2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid review: All-rounder shines on the road

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Toyotas account for almost one in every four new cars sold this year, and this vehicle shows exactly why they are so popular.

We find out the secret to the success of the Toyota Corolla, which has been one of the best selling small hatchbacks in Australia for a long time.

Here is everything you need to know about the Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

VALUE

The Toyota Corolla has been a mainstay on Australian roads thanks to its reputation for hassle-free motoring.

It isn’t as cheap as it used to be, though. Prices start at about $29,000 drive-away for the base Ascent Sport and rise to about $38,500 for a top-shelf ZR Hybrid. Sedan variants cost the same, while adding hybrid power costs about $2000

We are testing the Ascent Sport Hybrid priced at about $31,000 drive-away.

It sounds expensive but is on par with rival machines from Mazda and Volkswagen.

An eight-inch infotainment display is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but you’ll need to pay an extra $1000 for digital radio and satnav.

Higher grades score a wireless smartphone charging pad, while all but the top-shelf ZR grade make do with a six-speaker stereo.

The instrument display is basic, with analog dials and a small information display.

Toyota backs its vehicles with a five-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing costs are exceptional at just $1025 over five years.

COMFORT

The Corolla’s cabin is spacious but spartan. There are plenty of hard plastic surfaces with a smattering of soft-touch areas.

Cloth seats provide ample support for longer drives and the manual adjustment allows for a range of driving positions.

Well sorted suspension does a great job of soaking up most bumps and road noise is well suppressed.

The boot is tiny at 217 litres and will turn off young families and those who want to carry more than the bare essentials.

The similar sized Skoda Scala hatch has a 467-litre cargo area, while the Corolla sedan’s boot is 470 litres.

SAFETY

The Corolla will automatically hit the brakes if it detects a potential collision with a car, pedestrian or cyclist. It will also alert you when you are wandering out of your lane and gently tug the steering wheel to pull you back into line.

Buyers wanting the extra assurance of blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, which signals an alarm when a car is approaching from the side as you reverse, will need to go up a grade to the SX.

Seven airbags add to the peace of mind.

DRIVING

Fuel efficiency is the Corolla Hybrid’s big selling point. It sips a claimed 4.2L/100km of cheaper regular unleaded. Unlike some rivals this fuel use figure is actually achievable, especially in city traffic where the hybrid set-up works best.

Despite its frugal nature the Corolla is fun drive. The combination of a 1.8-litre petrol engine with an electric motor gives the hatch decent oomph off the mark and it has no trouble bounding up steep hills.

Sharp and accurate steering gives the Corolla a bit of character on twisting country roads, where it sits low and hugs the bends. The CVT isn’t as crisp as a conventional auto, but is one of the better examples.

The Corolla feels most at home in the city where it is zippy in traffic and its short front and rear overhangs make it a cinch to park and manoeuvre.

It feels planted at motorway speeds and radar cruise control gives an additional safety margin.

VERDICT 3.5/5

Great all-rounder that is cheap to run and maintain. Needs a bigger boot.

ALTERNATIVES

Hyundai i30 Active, $29,490 drive-away

Cheaper and with decent kit for the price, but it lacks the polish of some rivals.

Mazda3 Pure, from about $30,700 drive-away

Stylish looking with a more premium feel to it than the Corolla. Coarse engine and thirsty.

Skoda Scala, from $30,990 drive-away

Well equipped and cheap with a willing and frugal turbo engine. The one to beat.

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