2019 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Review

2019 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Road Test, Review

If I was put on the spot for my pick as 2018 Car Of The Year then Toyota’s new Corolla would be right up there.

Especially the hybrid of which there are three variants.

Never thought I’d go for a hybrid as COTY but this new Toyota Corolla Hybrid, like new Camry Hybrid, is something out of the box and is especially good because it gets all the fuel economy benefits of a hybrid petrol/electric powertrain with a sporty hatch drive feel.

This review is about top of the range ZR Corolla Hybrid that sells for $31,780 which seems excessive for a mere  “Corolla” but compare it to anything costing $10-20 grand more and you’ll get a big shock.

Not only does Corolla have arresting good looks but it handles and steers like a sporty car, has impressive brakes and overall grip, is full of advanced safety features, feels great from behind the wheel and has strong engine performance with a 10 step CVT contributing to the appeal.

Minor criticism surrounds a lack of rear seat legroom and the boot floor is too high with a full size spare underneath.

Corolla looks good, no argument there.


New Corolla carries some Toyota family styling DNA including lights similar to the shocking Prius (Mirai).

But in this application, the toned down frontal look is imposing rather than startlingly ugly and looks like it’s had a shot of `roids to pump out the panels.

Corolla’s is a slightly agro face and from all angles and the whole car seems to crouch in a ready-to-pounce stance. Lower panels appear to splay out to wide spaced wheels and there are numerous body creases and highlight lines in the metal adding drama to Corolla’s looks

It is a classic five door hatch shape in a “two box” design and stubby tail complete with a bubble back (composite) hatch.

The effect is striking and makes new Corolla stand out from the crowd of sometimes awful small car offerings.

2018 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid interiorInterior

Inside is dominated by Corolla’s vee-shape dash crowned by a large, central infotainment touchscreen /controller.

The driver’s area is neat and uncluttered with simple round dials in the instrument pod. Corolla ZR scores all the fruit available with new Corolla, both tech’ and luxury.

The design is functional if a touch squeezy in the rear seat foot well.

The ZR tested had a full size spare which pinches a lot of boot space but the hatch’s bubble shape pulls back some space.

The tones are fairly standard dark grey/charcoal which is the go-to colour for most cars these days….boring.

Soft touch panels are provided in the right places and the overall look inside is modern, almost clinical and functional, right down to the switchgear and electronic controls.

A good looking interior by anyone’s measure.


As top of the range the ZR test vehicle was generously equipped offering a lot of car for the money comparatively speaking…. especially as it’s a Toyota.

Among good things you get are:

  • Premium JBL audio
  • Heated front seats
  • Leather upholstery
  • Hard wired satnav
  • Dual zone climate control
  • Three drive modes, Eco, Normal and Sport
  • LED headlights
  • Wireless phone charging
  • 18-inch alloys
  • 10 step CVT auto
  • Keyless entry/start

2018 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid rearDrive and Engine

Power comes from a petrol/electric hybrid drive system with a 1.8-litre petrol engine and two electric assist/generator motors.

They all chime into the equation at some time during the drive experience but you can’t really tell. It will run on pure electricity for a couple of kilometres.

The 10 step CVT is a cracker and feels more like a conventional fluid auto in operation.

The paddle shift adds to its appeal.

As this is a new platform, Corolla now runs a multi-link rear suspension for better control and ride quality.

Active cornering assist selectively applies the brakes for neater cornering.

Because it rides lower, the new model has a lower centre of gravity for stability gains as well as aesthetics.

It weighs a fair bit at 1400kg but there’s 90kW on tap with what feels like around 250Nm of torque.

The really good thing is being able to dip into the “threes” for fuel economy. I saw 3.8-litres/100km at one stage without trying too hard.

Corolla Hybrid has plenty of zip off the mark and across the entire operating range thanks in part to the twin electric assist motors. However, the car still has an old school nickel metal hydride battery instead of a lithium ion unit.

Go figure.

Couple of things  for sure here… you won’t be disappointed with the drive feel of the new Corolla Hybrid and you’ll love how few visits you have to make to the servo.


They upped the ante with this new generation model which scores a five star ANCAP rating. The ZR driven goes the whole hog with advanced driver assist technology like blind spot monitor, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, autonomous emergency braking, rear view camera. Pedestrian and cyclist detection, active cruise and plenty more.

Even the base model Corolla is well endowed in this area and it costs from about $22 grand.

Good Bits

  • Exceptional fuel economy
  • Engaging drive feel
  • High level of active and passive safety
  • Looks mean
  • Built in Japan
  • Goes and handles well
  • Affordable
  • Resale

Not So Good Bits

  • Full size spare cuts load space in boot
  • Despite longer wheelbase, rear seat legroom is tight
  • Auto high beam can be slow to react

2018 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid frontSummary

Wow, didn’t expect this. There are some red hot players in the small car class but the new Corolla gives nothing away to any of them. Infact, it sets a new benchmark in the affordable small hatchback segment on a lot of scores.

Shop Corolla against Golf every day and any of the others like Impreza, Mazda 3 and Hyundai i30 which is possibly Corolla’s closest rival right now.

Facts and Figures: 2018 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid

  • Engine: 1.8L four-cylinder hybrid producing 90kW/250Nm
  • Transmission: Ten-speed CVT
  • Warranty: 3 years/ 100,000km
  • Safety: Five stars
  • Origin: Japan
  • Price: from $31,870

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