because Toyota has developed hybrid powertrains to the point of delivering excellent real-world economy and is deploying said tech across its line-up.
Along with the trailblazing Prius range and the Corolla we are testing here, Toyota has hybrid versions of the Camry and C-HR for sale with a Kluger on the way. Rumour has it the next-generation LandCruiser will also feature a hybrid powertrain.
When it comes to the Corolla, we are already fans of the hybrid hatch having driven it last year. For this review, we are piloting the 2020 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid sedan which is priced from $29,735 plus on-road costs.
What’s immediately obvious is the styling, the sedan isn’t as good looking as the hatch variant. While it’s subjective, the hatch’s sharper rear lines present a more aesthetically pleasing design.
So what does the sedan offer? It’s a simple question with a simple answer – space. With a larger footprint to work with, the packaging is superior to the hatch in every way.
The sedan enjoys a 2700mm wheelbase compared to the 2640mm in the hatch which translates to more leg and headroom in the second row. Then there’s the capacity of the boot, the sedan offers 470 litres of cargo space, a significant jump from the hatch's 333 litres.
From the front seats, the minimalist layout is identical to that found in the hatch. Even with the absence of colour, it looks decisively modern, as it should being a 2020 model. Our only complaint is the lack of storage solutions, both the glovebox and centre armrest cubby are shallow which will prove annoying on longer drives.
Settling into the driver’s seat is easy, there’s plenty of adjustment to ensure the perfect position is quickly attainable. In typical Toyota fashion, everything feels tightly screwed together with a nice mix of hard-wearing fabrics and soft-touch plastics.
Toyota’s latest infotainment system is greatly improved when compared to its last generation set-up, though most drivers will never appreciate it given how convenient it is to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Before setting off, the trip computer indicated the full tank would allow us to cover 1014km. A remarkable number given the size of the car and its 43L tank.
The hybrid powertrain isn't just chasing efficiency, it’s also refined. The hybrid uses battery power to start and take off and when needed, the petrol engine gently kicks in without any fanfare. When in full swing there is very little cabin noise, even on the highway.
Everything is smooth, even the CVT automatic is composed and free from the indecisive tendencies that haunt dual-clutch rival models. There’s a natural feel to every input that will be appreciated by those wanting a comfortable ride.
Like most new Toyotas, the Corolla sedan is livelier to drive than the brand’s older models. The brand has undergone an awakening and the TNGA platform has inspired engineers to pay more attention to handling and body control. The result is a Corolla that feels more purposeful and planted when cornering.
Same goes for the suspension, extensive work has been done to find the sweet spot between comfort and sport. The ride makes this Corolla handle like it’s two generations removed from the previous model.
In terms of performance, in total, the hybrid propulsion system produces 90kW which looks underdone on paper, yet it’s never found wanting in real-world driving. It delivers more than enough straight-line shove. For those demanding more power, there’s talk of a GR Corolla joining the upcoming GR Yaris in the coming years.
After a very comfortable week of using the Corolla as a family transporter, we covered 800km and returned an incredible 4.0L/100km which is within striking distance of the claimed 3.5L/100km.
We should mention every Corolla hybrid sedan comes with automatic LED headlights, tail-lights and daytime running lights, alloy wheels, keyless entry and push-button start, and an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Also standard is the Toyota Safety Sense package with autonomous emergency braking with daytime and night-time pedestrian, and daytime cyclist detection, road sign assist, auto high-beam, active cruise control and lane-keeping assist. As was expected, ANCAP has awarded the Corolla sedan a five-star safety rating.
The mid-spec SX model we are testing here adds a premium three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters, wireless smartphone charging, satellite navigation, DAB digital radio and blind-spot monitoring.
SX variants have all the good gear as standard, the only notable omission is a proper set of rear air vents, something we consider essential during an Australian summer.
From an ownership perspective, the Corolla needs to be serviced every 12 months or 15,000km, whatever comes first. The first four services are capped at $175 each.
Toyota backs all its cars with five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty coverage. This can be extended to seven years for the engine and transmission if cars undergo scheduled log-book servicing.
The warranty for hybrid batteries can be extended to 10 years/unlimited kilometres with an annual hybrid health inspection carried out as part of normal 12-monthly servicing from the fifth year.
When shopping for a Corolla sedan the hybrid version of the SX asks only $1500 more than the straight petrol model. Given the refined cabin experience and low consumption, it’s a no-brainer.
While it can’t match the hatch’s looks, the Corolla sedan is better packaged and remains nice to drive both in town and on the open road. By a notable margin, it’s a better car than the one it replaces and showcases just how far Toyota’s hybrid technology has come.
2020 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid Sedan Specifications
Price from $29,735 plus on-road costs Engine 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid Power 90kW Torque 163Nm Transmission CVT automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 3.5L/100km Tank Capacity 43L Length 4630mm Width 1780mm Height 1435mm Wheelbase 2700mm Kerb Weight 1385kg Turning Circle 10.6m Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty five year/unlimited kilometre