ROAD TEST: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

By Shari Prymak

The majority of criticisms thrown at hybrid vehicles are aimed around their high price points. Hybrids have traditionally commanded a sizable price premium over their gas-only equivalents, and that can be a deterrent for some car buyers. Toyota’s hybrid strategy as of late, however, works quite differently. The pioneer of hybrid vehicles has eased into minimizing the price difference between its hybrid and non-hybrid models with the goal of moving towards a more electrified lineup. The Corolla Hybrid is a great example of this, and is currently one of the most attainable hybrid vehicles on the market.

Visually, the Corolla Hybrid largely avoids differentiating itself from the standard Corolla sedan. It maintains the same generally appearance inside and out with only a few badges hinting at its fuel-saving technology. The interior is comfortable with adequate room for a few adults and trunk space that matches that of the gas model. Those looking for a generous amount space in their hybrid, however, would be better served by the roomier Prius. The climate controls and 8 inch touchscreen display are fairly straightforward and easy to use. The infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay, however, Android Auto remains absent.

The Corolla Hybrid uses the same hybrid system found in the Prius. The 1.8L 4-cylinder engine and electric motor come matched to a traditional nickel metal-hydride battery pack rather than a more modern lithium ion setup. Compared to the gas model, the hybrid manages to feel sprightlier and more refined with silent moments of gas-free operation easily achievable in stop-and-go city driving. Fuel economy is very impressive as well with a combined city/highway rating of 4.5L/100km versus about 7.5L/100km for the gas model.

Toyota’s aggressive pricing strategy for its hybrid models has been put to great effect with the Corolla. The starting MSRP of $24,790 represents a $3,000 premium when compared to the Corolla LE CVT, but includes additional features such as smart keyless entry and alloy wheels. A $2,000 Premium Package adds desirable extras such as a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, Softex synthetic leather upholstery, an 8-way power driver’s seat, and wireless smartphone charging. The comparably-equipped gas-powered XLE model surprisingly goes for $200 more than the Premium Package-equipped Hybrid, which helps highlight the Corolla Hybrid’s excellent value proposition.

Much like the RAV4 Hybrid, the Corolla Hybrid seems to be something of a no-brainer within the Corolla family. It offers a pleasing driving experience and exceptional fuel efficiency for a very modest to non-existent price premium over the comparable gas model. The Corolla Hybrid is also about $4,000 to $6,000 cheaper than the more controversial-looking Prius, further highlighting its outstanding value. Helping to bolster the brand’s top-notch reliability record, all Toyota hybrid models come with a 10 year or 240,000km battery warranty, the longest in the industry. What this all means is that there is no longer a disadvantage to going hybrid. And we can thank the humble, unassuming Corolla Hybrid for making that milestone a reality.

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