Isaac Bober’s Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review 2019 with price, specs, performance, ride and handling, ownership, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: All-new Toyota Corolla hopes to win new, younger buyers with dynamic styling and improved ride.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2019 Specifications

Price 31,870+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol+electric motor Power 72kW at 5200rpm (petrol) 90kW petrol+electric motor Torque 142Nm at 3600rpm petrol; 163Nm electric motor Transmission continuously variable transmission (CVT) Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4375mm (L) 1790mm (W) 1435mm (H) 2640mm (WB) Seats Five Boot Space 330 litres Weight 1400kg Fuel Tank 43 litres Thirst 4.2L/100km claimed combined (5.5L/100km tested)

Toyota claimed the all-new Corolla would arrive Down Under to “retain its mantle as Australia’s best-selling passenger car”. Toyota even went so far as to suggest this new Corolla leapfrogged everything else in the segment to set a new benchmark. Let’s just dial back the enthusiasm a bit.

It’s worth mentioning that this review about the Corolla is confined to this top-spec ZR Hybrid…lesser Corollas will perform a little differently.

What’s the price and what do you get?

So, there are three grades of Corolla, the Ascent Sport, SX and ZR. Our tester, if the name didn’t give it away, is the top-spec ZR Hybrid. Pricing for the Corolla starts at $22,870+ORC but our test car is the most expensive of the lot at $31,870+ORC. Premium paint adds a further $450 across the range.

Beyond getting everything else the rest of the Corolla range gets, like wireless phone charging, dual-zone climate control, and nativ sat-nav via an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, the ZR Hybrid adds heated sports-style front seats, leather-accented ultrasuede interior, lumbar support on the driver seat, a 7-inch digital display nestled in with the analogue instrument cluster, a head-up display, and a JBL premium sound system. It rides on 18-inch alloys but because of the battery pack on our ZR Hybrid you only get a repair kit.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

The ZR is a $3500 jump over the SX variant and while the seats are more supportive and you get a head-up display, you’re not missing out on too much if you don’t make the stretch.

In terms of how it sits in the market, the Corolla range is intended to out-feature its rivals at every step and, on the whole, it tends to do that but really only from the mid-spec SX variant, although the entry-level Ascent Sport Hybrid adds things like dual-zone climate control that the non-hybrid entry model gets.

Toyota, like Ford with its new Focus, is ignoring the entry models of its competitors, like the Hyundai i30 Go and Mazda3 Neo Sport…these $19,990+ORC models, priced at a point that would have once been considered the Corolla’s bread and butter, seem to be no longer interesting to Toyota. It’s pitching the Corolla as a feature-packed small car.

It’s worth mentioning there’s no talk of a Corolla wagon and a sedan is around 12 months away.

What’s the interior and practicality like?

The sharp lines and creases on the exterior carry over on the inside of the Corolla where the dashboard is a mix of creases and jutting edges. And while the look and feel is certainly more modern than its predecessor some of the design elements impact on the practicality of the Corolla.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

For instance, the dashboard on the passenger side of the car juts out and tends to cramp up the space. For instance, you’ll be opening the low-set glovebox into your legs. And, in the middle of the vehicle the jutting dashboard hides the wireless phone charging plate and seat heater controls.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

But there are also some beautiful touches, like the fake brushed metal strip running across the dashboard and wrapping around the air vents. There’s plenty of soft-touch material with contrast stitching on our ZR tester giving the cabin a real air of quality.

The front seats too are comfortable with good support in the sides and base. There’s plenty of adjustment too and there’s enough adjustment on the steering wheel that drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to find the right position.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

Storage in the front of the Corolla is okay but nothing like the storage you get in the front of the new Focus. There are cup holders and a centre console storage bin with USB outlet. The door bins will take a 500ml water bottle.

Where the Corolla starts to lose is when you move to the back seat. The doors don’t open very wide making it tricky to fit a booster seat or for a taller adult to climb into the back.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

With the driver’s seat set to suit myself there’s not a lot of leg or kneeroom and I didn’t have a lot of headroom either. The back seats are, at least, comfortable, there are cup/bottle holders in the armrest on the door but there are no door bins. There are directional rear air vents.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

Around the back of the Corolla, the boot is the worst in the segment with the Corolla ZR Hybrid offering just 330L and a tyre repair kit rather than a spare. The Ascent Sport gets a full-sized spare but boot space is a very low 217 litres.

So, while the front of the Corolla is roomy and comfortable, the rear half of the vehicle falls down as a viable family runabout, easily beaten in the back seat and boot by the likes of the Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, Mazda3 and VW Golf.

What are the infotainment and controls like?

Toyota has doggedly resisted adding Apple or Android connectivity to its vehicles although it has at least admitted it will, sometime in the future, be adding it. That said, you would have thought the new Corolla and the new RAV4 too, which won’t get here until the middle of next year, would have been the right time…

What you do get on the 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Miracast which allows you to project your smartphone’s display onto the infotainment screen. It’s not the same as Apple or Android connectivity and the latest versions of iOS and Android OS don’t support Miracast, so you’ll need a third-party app to use the system. However, with an iPhone connected, you’ll be able to use the Siri voice control functionality. Moving on.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

The Corolla’s screen juts up from the dashboard like someone’s stuck a tablet on it. It’s a step ahead of the old screen with physical shortcut buttons around the outside.

