Twenty years after introducing its first-ever Prius hybrid, Toyota brings gas-electric engineering to its most popular model, the Corolla. Unlike the Prius, which has a polarizing design, the Corolla Hybrid is hard to distinguish from the gas model. At least at first glance. That is great news for shoppers who want top efficiency in a familiar package.
Hybrid technology unites two distinct power sources to motivate a vehicle: a gas engine and an electric motor. The gas engine supplies the most power. But under certain circumstances, such as when cruising or while driving around town, the electric motor may take over. In any case, power travels to the front wheels through a continuously variable or gearless transmission.
A conventional hybrid, such as this Corolla Hybrid, draws its power from the engine and through regenerative braking whereby the system harnesses kinetic energy and stores it in the battery pack. As a result, the Corolla Hybrid averages 52 mpg to the 34 mpg the gas model achieves. After a week of driving, we surpassed expectations, averaging a stunning 57.2 mpg.
An All-New Corolla
The Corolla sedan is the second of two body styles that launched the twelfth-generation Corolla. In 2019, the Corolla line added a hatchback, but no hybrid variant comes with it. Toyota offers the 2021 Corolla in L, LE, LE Hybrid, SE, XLE, and XSE trims. Prices range from $20,025 to $28,310, plus a $955 destination charge.
The new design is the sportiest one yet for Toyota’s compact and roughly parallels the midsize Camry in appearance. Its gaping grille is one of its most noticeable features, along with boomerang headlamps and sharp cutouts at the corners.
The rear is slightly tamer with its narrow wraparound lights and diffuser-like trim. Overall, the look is a vast improvement over the nondescript designs that once defined the Corolla.
Inside, the cabin loses its budget feel with clean surfaces, a wide console, and chrome-like trim. The fabric-trimmed seats are comfortable and look expensive with the quilted diamond pattern. Oddly, you can’t get heated seats, imitation leather, or a power driver’s seat with the hybrid. You do get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, and automatic climate control. A 60/40 split fold-down rear seat provides access to the trunk measuring 13.1 cubic feet.
Tech, Safety, and the Drive
We are happy with the hybrid’s tech offerings, which include Apple CarPlay for navigation and Android Auto (new for 2021). The 8-inch touch-screen display offers a clean interface with ease of use. Other tech features include Bluetooth, two USB ports, Siri Eyes Free, Amazon Alexa compatibility, and an app suite. Six speakers are strategically mounted throughout the cabin, but there is no audio upgrade available.
As for safety offerings, the Corolla Hybrid shines. It has a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, lane centering, and radar cruise control with full stop and go. New this year is standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. This system builds on the eight airbags and automatic stop technology that has kept Toyota a top safety pick for years.
On the road, the Corolla Hybrid offers sufficient step-off acceleration and capable passing power when needed. But this sedan is geared toward preserving fuel and you’ll be prompted by the instrument panel on how to conserve it.
Indeed, it soon becomes a game as you realize every gentle start, careful braking, and judicious use of cruise control aids in improving your real-time mileage numbers. Steering, handling, and braking are nothing better than average, although we give this Toyota props for a comfortable ride.
Toyota Corolla Hybrid Considerations
The Corolla Hybrid costs $3,050 more than the similar LE gas model. But the added expense includes several enhancements, such as high-grade LED headlights, 15-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, Amazon Alexa connectivity, an upgraded instrument cluster, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Great value meets optimum efficiency in the Toyota Corolla Hybrid.
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