What is it?
Things aren’t all bad in the UK car industry, this all-new Toyota Corolla a case in point. It’s a British-built family hatchback, which, on first impressions earlier this month on Spanish soil, revealed itself to have true class-leading potential.
A car we should grow to be quite proud of then, and some comeback, too. Remember, this new Corolla replaces the Auris, which was about as uninspiring a car in the class as you could imagine. That car one hand on the wooden spoon in a segment that’s 15-20 models strong, rather than jostling for gold.
We went into great detail on the background to the new Corolla and its dynamic make-up on our recent first drive, which you can read here. Our test car here is also in the range-topping Excel trim, our Corollas sharing a cabin design, trim and spec sheets.
So what’s new for this second appraisal for the Corolla back on home soil after its Spanish holiday is our first chance to test the lower-powered of two the hybrid powertrains on offer, plus the chance for that overhauled new chassis to show its mettle on roads that will really show how good it is. We’ll focus on that here.
What's it like?
The drivetrain in this Corolla is identical to that of the Prius, mixing a 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine with Toyota’s e-CVT hybrid transmission and running gear. The system puts out 120bhp, and offers up to 65mpg on the new WLTP combined cycle and 83g/km CO2 emissions.
So the driving experience is a familiar one from the Prius; not one of excitement, more one that just works with a nice easy-going manner. We were regularly seeing above 50mpg on our mixed roads test route, the car quiet and relaxed in its road manners and regularly switching silently and unobtrusively between hybrid and all-electric power for even quieter short bursts.
There’s a decent amount of torque at step off to make this Corolla quite sprightly over a 0-30mph sprint, before the familiar CVT drone kicks in when you keep asking the engine for more over a mid-high rev range. It runs out of puff a bit here, and the performance gets far more limited and with no driver involvement.
If you’re looking for more involving performance, look elsewhere, most likely towards the as-yet-untested turbo, non-hybrid 1.2 petrol that also gets a manual gearbox.