But, unfortunately, in my opinion anyway, you still get the same clunky Toyota menu system with poor quality graphics. And, depending on the model of Corolla you choose the screen will either be very hard to see in full sun, or almost impossible to see in full sun. Our ZR Hybrid tester with its gloss screen was the latter, while the SX Hybrid’s screen has a matt finish but is only marginally better.

The other issue with the system, whether connecting via Bluetooth or USB, with an iPhone is that it would often not remember the last thing being played and would, after a restart, dredge up something from your music list…

As for the rest of the controls, everything falls easily to hand and is easy to understand. The dual-zone climate control system is effective when it comes to cooling the cabin but the buttons are very fiddly to use when driving.

What’s the performance like?

The Corolla hybrid features a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a pair of ‘motor generators’, and battery pack (Nickel Metal Hydride). The petrol engine makes 72kW at 5200rpm and 142Nm of torque at 3600rpm while the electric motors offer 53kW and 163kW. Total combined output, however, is just 90kW.

The numbers aren’t amazing when you consider some of this car’s competitors, but on the road the Corolla Hybrid feels a whole lot zippier than the numbers suggest alone. The engine is mated to a CVT and fuel consumption is a claimed combined 4.2L/100km, but in our week of testing we saw 5.5L/100km.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

Wherever possible we selected EV Mode for the Corolla Hybrid to drive in, but this functionality is only for stop-start traffic or initial start-up and moving off. Once there’s any sort of throttle application, the petrol engine takes over driving duties. The transition between the two is seamless with just a momentary grumble as the petrol engine activates.

On the road and with the family on-board, the Corolla ZR Hybrid gets along very nicely with more than enough zip for keeping up with traffic or overtaking on the highway and the CVT does a very good job of keeping progress comfortable and easy. There’s none of the drone or stretchiness of earlier CVTs.

As a side note, the argument about Nickel Metal Hydride and Lithium-Ion batteries is an interesting one. In most areas, Lithium-Ion is a superior battery. They are smaller and lighter than the equivalent Nickel Metal Hydride battery, can charge more quickly, are allegedly less affected by memory affect when charging and discharging, are similarly durable, with Nickel Metal Hydride currently more stable in extreme environments. The latter is also a cheaper battery to produce.

What’s the ride and handling like?

This is where the new Corolla really impresses. And key to its new-found handling is the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), a modular platform that can be stretched and shrunken to suit a variety of vehicle types.

While the garden variety Corolla features a torsion-beam rear-end the Hybrid runs a more expensive/sophisticated multi-link rear. And, together, with improved suspension packaging and a stiffer platform to begin with, there’s a tautness to the body control that you don’t normally associate with Corolla.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

With a stiffer, more sporting set-up and riding on 18-inch alloys, the ZR Hybrid does feel a little stiff-legged at low speeds, say, up to 60km/h, but it’s not teeth rattling. Above 60km/h, though, the ZR Hybrid irons out sharp-edged hits beautifully with a composure that keeps those inside comfortable and the driver connected to the car’s doings.

Indeed, the ZR Hybrid is a very enjoyable car to drive on a twisting back road. The steering is a slight glitch in an otherwise impressive handling package. It lacks decent weight or feel with a slight amount of slackness in the straight-ahead that will see you nibbling at the wheel when on the highway.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

The throttle response is good but the brake pedal feels a little grabby.

Across our test loop which involves some delicious corners that test both a vehicle’s chassis to its limits as well as traction controls, the Corolla’s active cornering assist system worked very well. Braking the inside wheels when it detected understeer to help keep the nose pointing into the corner.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

Toyota said it improved insulation on the new Corolla and it certainly is a much quieter machine on the inside than its predecessor with just a faint whistle of wind noise when up and running on the highway.

Does it have a spare?

No, only an inflation kit.

Can you tow with it?

No, Toyota doesn’t recommend towing with the Corolla Hybrid.

What about ownership?

Toyota now offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. This covers the battery too, but if you purchased your Corolla Hybrid before January 1, 2019, Toyota will cover the battery for up to eight years and 160,000km provided you adhere to the service schedule and have an annual Hybrid Health Check performed. Vehicles purchased after this time will be covered for up to 10 years, provided owners complete the annual Hybrid Health Check.

Under the Toyota Service Advantage capped price servicing is capped at $175/service for five years, with the service schedule set at 12 months or 15,000km.

What about safety features?

The Corolla range features a raft of active safety systems, including autonomous emergency braking and a pre-collision system with pedestrian (day and night) and cyclist (day only) detection, active cruise control and lane departure warning are also standard across the range. Our ZR Hybrid tweaks this by adding lane trace control to help keep the vehicle centred in the lane. There’s also a windscreen mounted camera for speed-limit sign recognition, but like a lot of these things it’s easily tricked when passing by a slip road with a slower speed limit posted…the on-board system will then warn you to obey all road rules as it assumes you’re speeding.

The Corolla range carries a five-star ANCAP rating.


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