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Our hybrid hatch draws murmurs of approval – but not from the powers that be - 4 March 2020
have decided to call it the Corolla murmur. Although it’s really more of a “mmmm…”. That, as best I can describe, is the vocal reaction of most people to a trip in the Toyota Corolla. It’s normally accompanied by a polite, relatively subtle nod of the head.
It’s a delayed reaction. When friends, family and colleagues first clamber into the Corolla, there’s little to no reaction. So I wait. It might take 10 minutes. Maybe half an hour. But eventually there’s an “mmmm”.
In an industry often preoccupied with chasing emotion, the Corolla murmur is befitting of the car itself: not wildly exciting but genuinely pleasant and hugely likeable. I’ve driven cars that draw more effusive praise, more wide-eyed wonder. But few have been met with such universally good-natured warmth.
Except it seems that not everyone has the same love for the Corolla – or at least for its hybrid powertrain. Because, as you probably know, the UK government has decided hybrids such as the Corolla should join petrol and diesel engines as bad things that people shouldn’t buy.
The ban, likely to be introduced in around a decade, is part of a plan for the UK to reach net zero CO2 emissions. Given that hybrids still emitCO2, it makes some sense. It’s easier to cut CO2 if you stop people from buying cars that emit CO2.
Except, of course, it’s an analogue solution to a nuanced issue. Electric cars may not emit CO2 when in motion, but how green they are really depends on how they are built and how the electricity powering them is generated. This is a hugely wide-ranging issue but, given the current rate of progress with EVs, there’s a decent chance most people in the UK will be buying them by the time the ban kicks in anyway. But of concern is what the ban means for those looking to buy a car now, and it relates to the Corolla murmur.
A few of my family are considering buying a new car in the next year or so, and they’re confused. As well as picking what size and type of car they want, they’re faced with a multitude of powertrain options. Instead of simply choosing between petrol and diesel, there are now hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars, all with different strengths and weaknesses, all raising questions and concerns, both real and imagined.
Those of us who follow the industry closely might forget that, for many, electric cars have long been a slightly ethereal, future-gazing concept. Yet, suddenly, electric cars are here and, suddenly, people are being told they should buy them. But not everyone is ready, because they still can’t comprehend whether an EV would work for them. A few of my family say they’re just not ready to buy anything that needs plugging in because they don’t want the hassle of installing a charging point and they don’t really understand the public charging network.