Electric ladyland

An electric motor – and better suspension – make Corolla fit for a queen

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HAVE you heard the one about the hybrid that was fun to drive?

Aside from the now sadly discontinued Honda CR-Z, the words ‘fun’ and ‘hybrid’ are about as synonymous with each other as ‘Adele’ and ‘reggae’.

But, with a combination of newly adopted double-wishbone independent rear suspension and an electric motor set-up forcing an additional layer of instantaneous torque as required, the Toyota Corolla Hybrid shows promise … and one that it could keep.

In just over eight weeks of hot summertime inner city and urban commuting, we’re already chuffed with our circa-6.0L/100km parsimony, and with absolutely no effort to be economical at all.

Show the Hybrid a winding, tightly twisting ribbon of ragged road, however, and another side to this car appears, its mood switching from green to red to match the scarlet Wildfire paint.

Far from shirking away from the task, this Corolla’s chassis is right up for it, hunkering down as speeds increase with a neutral, flat attitude over jagged edges that sets the rear axle skipping in lesser versions.

Likewise, around town, with four bods on board, that double wishbone posterior shows its mettle by providing ample cushioning from bumps and humps – and, again, that’s something that the torsion-beam back end in regular Corollas has failed to accomplish in previous tests.

Additionally, our Hybrid is deceptively speedy. With a few thousand clicks under its green belt, 1HK-7VY tears along at a cracking pace once on the move, riding on a wad of torque that just isn’t there in the conventionally powered model. And that’s before pushing the ‘Sport’ button that hurries up that surprisingly alert ‘E-CVT’ continuously variable transmission. We predict some drivers might find themselves with some unexpected fines in the mail before too long.

On the flipside, the steering remains an almost completely feedback-free zone, responding well enough to inputs, but never at all feeling natural or connected.

A propensity to very suddenly weight up mid-turn reveals a tuning inconsistency here, though it never becomes too heavy or unwieldy.

There’s also too much noise from the road, suspension and tyres coming through to the cabin. And the eager, grabby brakes are never quite as smooth as we’d like them to be.

So while this isn’t quite a Golf GTI alternative just yet, there is still plenty for drivers to enjoy.

Fun to drive and cheap to run. Another reason why the Hybrid has already shaped up as the best Corolla sold in Australia in decades. And that’s no joke.

Under a bushel

One of our biggest annoyances with Corolla Hybrid stewardship is that ours looks just like every single other 11th-gen hatchback out there, and – believe us – there are literally tens of thousands of them running around the joint. With the grille’s blue-ringed Toyota logo and the ‘HYBRID’ badge the only real visual differentiation compared to the bread-and-butter version that was Australia’s best-selling passenger car last year, we reckon the company is being just too coy about its best Corolla variant on sale in ages.

TOYOTA COROLLA HYBRID

Date acquired: December 2016 Price as tested: $27,980 This month: 1381km @ 6.5L/100km Overall: 2590km @ 6.0L/100km 100 34 3 3 WEEK 8 34 0 0 6 0 8 1 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY 44 3 3 MOTORWA