The Prius is Toyota's definitive hybrid, but it has a bit of an image problem. While the car is perfectly fine, a number of consumers don't want to drive a controversially styled vehicle that screams hybrid.
Enter the 2020 Corolla Hybrid which takes its powertrain from the Prius, but manages to leave its baggage behind. As a result, drivers will find a fairly conventional vehicle that offers an impressive fuel economy rating of 53 mpg city / 52 mpg highway / 52 mpg combined.
Prius Meets Corolla
In order to hit these eco-friendly numbers, the Corolla Hybrid has been equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, two motor/generators and a small Ni-MH battery pack. This setup gives the car a combined output of 121 hp (90 kW / 122 PS).
That’s less than the 139 hp (103 kW / 141 PS) found in the standard Corolla, but you really can’t feel much of a difference in real world driving. Of course, you should keep your expectations in check as the model is also 95 lbs (43.1 kg) heavier than the Corolla LE as it tips the scales at 3,050 lbs (1,383 kg).
Drivers looking to harness every last bit of performance can also put the Corolla in Sport mode. Toyota says doing this increases available power "allowing for improved acceleration response."
Speaking of performance, the engine and electric motors work well together as the driving experience is pretty seamless. As part of this effort, the hybrid system provides a "subtle power boost" when pulling away to "put less strain on the engine and eliminate the 'rubber band’ effect experienced with some hybrids."
Unsurprisingly, the Corolla Hybrid drives nearly identical to the standard model. As a result, drivers can expect a comfortable ride and secure handling. The model is also extremely quiet at low speeds, although we did hear some additional noise during braking. The sounds were short and faint, and most drivers probably wouldn’t notice them with the radio on.
A Hybrid, That Doesn’t Shout About It (Too Much)
On the styling front, there isn’t much to separate the hybrid from the standard model. However, keen-eyed observers will find a special Toyota emblem with blue accents and 15-inch wheels that are wrapped in low-rolling resistance tires. The car also has an active shutter grille and three hybrid badges.
The interior largely carries over, but drivers will find a 7-inch Multi-Information Display and an 8-inch infotainment system with hybrid-specific screens. The only other noticeable change is an EV Mode button on the center console. It enables the Corolla Hybrid to travel approximately 0.6 miles (0.96 km) on electricity alone.
Speaking of the interior, engineers were able to install the nickel-metal hydride battery underneath the rear seat. This means there’s no impact on passenger space or cargo room and the model still offers a 60/40 split folding rear seat.
Undercuts The Prius By $820
The 2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid will be built in Japan and pricing will start at $22,950. That’s $3,000 more expensive than the Corolla LE, but Toyota noted the model will become their most affordable hybrid.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the Prius and that model only costs $820 more than the Corolla Hybrid. Toyota says they’re not worried about potential overlap as the models are aimed at different consumers and Prius buyers like the car’s eco-friendly image as well as the added particularity of a hatchback.
Note: The Corolla Hybrid we tested was given a quick wrap, so some components show the model’s original body color