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Byron Shire
September 28, 2021

Road test: Toyota Corolla Hybrid ZR: $31,920

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The 2018 Corolla hybrid being road-tested in Byron. Photo supplied

Jim Beatson

Is this the best Toyota Corolla model ever of the 45 million sold around the world since it first arrived in 1967?

Answer: Yes. Our road-test vehicle, the top-of-the-range Corolla model the ZR Hybrid, is a quick car and looks like one. The entry-level Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid is $25,870.

Since its debut, the Corolla has been the biggest-selling passenger small car on the market. But in the last few years, its rivals from Mazda and Hyundai have upstaged this well-designed, reliable, albeit not-too-exciting, small car.

With this complete redesign, all has changed. Toyota dealers are feeling pretty smug. Our own Corolla Hybrid is cause for extra smugness. Alongside its 1.8L four-cylinder petrol engine, there is an all-electric hybrid power unit. This generates extra electric storage power every time you put on the brakes or go down a hill (during which the petrol motor actually turns off). The transition from motor power to pure electric is so seamless that this driver and his sensitive co-pilot never noticed.

Why buy a hybrid? Economy. At each level in the Corolla range, there is a hybrid version costing only $1,500 more than the petrol-only version. Most hybrid owners say they save about $2,000 a year in reduced fuel consumption. That’s $20,000 over a decade.

Toyota pioneered hybrids, starting with their Prius model back in 1997. From the start, they were very reliable.

The new Corolla is lower, wider, and longer than before, with a sleek front end and a lower bonnet than its predecessor. Apart from looks, this adds to its fuel efficiency. On the trip to and around Brisbane and back, the car averaged 4.1 litres per hundred kilometres.

A round trip from Byron to Ballina in the Corolla hybrid used 3.6L/100km – or just shy of 80 mpg in the old money. Australia’s most recent best-selling vehicle is the thirsty Toyota Hilux, using 11.1L/100km.

The Corolla’s complete overhaul of driver aids is impressive. Seven airbags; a front radar system automatically slowing the car to a stop or increasing the gap between you and the car in front. The fabulous heads-up display subtly projects onto the windscreen, showing actual speed and local speed restrictions, fully adaptive cruise-control settings, with flashing road-lane images plus beeps if you move too close to your lane’s edge or someone comes too close to you.

The centre dashboard screen display is big and easily read. It includes GPS, reversing camera, automatic Bluetooth connection to your mobile, cordless charging, plus high-quality multi-speaker DAB radio audio system.

Older drivers who didn’t transition easily to the computer age might find the many steering wheel and dashboard controls difficult at first.

Its accurate, smooth steering and lovely handling are generating rave reviews in most car magazines. This top-of-the-range ZR test car came with body-hugging seats, and 18-inch alloys with low-profile grippy tyres.

Criticism of the Corolla is limited to its boot size being smaller than rival vehicles’. I found the adaptive cruise control system slow to set on the test car.

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