It came as no surprise when the news broke that Toyota planned to offer the iconic Corolla only as a hybrid. With a surge in Hybrid sales and their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint, the only way Toyota New Zealand will now sell you a Corolla with a solely petrol power train, is by way of the hot GR Corolla.
However, as we have often found, Toyota’s hybrid set up makes for an impressive and well sorted marriage of electric and petrol power for those in the market for a five door hatch or urban SUV. So is it a case of business as usual for the newest Corolla ZR Hybrid hatch?
The Corolla ZR Hybrid hatch is one of three Corolla models with that aforementioned hybrid power train. This sits atop the family with a Toyota Drive-away Price (TDP) of $43,190. Sporting a 1.8L petrol four cylinder engine coupled with an electric hybrid power train and seven-speed e-CVT transmission, the Corolla ZR is good for a combined 103kW of power and 142Nm of torque at 3600rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at a combined 4.4L/100km, and CO2 emissions at 101g/km.
Visually I reckon the ZR Corolla is probably the best looking Corolla Toyota currently make. The mad and wonderful GR Corolla has all the flares, scoops and ducts which give it the classic hot hatch stance, but the ZR to me as more purity of line with its chrome accents around the front lip and subtle haunches front and rear.
It makes no attempt to grab attention but subtle cues like a two tone paint scheme with gloss black b-pillar, silver exhaust surrounds and black mesh grill, not to mention those nice looking 18-inch alloys all come together to make a good looking family hatch.
It’s a terribly overused cliché, but to describe the Corolla ZR’s interior as one of “form and function” would be apt. The leather and BRIN NAUB (that’s Suede Tone to you and me) accented seats are some of the most comfortable in this class. There is a good level of lumbar and lateral support and the fact both driver and front passenger are heated is a nice touch.
Everything is within easy reach and there is just the right amount of buttons to operate the onboard kit. Too much and it tends to be overwhelming. Said kit comes in the form of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto with the former available with wireless connectivity, an 8-inch touch screen infotainment system with JBL premium audio, head up display, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, those heated seats with suede tone and leather, a leather wrapped steering wheel, sat nav and Miracast.
You also get Toyota’s Full Safety Suite for the Corolla ZR with features like Radar Cruise-Control, Pre Collision System with Autonomous Engine Braking, Pedestrian, Cyclist and Motorcycle Detection, Active Cornering Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Reversing Camera, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Parking Sensors fore and aft and Lane Trace Assist. One certainly can’t say that Toyota has skimped giving the Corolla ZR Hybrid some decent safety gear.
At 398L, I wish the boot space in the Corolla was a bit bigger. Rear visibility is average at best too but there is a good amount of head and legroom for front and rear seat passengers, though entry and exit for those in the rear may be a tad convoluted for those with a lankier frame.
Move off and it’s really is business as usual when it comes to Toyota hybrid power delivery. You can creep forward at a crawling pace on electric power alone before the petrol engine wakes up when you apply more throttle. You can feather the throttle and it happily see-saws between EV and Hybrid modes seamlessly whenever petrol power is required.
There is a meaty and even delivery of low down torque. The ZR starts to run out of puff above 5000rpm but by then you would have made ample progress anyway. It also certainly isn’t bad when you see fuel averages of 5L/100km or less. It certainly isn’t terribly hard to squeeze a few urban miles on electric power alone. It’s probably not the most exciting engine note out there though.
The Corolla ZR Hybrid is also happy to motor briskly along when you switch over to Sport mode. It’s an engaging drive, not on the same level as the hot GR, but still impressive for what it is. It tips the scales at 1820kg but on the handling front it stills relatively well balanced and not underwhelming. There is a smattering of torque steer when pushing quite hard but the bends are still managed easily by the ZR’s cornering ability.
I have always liked a Corolla and I’m certainly not alone in that regard as it has been one of this country’s favourite cars for generations. This latest flagship hybrid only Corolla still ticks plenty of boxes and shows itself as a well sorted and immensely capable all-rounder.