The Toyota Corolla is a vehicle that needs little introduction.
In Australia, the Corolla consistently tops the passenger vehicle sales charts, comfortably the Hyundai i30, Kia Cerato and Mazda 3. The Corolla’s volumes in 2021-22 pale compared to the HiLux and RAV4, though.
Part of the Corolla’s recent success is the option of a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, with most competing models still unable to offer similar engine technology at competitive pricing – the upcoming Honda Civic e:HEV is tipped to cost around $50,000 on the road when it arrives this year, for example.
Hybrid versions of the i30 and Cerato don’t exist, and the Mazda 3’s Skyactiv-X compression-ignition powertrain doesn’t offer the same fuel savings as Toyota’s hybrid technology, nor is it any more affordable. Volkswagen’s plug-in hybrid Golf never made it to Australia, either.
For $2000 over the standard petrol version, the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatch ZR Hybrid makes a lot of sense.
At under $35,000 before on-road costs it’s more affordable than top-spec versions of most rivals, it’s also the most efficient of its competitors, and squeezes in quite a lot of kit.
Does it deserve to still be Australia’s favourite passenger car in 2022? Let’s find out.
How much does the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid cost?
Pricing remains unchanged for 2022, though the six-speed manual versions of the Ascent Sport hatchback and sedan were dropped during the course of 2021.
On test we have the flagship 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatch ZR Hybrid, with a list price of $34,695 before on-road costs. Using a Melbourne postcode, that comes to around $36,928 drive-away with standard paint.
Our test car’s Silver Pearl premium paint and contrast black roof add $1350.
2022 Toyota Corolla pricing:
- Toyota Corolla Hatch Ascent Sport: $25,395
- Toyota Corolla Sedan Ascent Sport: $25,395
- Toyota Corolla Hatch Ascent Sport Hybrid: $27,395
- Toyota Corolla Sedan Ascent Sport Hybrid: $27,395
- Toyota Corolla Hatch SX: $28,795
- Toyota Corolla Sedan SX: $28,795
- Toyota Corolla Hatch SX Hybrid: $30,795
- Toyota Corolla Sedan SX Hybrid: $30,795
- Toyota Corolla Hatch ZR: $32,695
- Toyota Corolla Sedan ZR: $34,195
- Toyota Corolla Hatch ZR Hybrid: $34,695
All prices exclude on-road costs
Key rivals include:
- Honda Civic VTI LX: $47,200 D/A
- Hyundai i30 Hatch N Line Premium DCT: $36,220
- Kia Cerato GT: $35,290
- Mazda 3 X20 Astina: $42,390
- Skoda Scala 110TSI Monte Carlo: $37,990 D/A
- Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S: $35,440 D/A
- Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life: $34,450
All prices exclude on-road costs unless specified (D/A)
What do you get?
Corolla ZR highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- JBL sound system (nine speakers in the sedan, eight speakers in the hatch)
- Front sports seats
- Eight-way power driver’s seat
- Leatherette (sedan) or leather/faux suede upholstery (hatch)
- Heated front seats
- Head-up display
- 7.0-inch multi-information display
- Auto-dimming rear view mirror
- Ambient lighting
That’s on top of equipment carried over from the SX and Ascent Sport:
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Satellite navigation
- Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (wired)
- DAB+ digital radio
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Leatherette-wrapped steering wheel and shifter
- Auto-folding wing mirrors
- Keyless entry and start
- Privacy glass
- Climate control (single-zone sedan, dual-zone hatch)
- Wireless phone charging
- Paddle shifters (excludes hybrid)
- 4.2-inch information display
- Six-speaker sound system
- Automatic bi-LED headlights
- Automatic high-beam
- LED daytime running lights and tail lights
- LED fog lights
- 60/40 split-fold rear seats with centre armrest
- Heated, power-folding mirrors
Is the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid safe?
The Toyota Corolla wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted in 2018.
It received an impressive 96 per cent for adult occupant protection, 83 per cent for child occupant protection, 86 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 76 per cent for safety assist.
All Corolla variants come standard with:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane departure warning
- Lane Trace Assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Traffic sign recognition
- Reversing camera
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Driver’s knee airbag
What is the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid like on the inside?
