REVEALED: The best compact sedan budget buy around
Forget fanfare. Abandon flashy. When budget constraints are tightening, the Toyota Corolla Hybrid is the small car for the fiscally responsible.
Sedans have become the automotive equivalent of politicians — there are a lot around but few people want them at home.
SUVs dominate private buyer sales, often leaving the once-loved sedan idle.
Corollas have become folklore in Australia. If your family hasn’t owned a Corolla, one of your friends has.
Yet the humble small car has come a long way, and one of the modern under-bonnet options is the hybrid. Combining petrol power with an electric motor, it’s proven technology which has been honed in the Prius.
No longer to you need to look gawky to be green. Priced from $29,525 drive-away, it’s miserly on the juice and has some of the least expensive servicing around.
Function over fashion. The interior won’t win any beauty contests.
Simplicity is the Corolla ethos but standard features include an eight-inch touchscreen featuring smartphone mirroring apps, 4.2-inch digital driver display, 15-inch alloys, climate control, full Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker sound system and keyless entry.
An additional $1000 will secure in-built satnav and digital radio — but with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay you can use Google Maps, while digital radio rarely works outside metropolitan areas.
Toyota has adopted the now mainstream standard of a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Ongoing maintenance costs are about as good as it gets, with servicing $180 every year or 15,000km for the first five times you return to the dealer.
Internally black is the only colour option, and white is the only external hue that doesn’t attract a $516 premium. Metallic options are silver, white, grey, black, along with two shades of red and blue.
High marks for occupant protection, including 96 per cent protection for adults and 84 per cent for children, were achieved in ANCAP crash testing on the way to a five-star rating.
Life-saving technology isn’t optional — across the range the Corolla has an emergency braking system that can alert the driver and help stop the car if a collision with a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian is detected.
Other highlights include radar cruise control, lane departure warning and a steering assist function which maintains the car within clearly painted lines, road sign assist to keep a constant eye on speed zones along with automatic dimming high beam.
Hard-wearing cloth trim and widespread use of hard plastic are indicative of the Ascent Sport’s range positioning.
Ample leg, head and knee room is delivered en masse — impressive for a small car. Not unlike some rivals, the sedan has a big car feel, almost like a Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon of the early days.
Other variants in the range have larger tyres, but the smaller rubber offers a cushioned and quiet ride even on coarse bitumen.
Storage and user-friendliness are high on the Corolla’s agenda. Good cup-holders in the console ensure the liquid gold of a takeaway coffee remains safe, while the front door bins can handle 700ml bottles and up to 500ml in the back.
There is only one USB and a solitary auxiliary port in the front — awkwardly placed under the dash.
Toyota has been one of the last to introduce the smartphone mirroring apps, but they provide a modern touch to a basic infotainment system which collectively needs little explanation and is easy to operate.
Toyota’s hybrids require no special input from the driver, nor is there a need to plug them into a power source.
This combines the might of a four-cylinder engine that runs on standard unleaded with an electric motor. The two work cohesively and operate in isolation or collectively.
Responsive off the line, the little sedan performs better than the specification sheet numbers suggest. It’s nothing to inspire the boy racers, yet most will find the performance zippy and more than adequate — whether dissecting the city, cruising around town or loping along the highway.
The cushy ride and light steering leads to body roll with too much cornering enthusiasm. Performance prowess is not on most Corolla Hybrid buyers’ agenda.
Official fuel consumption figures can be rubbery (most often the wrong way for buyers), but over more than 500km we managed an average of 3.1 litres/100km. With unleaded prices hovering about $1/litre, that’s on par with an electric vehicle.
Getting from A to B is the priority without breaking the budget, and I’m backing a brand with an enviable reputation for reliability. The circa $1280 premium over the base petrol model makes the hybrid a no-brainer.
Greener electric dreams are on the horizon, although the funds are yet to meet the ambition. This reduces my carbon footprint without the requirement for gawky futuristic design or the stress or a plug-in.
SUBARU XV HYBRID AWD $39,355 D/A
Recently joining the range, this Impreza-based XV compact crossover offers in-vogue styling and a touch of off-road appeal. It’s a sizeable investment over the Corolla, powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cyl boxer, 110kW/ 196Nm; electric motor, 12.3kW/66Nm. Fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km.
HYUNDAI IONIQ HYBRID ELITE $39,020 D/A
Only available in hatch format, and one of three green Ioniq offerings. This hybrid set-up matches the Corolla, with a 1.6-litre 4-cyl petrol engine and an electric motor offering a combined output of 104kW/265Nm. Sipping 3.4L/100km.
There is no better small car for those chasing cheap running costs. The self-charging technology means no fuss in a common sense sedan which prioritises smarts over chic.
AT A GLANCE
TOYOTA COROLLA HYBRID ASCENT SPORT
PRICE $29,525 drive-away (great deal for a hybrid)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5yrs/u’ltd km, services $900 for 5 yrs (brilliant)
ENGINE 1.8-litre 4-cyl, electric motor, 90kW/163Nm (zippy)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, active cruise, lane-keep assist, speed sign recognition, auto high beam (great)
THIRST 3.5L/100km (3.1 on test, miserly)
SPARE Space-saver (not great, but expected)
BOOT 470L, rear seats fold (fine)