Toyota Corolla Hybrid Excel: long-term test review

1 Dec, 2019 11:00am Darren Wilson

First report: our new Toyota Corolla Hybrid Excel impresses as it arrives on our fleet

Verdict

4
It's early days with our Corolla, but we can already tell it’s a world away from the old Toyota Auris. The first impressions are good – it’s nice to drive and economical – although time will tell if there is a price to pay.

Mileage: 3,647

Goodbye CR-V, hello Corolla. I’ve switched hybrids, but not like-for-like. The intention in downsizing is to see how my family adapts to a smaller, lighter hybrid vehicle and see what effect the compact Toyota has on our fuel economy figures in London (and further afield). I’ve high hopes.

The Corolla won Affordable Hybrid of the Year in our 2019 New Car Awards, so fingers crossed it can win over my lot. It’s certainly off to a decent start with its appearance.

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Many years ago I ran a silver Toyota Auris on our fleet and found it perfectly capable, but incredibly dull. It was like motoring’s equivalent to the grey John Major puppet in the Spitting Image series from the eighties.

This new Corolla has none of that about it; it’s much more interesting both inside and out, with sharper lines, 18-inch alloys and a decent-looking back end. I love the denim blue colour and metallic finish (£545), while the mix of black and chrome trim lifts it from some of Toyota’s blander designs without straying into the polarising look of the Prius

The cabin is simple and clean, with materials that mirror the outside: more polished black panels, metal edging and some lovely curved lines in the doors that lead up the straight horizontal that runs right across the dash, making the cabin feel wider. It’s all well thought out, too. Most of the buttons and details like the red stitching look and feel of a high quality (although I’m not convinced by the cheaper-looking plastic gearshift paddles).

After six months in an SUV, the space available in the Corolla means we’ll have to make some compromises. The back seats are comfortable enough, but legroom is definitely going to be tight for my two six-foot boys.

Load space is even tighter, because the hybrid system’s battery takes up a massive chunk of the boot capacity. That forces the floor to be lifted upwards, so when we’re shopping at the supermarket it’s a struggle to slip an overfilled ‘bag for life’ below the parcel shelf. Packing luggage for any family breaks could prove to be an interesting task, as will be the drum kit challenge come my youngest son’s next gig. 

I’ve only just got the keys, but the one long journey so far was a 400-mile round trip to see my in-laws in Lincolnshire. I found the Corolla comfortable and steady on the motorway, but with enough power to overtake the slower lorries in the crawler lanes without any real fuss. The EV mode regularly kicked in on the flat or heading downhill and the dash display ticked up to a decent 48mpg, but it’s too soon to give our proper ‘on test’ economy figure. Away from the motorway our car was surprisingly fun on the twisty roads across Lincolnshire.

The sat-nav system was easy to use, too, but the constant beeps for speed cameras were annoying so I switched them off.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Key specs

  • Model: Toyota Corolla 2.0 VVT-i Hybrid Excel
  • On fleet since: October 2019
  • Price new: £29,075
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl & e-motor, 178bhp
  • CO2/tax: 89g/km/£135
  • Options: Metallic paint (£545)
  • Insurance: Group: 21 Quote £472
  • Mileage/mpg: 3,647/N/A
  • Any problems: None so far