The cabin of the 2022 Toyota Corolla is much the same as when the current generation launched in 2018.
As we’ve noted in previous reviews, the cockpit combines clean, uncluttered design with solid build quality and a good mix of materials.
In ZR guise there’s leatherette-trimmed door elements, similar to those on the dashboard, and the racy bucket-style leather/suede seat trim adds a touch of flair as well – you can even option them in red.
Typical Toyota traits are found here, including the 8.0-inch floating touchscreen, the leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel, and the high-grade 7.0-inch driver’s instrument display found in high-grade Camry and RAV4 models.
While you don’t get in and think “wow, this is plush”, the Corolla’s solid build and decent tactility don’t leave you feeling short-changed.
There’s good adjustment in the steering column and driver’s seat (the latter featuring eight-way power adjustment with lumbar), and the switchgear all feels well laid-out and within reach. It’s very user-friendly, as is generally the Toyota way.
We continue to knock the brand’s standard infotainment, which is well-featured on paper but quite underwhelming in practice. Graphics don’t feel particularly high resolution, loading times are quite laggy, and the overall look and feel lacks the polish of European rivals as well as Mazda.
Storage up front is pretty good, with an array of cubbies, shelves and bins to store your odds and ends. The convenient placement of the wireless phone charger near the USB-A port also means you can hide your phone and cable largely out of harm’s way when using Apple CarPlay.
It’s from the second row the Corolla starts to show its packaging restraints. Legroom is tight even for average-sized adults, though there are air vents and a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders as amenities.
The Corolla also features ISOFIX anchor points on the outboard rear seats, and there’s top-tether points for all three positions. Kid friendly maybe, but if you transport lanky teens often this may not fit the bill.
As for bootspace, the severity of criticism largely depend on which Corolla Hatch variant you choose. If you opt for the ZR Hybrid like we have here, you get 333L courtesy of the lack of spare tyre – instead there’s a tyre repair kit.
While that’s still down on most rivals, opt for any other variant with a spare wheel and you only get a piddly 217L. If carrying a decent amount of cargo is common for you, the Corolla Sedan or a competitor will better serve you.
What’s under the bonnet?
Power in the Corolla Hybrid sees a 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder petrol engine teamed with a 53kW/163Nm synchronous permanent magnet electric motor, for a system power output of 90kW.
Toyota doesn’t quote combined torque figures for its hybrids. It does, however, quote the nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack’s capacity of 6.5Ah.
Drive is sent exclusively to the front wheels via an e-CVT automatic transmission, while fuel use is rated at a frugal 4.2L/100km on the combined cycle using 91 RON regular unleaded.
By comparison, the standard Corolla ZR’s 2.0-litre petrol engine makes a healthier 125kW and 200Nm, though combined fuel use climbs to 6.3L/100km – likely more than that in real-world use. The petrol model’s CVT wears ‘Direct Shift’ branding and has an actual first gear for smoother launches.
On paper, the Corolla Hybrid’s 90kW power output looks pretty meek against rivals, particularly turbocharged alternatives offering up to 150kW. That said, the electrified Corolla’s fuel claim is unmatched in the small car class, other than the spaceship-looking Toyota Prius which shares its hybrid running gear but manages a 3.4L/100km fuel claim.
How does the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid drive?
Like a Corolla Hybrid…
If you’ve read any of our previous Toyota Corolla Hybrid reviews, this next section won’t be much news to you. Regardless, the petrol-electric hatchback impresses with its overall ride and handling balance, though many will find it lacking in grunt.
Based on the TNGA-C architecture, which also underpins the likes of the C-HR crossover, Prius eco car and Lexus UX crossover, the Corolla has been afforded a driving experience that’s infinitely more fun and engaging than previous iterations.
Throw the old idea that Corollas are ‘boring’ out the door, this is actually quite a lovely car to drive. The steering is fluid, predictable and communicative, the chassis hunkered-down and balanced, and the ride pliant enough for daily commuting as well as taut enough to keep body roll in check.
