First up, let’s get my first bout of embarrassing ignorance out of the way. I initially declined the offer of loaning the latest Toyota hybrid, not because I bear any grudge towards such vehicles – quite the contrary – but simply because I lack a garage, and the neighbours and general public, I reasoned, probably wouldn’t appreciate me trailing a lengthy power cord out to the car. But, it turns out, you don’t have to plug in a hybrid. Perhaps then I’m not the best writer for this particular gig, I blushed, to which editor, Fran, wisely replied that it makes me perfect for it.
While I’m all for the promotion of the green cause, I must also admit there were whisperings from my latent macho ego along the lines of, “Well, it’s hard to get too excited about a Prius” (my only previous experiences of a hybrid vehicle being picked up, usually drunk, in an Uber), however, I arrived at the showroom to discover I was to be loaning the new Corolla. And, as it turns out, it’s a whole different beast.
But, before we get to that, my second bout of embarrassing ignorance occurred as I came to leave the forecourt. Or at least attempt to. I spent minutes fumbling around trying to get the darn thing kicking over, only to discover I’d already somehow got it running – it’s just a very, very still and silent drive. (I’m also not used to a keyless start, and still don’t see the point. You have to have the key in the car for it to work anyway, and at least you can remember where you left it when it’s in the ignition.)
The car may not have a roaring exhaust on the back, but flick it to sport mode and it sure is one fun drive – and far faster off the blocks than I expected it to be. Modelled exactly after the regular Corolla, the hybrid’s sporty looks continue inside, with a cockpit-like driving environment and heaps of gadgetry.
In place of a rev counter, a similar needle and dial displays how efficiently you’re driving the car, but unless you spend entire journeys with the accelerator floored, it seems it’s nigh on impossible to drive this thing any other way but efficiently. The petrol gauge simply does not move. Astonishingly, the commuter-friendly Corolla Hybrid uses less juice in a traffic jam than it does on the highway (Toyota estimates that for those driving just 15,000km a year will save $2,500 in fuel). Even in Auckland, commuting isn’t always about traffic jams, so I stretched its legs out on the Pohutukawa Coast too and it gripped those winding ocean-hugging roads with aplomb.
As for the goodies, standard features include bi-LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, smartphone integration, a six-speaker surround sound system and some smart alloy wheels. A reverse camera and a total of seven airbags enhance safety. Plus, buy before the end of the year, and five years worth of servicing, warranty, AA Roadservice and WOF checks will all be thrown in for free, along with an eight-year or 160,000km (whichever comes first) hybrid battery warranty.
The time will come, sooner, hopefully rather than later, when gas guzzlers go the same way as smoking in (hands up, I used to do that too) in public places. Toyota, to their credit, have been leading the charge, and, with the Corolla Hybrid, have made the notion a lot more attractive, in more ways that one.