We discover if the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports hybrid estate is good enough to challenge its Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf competitorsVerdict3.5Toyota has built a commendable family estate in the new Corolla Touring Sports. It has buckets of style and a high-quality cabin, and is pretty neat to drive. It’s just a shame then that the initial offering couldn’t be a bit more competitive on price and equipment when compared with established diesel rivals, because to drive, the new Corolla estate is a more-than-worthy everyday hybrid family car.
The Toyota Corolla is back, and in stylish fashion. When the firm revealed what was then set to be the next Auris at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, both ourselves and you were taken aback by the new look. And we’d wager that you think the latest hatch’s pert styling has been nipped and tucked nicely for this fresh estate version, the Touring Sports, which has arrived at the same time as Ford’s hybrid Mondeo estate.
It’s based on Toyota’s TNGA platform, and the line-up is dominated by hybrid power. Two petrol-electric set-ups are offered, with a 120bhp 1.8-litre unit playing second fiddle to what we’re driving here: the range-topping 178bhp 2.0-litre, in top-flight Excel trim.
• New Toyota Corolla hatchback review
The price list reveals this isn’t a cheap option; £30,000 buys a lot in the family car market these days. Opt for a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf estate at this kind of money and no doubt you’ll come away with a fine car. But the Corolla does things differently from the rest of the pack.
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Its 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain is a perfect example of everyday electrified motoring, and conventional set-ups like this, with no plugs, aren’t exactly cutting edge. Time spent on electric power alone may add up, but it’ll do so through lots of fleeting moments instead of any longer stints of silent running.
Still, Toyota is more than comfortable sticking with conventional hybrid power for the time being, and it’s clear that the marque knows this tech back to front, after two decades committed to it. The Corolla is smooth and strong off the line on electric power, and the relatively quick transition from battery propulsion to petrol is nailed seamlessly.
This powertrain feels more powerful than its 178bhp suggests. It’s eager and supports that claimed 8.1-second 0-62mph time, and at a cruise you’d be extremely hard pressed to find a diesel car of this size and price with better resistance to noise, vibration and harshness. That 50.4mpg recorded under WLTP is a worst-case scenario figure, too; spec your car correctly and Toyota claims it will be capable of more then 60mpg.
But it’s not much fun. As ever, the Toyota hybrid set-up features a CVT transmission and front-wheel drive. Paddles are offered behind the steering wheel, to let you click through the false gear ratios, but the box is best left alone; for a CVT it’s not a bad one at all, and it’s not too eager to hold onto revs well beyond your tolerance.
The Corolla’s underpinnings feel a little more fun. The TNGA platform lends itself to a car that feels solid to drive, dead steering aside. There are softer family estates around, but the Corolla’s firm edge is tolerable, and a worthy pay-off for its decent body control.
Although the driver’s seat is perched a bit too high, the cabin feels well built and the materials are of decent quality, at least on our range-topping example. But it’s let down by the technology. While the digital instrument panel is bright and clear to read, it isn’t a configurable widescreen with mapping ability. The central display disappoints more; it sits awkwardly on the dash, is slow to respond and doesn’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
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There’s generous space for adults up front, and for the most part, the same can be said about the rear seats, although taller passengers may find a bit more headroom in less rakish rivals. The boot sizes up at 581 litres with the rear bench in place. That’s a competitive capacity when you bear in mind the Corolla’s hybrid tech takes up some space. It’s only 25 litres shy of the Golf Estate’s figure, and not massively behind the Focus Estate’s 608 litres.
Ultimately, the Corolla Touring Sports is still a car you’ll have to convince yourself to pick up. Its non-mainstream approach is appealing, but when value for money is taken into account you’ll be investing a lot of your purchase price and monthly payment into buying its hybrid powertrain.
The Focus Titanium or Golf SE Navigation have the Toyota covered for equipment, and can be had for less money with grunt-laden diesel power, or the manufacturers’ range-topping petrol options. If the hybrid powertrain isn’t the main reason you’re interested in the Corolla, then those rivals are probably still the ones to have.
- Model: Toyota Corolla Excel 2.0 Hybrid Touring Sports
- Price: £30,345
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol hybrid
- Power: 178bhp
- Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds
- Top speed: 112mph
- Economy/CO2: 50.4mpg/89g/km
- On sale: Now
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