1.7.2019Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid review
Toyota has brought back the Corolla name to British models, and with it a new hatchback, saloon, or estate powered by either a petrol engine or a choice of two hybrids. Here we test the Corolla Touring Sports, Toyota's compact estate, to see how it does when fitted with the 1.8 litre hybrid powertrain.
Review by Chris Lilly
Pitched as alternatives for diesel units, Toyota's hybrid technology is well established and popular with buyers. The 1.8 litre hybrid system on offer here is found elsewhere in the Toyota range, and produces 122hp with 142 Nm of torque available. Also available are a 1.2 litre petrol turbo and a more powerful 2.0 litre hybrid. This mid-range option offers performance times of 9.6 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint, while it will top out at 121mph. Mated to an CVT transmission, there are no gears to deal with, but with it comes the familar issue for those that enjoy driving. Acceleration brings with it an increase in engine noise with little noticeable thrust forward, before settling down once up to speed. It's efficient, but not very enjoyable. That said, a great number of Toyota hybrids have been sold, so it clearly isn't an issue for a large number of buyers. Drive the Corolla efficiently and the CVT barely increases in pitch, with gentle acceleration making the best use of the hybrid system. Bury your right foot on the throttle and a drone will come from up front as the Corolla picks up speed. Pottering around town or sitting at a motorway pace, the transmission is either relying on the grunt from the electric motor or is settled nicely at speed. As such, the transmission is quiet and engine noise barely noticeable - it's a very refined car in these circumstances. Put the Corolla down a country road - particularly an undulating one - and the regular changes in engine load mean the transmission will certainly make its presence felt. It's not the most enjoyable set-up then, but it works well, and there can be few complaints about performance considering this version is pitched as a practical and frugal model.
Toyota continues the theme with the Corolla's handling set-up. The steering is light and easy to use, with tight junctions, car parks, and urban routes dealt with easily. It drives well, with precise responses to inputs and a well-balanced set-up. Like the performance section above, if you start to push on, the Corolla Touring Sports gets out of its comfort zone. While it's perfectly able to be driven down a winding country road in a hurry, you would be much better off with rival options should this be a regular occurrence. The weight in the steering and the relative lack of feedback through the wheel mean this is a car best suited for a relaxed driving style. The benefit of this is that the Corolla Touring Sports offers a pretty refined ride. Because of the extra length afforded it over the hatch and saloon, the Touring Sports is very comfortable eating up motorway miles, and settles down to a cruise nicely. Likewise, there is enough give in the springs to make light work of rough surfaces at slower speeds. It's comfortable and easy to drive with precision.
The design might not be to everyone's tastes - there's an awful lot to grille up front for example - but I like the Corolla's design as a whole. The hatch looks taughter and a little better than the estate tested, but even the Touring Sports looks coherent and sharply styled. Toyota's current design language shines through, with angular, edgy details on every surface. It can certainly not be described as bland. It does have a detrimental effect to rear visibility however, with the rear window being quite shallow when sitting in the driver's seat. It's not sportscar-levels of rear visibility, but rival efforts have a larger view out back. There is a reversing camera to mitigate this to a degree however. Longer than the hatch and saloon, there is naturally more load space than the rest of the Corolla range. The boot isn't amongst the largest in its class, but it's a good size for those wanting a bit more room than a conventional hatch. There's a false floor fitted for either a flat load area or greater space, and the load area is a practical shape, with two large cubby holes behind the wheel arches. Passengers got a good level of leg room in the rear, and head and shoulder room is pretty decent too.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Toyota has moved on from offering a hybrid in place of diesel engines, to offering two hybrid options. Such is its commitment to hybrid technology, there is a conventional 1.8 litre hybrid tested, plus a more powerful 2.0 litre set-up. The model driven has the highest fuel economy ratings of the Corolla Touring Sports range, with up to 62.7 MPG quoted on the WLTP tests. To say that the hybrid systems have been developed so that they work would be an understatement. Although WLTP tests are far more accurate than the previous NEDC system, it's still tough to achieve the official results. However, by the end of my time with the Toyota, I'd averaged 62 MPG after more than 600 miles driven. I'd happily say that the additional 0.7 MPG is achievable with a tiny bit of careful driving. As it is, the trip computer's economy score was achieved after covering a variety of roads and conditions.
The hybrid powertrain uses a compact battery to store energy that would otherwise be lost under braking, or to be charged when the engine is under low load. It means that the electric motor fitted to the Corolla Touring Sports can kick in during stop/start procedures, or under high load to ease the strain on the engine. There's a D mode for normal driving, and a B mode to boost the level of battery charging available. This latter model will either work the engine a little harder when it's not under load to charge the hybrid system, or increase the braking strength of the regen system. Toyota has also fitted a drive mode select system to allow drivers to pick Sport, Normal, Comfort, or Eco settings. The Atkinson-cycle engine has been worked on to improve efficiency, with a number of low friction parts and materials used. According to our calculations, the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 23
Trims on offer provide a good level of kit. All models get LED headlights, Toyota Touch 2 infotainment system DAB, 16-inch alloys, reversing camera, heated front seats, and dual-zone air conditioning. Moving up from Icon to Icon Tech tested adds Toyota Touch with Go for satellite navigation and voice control, seven-inch driver display, and parking sensors with park assist. Move further up the range to Design or Excel trim and features such as 17-inch or 18-inch alloys are fitted, automatic wipers, part-leather trim, smart entry, auto-dimmig rear view mirror, and sports front seats are added. Options include an opening panoramic roof, bi-tone paint finish, and eight-speaker JBL stereo.
It's got to the stage now where the hybrid technology doesn't make much of a different for Toyota buyers. Most pick it because it's the most efficient powertrain in the line-up, and now Corolla buyers have the choice of two hybrid models. Those against it can opt for the conventional turbo petrol, but sales show that most stick what what will cost less to run. The Corolla Touring Sports is a comfortable and refined compact estate, which will prove popular with those wanting a bit of added practicality over a hatchback, but who want to retain the efficiency that a hybrid powertrain brings.
Model tested: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid Icon Tech
Engine / CO2: 122hp petrol hybrid / 76 g/km
Trim grades: Icon, Icon Tech, Design, Excel
On-road price: From £22,575. Price as tested:£26,075
Warranty: Five years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars