2020 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid hatch review
You grip the chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel and push down on the accelerator. The car quickly and effortlessly gets up to speed. With a turn of the wheel, you throw it into the tight hairpin bend, the car staying impressively flat. A smile grows on your face.
Ok, ok. So this isn’t exactly a Volkswagen Golf R. Nevertheless, you’re actually having some fun… in a Toyota Corolla. And not just any Corolla, one with a hybrid powertrain and a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
What happened? Didn’t Corollas become deathly dull appliances years ago, once the old GTIs and rear-wheel drive Sprinters ceased to exist?
It’s true that for many years, the Corolla name was hardly synonymous with fun. But then Akio Toyoda became CEO of Toyota and issued a decree: Make Toyotas Fun Again.
And so, the Corolla is suddenly enjoyable to drive again after years of automotive journalists carping about how uninspiring it was. That’s great news for consumers, who continue to make the Corolla Australia’s best-selling small car. Unfortunately, Toyota has taken two steps forward but one big step back.
How much does the Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid cost?
The Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid costs $29,735 before on-road costs, regardless of whether you choose the hatch or sedan. That’s $1500 more than the regular SX.
You won’t find any other hybrids under the $30k mark, with the cheapest Hyundai Ioniq and Subaru XV hybrids costing around $5000 more.
You also won’t find any hybrid variants, period, of Australia’s other three best-selling small cars: the Hyundai i30, Kia Cerato and Mazda 3.
Metallic paint is a $500 option. Our tester’s Oxide Bronze is a classy shade but Eclectic Blue is easily the most eye-catching of the Corolla’s palette.
The bold blue also better complements the twelfth-generation Corolla’s styling, which is curvaceous and expressive. It’s also got a pert little rear, though there’s not much to grab onto – more on that later.
What do you get?
The SX is the mid-range trim level in the Corolla range, bookended by the Ascent Sport and ZR. All three trim levels are available with either a regular petrol or a hybrid powertrain.
Toyota is hardly skimping on features, either. The base Ascent Sport already offers an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, a reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, and automatic bi-LED headlights.
The SX adds satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, a leatherette-wrapped steering wheel and a wireless charging pad inside. There’s also proximity entry with push-button start, plus LED fog lights and front and rear parking sensors.
Even more importantly, there’s standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Unless you’re really keen on leather trim and want a better sound system than the SX’s six-speaker unit, the ZR’s $3900 premium arguably isn’t worth it.
For such a well-equipped car, though, there’s one baffling omission from the SX: rear air vents. To get them, you’ll need to choose the range-topping ZR.
In terms of standard equipment, the SX Hybrid lines up nicely with the Mazda3 G20 Touring, Kia Cerato Sport+ and Hyundai i30 Elite, all of which cost between $28,000 and $31,000 before on-road costs when equipped with automatic transmissions.
The Mazda3 and the i30 have standard leather upholstery and the Cerato boasts heated front seats, but none of them have a powertrain as efficient as the Corolla Hybrid’s.
Is the Toyota Corolla safe?
When the Toyota Corolla was tested by ANCAP in 2018, it received a rating of five stars. That was based on an impressive 96 per cent score for adult occupant protection, as well as scores of 83 per cent in child occupant protection, 86 per cent in vulnerable road user protection, and 76 per cent in safety assist.
All 2020 Toyota Corollas feature autonomous emergency braking with forward-collision warning and pedestrian and cyclist detection. The warning and the emergency braking work at speeds between 10 and 180km/h for other vehicles and 10 to 80km/h for pedestrians and cyclists.
You’ll also find blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, seven airbags (front, front-side, curtain and driver’s knee) plus lane-keeping assist.
What is the Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid like on the inside?
The Toyota Corolla’s dashboard design is funky and fresh yet satisfyingly ergonomic.
Tactile soft-touch plastics are used on much of the dashboard, though harder material is used on the centre console and the door trims. That’s hardly unusual for the class and everything is still assembled with the high standard of build quality you’d expect from a Toyota.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen is situated nice and high and features some redundant buttons on either side for switching between screens.
It’s a pretty straightforward system and there are some nice touches, like four programmable contact shortcuts on the home screen – a modern-day speed dial, if you will. The navigation system’s graphics are a bit cluttered, as is common on many vehicles, but the recent addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto renders that a moot issue.
Below the touchscreen and air vents is a row of nicely-damped, metal-look buttons for the dual-zone climate control, bracketed by two tactile knobs.
The design is so attractively minimalist, it has you wondering how other cars’ switchgear takes up so much real estate. The Corolla’s interior would also lend itself to a funkier colourway but, alas, the SX is only available in black-on-black. The ZR is available with some red accenting, though.
Contemporary and attractive
A splash of colour wouldn't go astray but this is a stylish interior
Piano black accents are used for contrast but, fortunately, aren’t used anywhere where they’ll accumulate a lot of smudges. There’s also some cloth trim on the elbow rests in the doors and the lid to the centre console bin, though it’s a bit office chair-esque in appearance.
Speaking of cloth trim, we had no complaints about the comfort of the seats or their upholstery.
There’s no storage nook or USB outlets at the base of the centre stack like in some cars, though you can rest your phone on the wireless charging pad, in the cupholders, or in the centre console bin.
The Corolla’s lone dash-mounted USB outlet is hidden out of sight near the glove compartment handle. You’ll find another in the centre console bin, however, next to a 12V outlet.
While assembly quality is hard to fault, there are a couple of pieces that could be nicer. The glove compartment door, for example, feels a little flimsy. So too does the button on the shifter, which is unfortunate as it’s a piece you’ll touch multiple times on every drive.
These are minor bugbears. What’ll be of more concern to buyers is the rear seat space.
In short, it comes up short. Headroom is worse than up front, where the roof of the cabin is noticeably higher. It’s still adequate but you’ll feel a little hemmed in back here, particularly if you’re 180cm or taller and sitting behind a similarly-sized person.
The front seatbacks are upholstered and scooped out to improve knee room but toe room is lacking. There are also no amenities whatsoever – no air vents and no USB or 12V outlets. A Kia Cerato, in comparison, feels almost palatial.
For many passengers, it’ll feel just fine but it’s worth comparing with rivals if, for example, you have some gangly teens. If your kids are more Play School than high school, you’ll find three top-tether and two ISOFIX anchor points for their child seats.
If rear seat accommodation is a bit disappointing, the boot will leave you crestfallen. Cargo volume in the Corolla hatchback is a paltry 217L. It’s a little (116L) better in the ZR Hybrid hatch, but that’s only because the temporary spare is replaced with a tyre repair kit.
Most cars in this segment feature a torsion-beam rear axle. Some rivals, such as the Ford Focus and Mazda3, have actually switched to this after years of offering independent rear suspension. Their manufacturers have cited the packaging benefits of a torsion beam, which is situated down low and theoretically frees up more cargo space.
Toyota, conversely, has switched from a torsion beam to an independent, multi-link rear suspension to help the Corolla’s dynamics. Unfortunately, that and more expressive styling means it’s lost 143L of boot space compared with the last Corolla hatch. Its 217L is notably worse than the Cerato hatch (428L), i30 hatch (395L) and even the rakish Mazda3 hatch (295L).
What’s under the bonnet?
The Corolla Hybrid features a 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine producing 72kW of power and 142Nm of torque, mated to a nickel-metal hydride battery and two electric motors. The main drive motor produces 53kW of power and 163Nm of torque.
Toyota quotes a combined system output of 90kW, though doesn’t provide a combined torque figure.
Power is delivered to the front wheels via an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT).
How does the Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid drive?
Toyota has instilled just enough sparkle in its latest products to satisfy drivers without alienating any of its core constituencies.
The steering in the Corolla Hybrid, for example, is still quite light and ideal in urban driving and parking. However, it’s also satisfyingly precise.
Refinement levels, too, are high. The Corolla Hybrid seamlessly transitions from electric to petrol power, while the e-CVT keeps power flowing smoothly. Ride quality is also hard to fault, the Corolla smoothing out the ruts and imperfections of most roads, though the Corolla’s suspension can crash over the occasional manhole cover.
The cabin is nicely hushed at urban speeds, though there’s some persistent tyre noise and wind noise around the mirrors at highway speeds.
So far this year, more than half of all Corollas sold here have been hybrids. It’s not hard to see why.
Fuel economy is simply stellar. Toyota quotes 4.2L/100km on the ADR combined cycle, compared to 6.0L/100km in the regular petrol model with a CVT. In a mix of city and highway driving, we achieved 5.1L/100km and that wasn’t with a feather foot, either.
A real fuel-sipper
We came extremely close to reaching Toyota's claimed (and very low) fuel economy figure
Not that you ever need to wring the guts out of the Corolla. It feels much sprightlier than its 90kW power figure and 1400kg kerb weight suggest.
If you do want to manhandle the Corolla, you’ll be pleased to find the new TNGA-C architecture underneath is a sweet base that fills us with giddy anticipation for the rumoured, upcoming GR Corolla.
While the SX Hybrid is more fun-to-drive than you’d expect, we doubt many Corolla owners are going to be throwing their cars down mountainside switchbacks. On these more challenging routes, the Corolla’s balanced chassis is undermined by 205/55 R16 tyres that pack up early. The e-CVT can also start to drone, sounding like a torque converter automatic that’s stuck one gear too low.
A twisty road isn’t the only way to have fun in a hybrid, though. Try and see how long you can keep the EV light on before the petrol motor kicks in and you’ll understand why hypermiling is a hobby some enjoy.
I even switched the Corolla Hybrid to EV mode, though one moderate press of the accelerator pedal had a message appear in the gauge cluster saying I accelerated too heavily and EV mode was switched off.
There are also Power and Eco modes. The former gives the Corolla a bit more oomph – not that it really needs it – while the latter feels like the vehicular equivalent of putting ankle weights on for a run. You’re already getting 5.0L/100km in this car so Eco mode is just gilding the lily.
You might find it strange the shifter has a position labelled B, just under Drive. Though not immediately clear from that initial, the B mode simply means the Corolla applies moderate engine braking going down hills.
Toyota boasts the Corolla Hybrid’s standard lane-departure warning with steering assist, plus lane-tracing assist that’s used in conjunction with the cruise control.
Quicker than you'd think
A seamless transition between electric and petrol power and a well-calibrated e-CVT help the Corolla feel responsive
Though the former is supposed to adjust the steering wheel if you do veer out of your lane, it was absolutely useless. I couldn’t feel any steering assist but I did hear the lane-departure warning alert’s incessant beeping once I crossed into another lane.
It’s rather peculiar that Toyota advertises two different lane-keeping systems rather than just one unified lane-keeping assist system that works well at all speeds.
For that matter, it was also strange that the one safety feature you would want to beep at you – the blind-spot alert – didn’t do so.
Safety alerts are always best when it’s clear what they’re alerting you to. Nevertheless, one alert was promptly turned off after five minutes of driving. Going even a couple of km/h over the speed limit had the Corolla saying curtly, “Please obey all traffic regulations.” Ok, Mum.
A word of advice: be careful entering and exiting driveways as the Corolla has a very low front bumper that’s prone to scrapes.
How much does the Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid cost to run?
The Corolla has a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Toyota caps the first five services at just $180 each, cheaper than in the Mazda3, i30 and Cerato.
CarExpert’s Take on the Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid
Toyota’s added a little bit of dynamic verve to its 12th-generation Corolla. It’s done that without compromising the Corolla’s driveability and refinement, and therefore the way the latest Corolla drives won’t scare off loyal Corolla customers.
What might give those buyers pause, however, is the rather tight rear seat room and the small boot.
There is the option of a sedan that helps make up for lost space, but its styling seems more designed for the conservative tastes of buyers in South-East Asian markets.
There’s a significant improvement in fuel economy for the hybrid’s $1500 premium and Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive works seamlessly. Considering how many Prius and Camry Hybrid taxis are still on our roads with sky-high odometer readings, it’ll be reliable too. You also won’t find a hybrid powertrain in any other cars at this price point.
That it’s actually decent fun to drive, too, means the Toyota Corolla can now appeal to your heart as well as your head.
2020 Toyota Corolla SX hybrid sedan review
How does this compare on price?
This iteration of the Corolla sedan sits just shy of the thirty-large watermark: $29,735 before on-road costs in SX guise. Hybrid power brings a $1500 premium over a 2.0-litre conventional petrol SX, while a top-spec hybrid costs $3900 more at $33,635.
For that asking price, you’re getting a sedan that is 4630mm long, 1780mm wide and 1435mm high. There’s room for five aboard, and a boot that measures 470L in size.
Although hybrid power is rare in this segment, there are a handful of straight petrol-powered, middle-spec small sedans to ponder: Honda Civic VTi ($25,390), Hyundai Elantra Active ($26,240), Kia Cerato Sport ($26,290), and Mazda 3 Evolve ($28,290).
The closest you’ll get to a true competitor to this hybrid Corolla is Hyundai’s Ioniq Hybrid, which is a big jump up in price.
What is it like inside?
It’s a mostly basic interior in this specification, although it feels well specced and well made. The premium steering wheel feels nice in the hands, and some common touchpoints have been softened up. The overall modern design is helped by a fresh steering wheel and big (7.0-inch) multi-function display in front of the driver.
There are no big flashes of colour and texture amongst the black surfaces, save for a couple of faux aluminium strips. Simple single-zone air-conditioning controls sit below an 8.0-inch infotainment display, which juts up proudly from the dashboard. It’s now got all-important Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity these days, as well.
A thin and pared-back centre console design keeps things simple, housing two cupholders, the electric handbrake, a few driving buttons, the gear shifter, and a wireless charging pad. It’s all simple and practical enough for everyday use.
Is it a safe car in this segment?
Toyota has included a stack of safety equipment as standard across the range; the only thing this model gets over the Ascent Sport is blind-spot monitoring.
The whole range gets autonomous emergency braking with day/night pedestrian and day cyclist detection, along with all-speed active cruise control, lane-trace assist, lane-departure alert, automatic high beam and traffic sign recognition.
This all contributes to a five-star ANCAP safety rating for the Corolla sedan, which was attained by the hatchback variant in 2018.
How much does it cost to maintain?
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, which come under a capped-price servicing program. Each visit costs $180 a pop up until 60 months or 75,000km, and then sharply heads north to $773, $234 and $804 for the next three services.
What does it have under the bonnet?
It’s not just what lives under the bonnet of this Corolla that does the trick. Along with the 1.8-litre petrol engine, there’s a 6.5-amp-hour nickel-metal hydride battery pack wedged under the back seat. Part of the closed-loop hybrid system, the battery powers a 53kW/163Nm electric motor that is powerful enough to move the Corolla along either independently or in unison with the petrol engine.
Never mind the numbers, however. The best thing about this complex hybrid driveline is how simple and straightforward it is to drive. When running, the petrol engine is smooth and quiet, cutting in and out almost imperceptibly at times while the electric motor does as much of the heavy lifting as it can.
What is its economy like?
The next best thing about this driveline is undoubtedly the fuel economy. During our time with the car, we saw it as low as 3.4 litres per 100km, but it settled down to 3.8L/100km after my test. Compared to Toyota’s claim of 3.5L/100km on the combined cycle, it’s very impressive.
What else should I consider in this segment?
Nothing else can deliver the same outright fuel economy at this pricepoint, especially around town. Hyundai’s Ioniq Hybrid is more expensive at $34,790, but has similar economy from its 77kW, 1.6-litre petrol engine and 32kW electric motor.
Any problems I should look out for?
We can’t point out any obvious problems with Toyota’s Corolla. It’s been a stalwart of Toyota’s enviable reputation over the years, which is now covered by a five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty. That’s good coverage, which gets stretched out to seven years (plus 10 on the hybrid battery) if you maintain your service schedule through Toyota’s dealership network.
Should I buy it?
As a small sedan with very impressive fuel economy, the Corolla SX sedan hybrid doesn’t put a foot wrong elsewhere. The SX is the pragmatist’s choice in the range, with a frivolity-free interior that has the right tech and safety included. It’s smooth, handles well, and is plenty practical enough. And considering the hybrid driveline only costs $1500 more, it’s a no-brainer.
2021 Toyota Corolla SX Specifications
The 2021 Toyota Corolla SX is a front-wheel drive five-door hatchback that was released to the Australian market on 01/06/2020 classified as a MZEA12R. The Corolla is regarded as a small car built in Japan with prices from a dealer as a used car starting at A$27,500.
The Corolla is a front-wheel drive 5 door with 5 seats, powered by a 2.0L INLINE 4 engine that has 125 kW of power (at 6600 rpm) and 200 Nm of torque (at 4400 rpm) via a Continuous Variable. TOYOTA claims the Corolla SX uses 6L/100km of Unleaded Petrol in the combined city and highway cycle while putting out 139g of CO2. It has a 50L fuel tank, meaning it should be able to travel 833km per full tank.
The Corolla measures 1435mm (56.5 inches) in height, 4375mm (172.2 inches) in length, 1790mm (70.5 inches) in width with a 2640mm (103.9 inches) wheelbase that brings about a total of 1340kg (2954.2 lbs) of unladen weight. The Corolla SX comes standard with 205/55 R16 front tyres and 205/55 R16 rear tyres. It requires a service every 12 months or 15,000 km, whichever comes first.
The 2021 Toyota Corolla SX has a 135mm ground clearance with a 1300kg braked and 450kg unbraked towing capacity. It has a final gear ratio of 3.788.
The Corolla has received a 5 star rating from ANCAP. The VIN number can be found on the Driver Side Front Floor and the compliance plate is located on the Upper Pass Side C-Pillar. An example VIN number would be similar to JTNK43BE703123456.
Corolla Hatch Range
For where life takes you
Packed with the latest Toyota performance and safety technology, Corolla Hatch Ascent Sport is leading the way to a bolder, more exhilarating drive.
- 2.0L Dynamic Force direct injection petrol engine with an auto CVT, or a 1.8L Toyota Hybrid System with an auto CVT
- 16" alloy wheels
- Reversing camera
- Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ with AM/FM Radio
Speak to your dealer about device compatibility.
- Toyota Safety Sense including Active Cruise control, Pre-Collision Safety system with Pedestrian (night and day) and Cyclist detection (day only), Lane Departure Alert, Lane Trace Assist (Auto CVT only), Auto High Beam and Road Sign Assist
- Full size alloy spare wheel (Petrol only)
- 4.2" Multi-Information Display
- Bi-LED headlamps
- 7 SRS Airbags
- 5-star 2018 ANCAP rating
- Ascent Sport only: Satellite Navigationand DAB+ Radio. Also includes rear privacy glass.
Corolla sx toyota
Corolla Sedan Range
A sense of belonging
Arrive in style with climate control air-conditioning, JBL® premium audio, a head up display, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and 18" alloy wheels.
- 2.0L Dynamic Force direct injection petrol engine with an auto CVT
- 18" alloy wheels with 225/40R18 tyres
- Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ with JBL® premium audio with Satellite Navigation , AM/FM/DAB Digital Radio and 9 speakers
Speak to your dealer about device compatibility.
- Automatic climate control air conditioning
- Toyota Safety Sense including Active Cruise Control (ACC), Pre-Collision Safety System (PCS) with Pedestrian and Cyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Auto High Beam (AHB)
- Sport front seats
- Head-Up Display and wireless phone charger
- Power tilt and slide moonroof
- 7 SRS airbags
- 5-star 2018 ANCAP rating
- No option packs available Please contact your local dealer for customisation options.
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