It’s certainly evident this standard Corolla is laying down solid foundations for the upcoming GR hot hatch, likely sharing its three-cylinder turbo and all-wheel drive layout with the smaller GR Yaris rally homologation special. Since my first taste of the current-generation Corolla, I’ve always praised the underpinnings for their potential.
What isn’t so great is the lack of grunt to go with that more athletic feel you get through the seat of the pants. The Corolla Hybrid’s 90kW 1.8-litre drivetrain feels remarkably entry-level in ZR spec.
Get it on flat ground in heavy traffic and the reliance on electric power is quite impressive. With a light right foot you can get up to speeds of around 30-40km/h without firing up the petrol engine. Demand anything reasonable of the drivetrain, however, and you’ll have the e-CVT flare revs into the little engine’s power band, though the note is grumbly and coarse.
I drove the smaller Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid straight after handing the Corolla back with a newer hybrid system, and I was quite amazed at the differences I felt between the two cars. The drivetrain while relatively smooth, cannot match the newer system in the Yaris Cross for fuel economy or EV capability.
We still managed fuel economy in the high fours and low fives during our week of testing despite a skew to freeway driving and hot Melbourne summer weather, but it could be even more efficient if the engine didn’t have to work so hard to do what should be basic daily requirements.
The real shame is that Toyota Australia still doesn’t offer local Corolla Hybrid models with the beefed-up 135kW 2.0-litre hybrid available in overseas markets like Europe, and which also does service in the related Lexus UX250h. Given Australia’s thirst for more grunt and our vast landscape, it would be a much better fit.
A more powerful driveline would also be better suited to the Corolla ZR’s racy looks. Such a sporty and muscular design deserves more performance to match the excellent fundamentals. C’mon Toyota, give us the 2.0-litre hybrid!
My other complaint is road noise, which seems to be consistent across the different Toyota models I’ve tested on this platform.
It’s exacerbated somewhat by the Corolla ZR’s 18-inch wheels and 225/40 low-profile tyres. While they look good and give a more planted feel on the road than models with smaller rims, the tyre roar over rough surfaces is not as good as the class leaders for refinement, such as the Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf.
Toyota’s Safety Sense assistance suite is well featured in all grades but the ZR gets everything the brand has to offer, headlined by AEB with pedestrian (day/night) and cyclist (day) detection, all-speed adaptive cruise control with stop/go function, lane-keep assist with Lane Trace Assist (lane centring) and road sign recognition.
The adaptive cruise control is one of the better Japanese systems I’ve used, which are typically conservative and have a habit of braking every time a vehicle enters the lane ahead regardless of the distance. While others may find the Lane Trace Assist function too intrusive, I personally didn’t mind it for extended freeway stints.
Opting for the SX and ZR grades also brings blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, which come in very handy given the Corolla Hatch’s thick C-pillar and rakish rear end which hinders visibility.
How much does the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid cost to run?
The 2021 Toyota Corolla is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
It requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, with the first four services capped at $180 each.
While one of the cheapest vehicles in its class to service, the Honda Civic is just $125 a pop for the first five visits – though the $10,000 premium in purchase price is a decent buffer.
Fuel consumption is the Corolla Hybrid’s main drawcard. Toyota’s claim of 4.2L/100km couldn’t be matched during our week of testing, but our indicated 5.1L/100km over 330km of mixed driving with a skew to freeways and highways is still class leading.
CarExpert’s Take on the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid
I personally have always been a fan of the latest Corolla, particularly the sexy ZR Hybrid spec.
As a flagship, the Corolla ZR Hybrid offers class-leading efficiency with upmarket design and features, for a relatively reasonable ask when you consider similarly-specced rivals are heading into the $40,000 bracket. It also handles beautifully and is well-equipped to handle daily duties with aplomb.
Several years on from its initial launch, however, the electrified Corolla is getting outgunned by the competition in terms of performance, which will be a sticking point for many. The 2.0-litre hybrid drivetrain in other markets could really turn that around.
The rear seat and boot area are key areas for improvement, though it’s likely you’ll be directed to a RAV4 or soon the Corolla Cross if you’re after more people-carrying and cargo-lugging ability.
If you can live with the tight rear accommodation, lacklustre straight-line performance and dated infotainment, the Corolla is still a great option in the small passenger segment.
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