The age of the electrified car is finally dawning, after years of false starts, and the Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid might be the one that’ll do it for Japanese cars.
Why? Hybrids are proven technology these days, with even taxi and ride-sharing companies getting wise to their fuel-sipping nature.
Nonsense! you say. The Prius has been around for decades. Everywhere you go you see Toyota C-HR and Honda Vezel petrol-electrics.
It’s a little hard to believe, but the Corolla Hybrid is the most affordable and, emphasis here, officially-imported Japanese hybrid around.
The above-mentioned small hybrid SUVs are very popular, but only available as grey imports, while the official lineup’s Prius+ MPV is keenly priced at S$123,888 with COE, the Corolla Altis Hybrid is slightly cheaper at S$120,888 with COE, while the hybrid icon Prius is an eye-watering S$155,888 with COE due to its C2 Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) penalty.
The Corolla Altis Hybrid, at S$120,888 with COE, is the range-topping Corolla – the 1.6 Elegance (above, in white) retails for S$102,888 with COE, and the Standard model, S$94,888 with COE.
You’ll definitely want to read our review of the 1.6-litre Elegance model first to get a low down on all the evolution the new Corolla does. Notably, the 12-th gen Corolla uses the new TNGA platform first seen on the Prius, and the hybrid nicks all of its internals from the Prius too.
WATCH MORE: Our video review of the Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6 and 1.8 Hybrid
Externally, the special blue-grey paint, blue Toyota badges, blue headlight accents, and hybrid stickers will clue you in to the Hybrid’s nature.
The new Corolla is tremendously smooth, and the hybrid system emphasises that fact further. Creeping around town in near silence it’s almost akin to driving a battery-electric vehicle (BEV).
As typical of a Toyota hybrid, any juggling between petrol and electric power, or combining both, is utterly seamless and pleasing to the driver – hit the gas, get acceleration, no stuttering, jerking, or any such nonsense.
The added weight of the battery pack under the rear seat, and the electrics (the hybrid is 95kg heavier than the sedan, at 1,410kg) seems to calm down the Corolla’s ride even further, and add more stability in corners. The boot space looks to be identical to that of the regular sedan’s (475-litres), but we’re awaiting confirmation on the official figures.
Besides the hybrid system, the range-topping Corolla has an electrically-adjustable passenger seat, a heads-up display (HUD), an electric/auto handbrake, and drive modes (PWR/ECO).
It otherwise has the same interior features as the standard car, including the new 6.4-inch instrument display, and a new 7.0-inch infotainment system with screen mirroring – read our review of the Elegance model to find out more.
But where your money really goes is into the hybrid system, and it works the usual Toyota hybrid magic. The claimed efficiency is 4.4L/100km, but we obtained 4.1L/100km in mixed town/highway driving, even with photoshoots thrown in – that spells for 1,097km on a single tank – and we’re confident normal people can achieve similar.
With that, the Altis makes the Prius pretty much obsolete here, it’s not only more refined, but is nicer to drive daily. The Prius is probably still more efficient – you can get sub-3.0L/100km if you drive judiciously – but it has a far higher price, as stated.
If you’re contemplating the stretch from the normal 1.6 Elegance model of Corolla, the S$18k difference certainly isn’t small, but it is worth it if you do enjoy that warm, green feeling hybrids deliver – or simply looking at a smaller petrol bill. We think it’s convincing enough, through a combination of better refinement, an even smoother drive, and amazing fuel efficiency, that if you do go hybrid, you’ll probably never want to go back to ‘wasteful’ regular cars.
The Big But here though, is that the Corolla Hybrid’s real competition is from Korean hybrids: Kia’s Niro hybrid SUV goes for S$117,999 with COE (for the up-spec SX model) and Hyundai’s Ioniq hybrid hatch has an identical price for its more-stuff-included Ioniq Sunroof model.
Both of those cars can deliver similar fuel efficiency, and they also have the Altis beat in terms of interior features, with clearer touchscreen infotainment systems that boast Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as sunroofs and air-con front seats.
If it comes down to pure what you get for your money, on paper the Koreans have the edge. But if you’re the kind of buyer that simply can’t bring themselves to buy Korean just yet – and we suspect many of you are – then the sub-$5k price gulf to the Corolla Altis Hybrid won’t be much of a barrier.
Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid
|Engine||1,798cc, inline 4|
|Power||97hp at 5200rpm|
|Torque||142Nm at 3600rpm|
|Electric Motor||70hp (estimate)|
|Battery||Nickel metal hydride, ?? kWh|
|System Power||120hp (estimate)|
|System Torque||Not revealed|
|Fuel Efficiency||4.4 L/100km|
|VES Band / CO2||A2 / 98g/km|
|Price||S$120,888 with COE|