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Quick Drive. Toyota Corolla Excel 5dr 2.0 Hybrid

What Have We Got?

Toyota and their never ending array of hybrids brings back an old name with a modern twist. The Corolla is back. And back with a bang it would seem. We take one out for a drive around the lanes of Basingstoke.  

Driving

First thing that becomes apparent with the 2 litre petrol engine mated to the hybrid drive system in the Corolla is its normal driving ability. Only recently have I started to like the CVT gearbox system Toyota use. The Yaris showed a big improvement over the previous system. 

Therefore I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Corolla. Not to get too complicated in describing it, I’ll say that for the most part, it felt like a normal automatic gearbox. It changed up and down like a normal auto box and this in turn made it rather nice to drive.

And its “normal” behaviour could be had for much longer than any hybrid drive I’ve experienced from Toyota to-date. Only when you press on with the throttle to the floor does the CVT traits come through with the engine revving away upfront in a subdued vocal fashion. 

This all goes in its favour too. The chassis is compliant and quiet and able to carry the Corolla around quickly. One thing that is missing is excessive body roll or body roll at all for that matter. It feels very planted to the road.

Inside

The cabin, nicely styled in a normal design from Toyota was pleasant to be in. Plastics where it mattered felt much better than previous models have shown. This it would seem was Toyota’s attempt to catch up with the market leaders from Europe and finally they seem to have worked out what the Europeans want and where to place the quality materials. This is something Toyota haven’t always done well. 

Living With It

It would seem Toyota have a lot of high hopes for the return of the Corolla. In bringing it back, it looks like there is a new design language being adopted that is suited to European tastes. Its looks are both stylish and sophisticated. Despite its big grill and angled light units, it’s nice to see a softer looking face to a car. 

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The hybrid drive systems are easy to use and all together it feels a much better car.  It raises the theory of hybrid drive systems being good to actually being very good. It’s taken some time but finally, Toyota have made a better way.  

The Verdict

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It comes at a price and this time Toyota are not messing around. For £29k, they have made a car that challenges some of your preconceived ideas of Japanese cars and turns them on their head. It’s still a Toyota so expect it to be more reliable than anything else out there, it’s just now it has a more familiar feel to it that you’ll greatly appreciate. The Corolla of the 70s had Europe worried.

Once again, the Europeans are going to be on the run.

The Japanese have done it again.    

The Lowdown

Car –  Toyota Corolla Excel 5dr 2.0 Hybrid

Price – £29,075 (as tested)

MPG – 50.43 – 60.62 mpg (WLTP combined)

Power – 178bhp (total output)

0-62mph –  7.9 seconds

Top Speed –  112 mph

Co2 – 89 (g/km)

All pictures (C) Stuart M Bird 2019

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