LA Auto Show 2018: Toyota breeds new hybrids



At LA the Japanese looked focused on doing what they do best. For Toyota, that meant rolling out new hybrids 

LOS ANGELES, USA —The new Toyota Corolla showed up in the USA in early November (and at the Guangzhou motor show, where its global launch took place). That left the LA show to provide the setting for the launch of this, the Corolla Hybrid.

It’s the first time a petrol-electric version of the car has ever rolled into the US, and it lifts heavily from the Prius, borrowing its 1.8-litre engine and twin motor/generator setup, but uses a different nickel metal hydride battery. The power pack’s denser storage capacity means it lives cosily under the rear seats, saving space for the boot.

Toyota says it’s targeting 4.7L/100km under US fuel economy testing standards from 121hp hybrid system.

What’s interesting about the new Corolla in general is that it’s been harmonised for global markets, but has split into two variants: a posher-looking Prestige version that’s headed for Europe and China, as well as a Sporty version for North America, Japan, China (where it’s called the Levin) and… Singapore, most likely.

That means if you like the look of the Corolla you see here, that’s good news for Toyota and its fans in our country. Its slim lights and large lower grille, along with new proportions (marginally longer and wider, but 45mm lower), make the new Corolla more aggressive than the current model by far.

A 1.6-litre engine with 130hp should be what we get, paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that has 10 pre-set speeds to mimic close-ratio gearbox.

Built on the Toyota New Global Architecture C platform, it should offer tauter handling and a well-controlled ride, with an improvement in refinement. Installing more sound-absorbing material help engineers make it quieter, too.

While the Corolla Hybrid might be thought of as a sort of Prius sedan (since they now share the same platform), the hybrid icon itself has been refreshed for 2019. It gets new battery tech (namely a smaller, lighter pack), but also a facelift that tones down some of the current car’s more dramatic features.

Gone are the quirky front headlamps, with slim, straightforward items in their place. The front bumper also looks tamer, leading up to a higher nose. At the back, the lightning bolt shaped lamps have been deleted in favour of more horizontal lamps that visually widen the rear.

The reason you’re seeing a Prius with a luggage rack and snowboards on the roof? In some markets the car gains all-wheel drive as an option, with a small electric motor driving the rear wheels a la Toyota’s E-Four system.

That’s the same set-up that underpins the new RAV4 Hybrid, which also made its US debut at LA. It has a 2.5-litre petrol-electric drivetrain for the front wheels and a motor for the rear, giving 211hp to the driver to play with.

Toyota says driving modes such as “mud and sand” and “rock and dirt” should make the new RAV4 more capable off-road.

There’s a pure petrol, 2.5-litre version with conventional all-wheel drive, but the only sure model for Singapore will be the 2.0-litre front-drive version, with 173hp and a CVT.

The new RAV4 is also built on TNGA bones, and is slightly (-10mm) lower as a result. It’s also had 5mm trimmed from its length (to 4,600mm) but 10mm wider (at 1,855mm). The wheelbase has grown 30mm to 2,690mm, so the cabin should be roomier than before.

Of the three new cars featured at LA, our best guess is that you’ll see the RAV4 in Singapore first. The new Corolla only goes into production next year, so it’s likely to appear here in the second half of next year.

Meanwhile Toyota and authorised distributor Borneo Motors will want something to headline the upcoming Singapore Motor Show, and a facelifted Prius would guess less attention than an all-new RAV4. Our prediction? Expect the new SUV to make its debut at the Singapore show at Suntec. 

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.