Toyota didn’t invent the compact car, but it practically perfected the concept with the long-running Corolla.
Likewise, the automaker didn’t deliver the first mass-market hybrid, but it’s become synonymous with the technology over the last two decades. To bring the two together makes plenty of sense, though it took longer than it should have given the level of success the brand has achieved with both.
Now in its third year on the market, the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is precisely the car it should be given the brand’s proficiency in the gas-electric space, delivering otherworldly efficiency to go with the reputation for reliability this small car has long been known for. Add in a sub-$30,000 price tag, and it’s hard to find fault in this small sedan.
The economies of scale that come from being based on the best-selling car ever makes the Corolla Hybrid an affordable entry within its small competitive set. The base trim starts at $26,880 before tax with its non-negotiable $1,690 freight charge included, while the Premium package pushes that to $28,950. That’s reasonable even compared to non-hybrid Corollas, with at least a couple trims costing more.
It also falls about mid-pack amongst hybrids this size. Within Toyota’s own lineup, the purpose-built Prius starts at $30,940, while the Hyundai Elantra Hybrid is priced between $26,524 and $28,824, and the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid ranges from $27,374 to $34,774.
Granted, there are cheaper gas-only compact cars out there (including the base Corolla, which is a shade less than $21,000 before tax), but then the asking price here grants access to this hybrid powertrain – and that’s the big sell in the first place. Even so, equipment is good if not quite great, with a couple features that probably should be included, particularly with the Premium pack added as it has been here. Namely, the absence of satellite radio is just plain odd, while the lack of a sunroof might seem strange, too.
Otherwise, the base version includes heated front seats, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connections, automatic climate control, alloy wheels, and heated door mirrors. The upgrade package, meanwhile, adds a heated steering wheel and rear seats, faux leather upholstery, eight-way power adjustability for the driver’s seat, and a wireless phone charger for its $2,070 price premium.
Safety equipment is the same regardless of the selling price, with lots of good stuff included. Of course, there’s the back-up camera that’s required by the federal government these days, as well as 10 airbags scattered throughout the cabin. There’s also blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping and steering assist, and forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
While the gap maintained by the adaptive cruise system is wide enough even in its closest setting to allow other drivers to squeeze in, causing a ripple effect of braking, all the advanced systems work without too much fuss. The uninitiated may struggle at first to adjust to the steering assist – Toyota calls it “lane-tracing” – that’s not quite as smooth with its automated inputs as other systems out there, but it works as intended by easing the burden of highway driving.
Toyota’s approach to hybrids could politely be described as predictable – and not just because it basically wrote the playbook on these powertrains. It pairs a naturally aspirated engine with dual electric motor-generators under the hood, a small battery pack, and an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The gas engine, a 1.8L four-cylinder, runs on the highly thermal-efficient Atkinson cycle and produces 121 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque – not exactly jaw-dropping stuff on its own. But with 71 hp from the electric system lending a helping hand, this hybrid moves around just fine. Moderate throttle input is rewarded with electric-only acceleration from a standing start before the gas engine kicks in, with the two sides of the powertrain working together all but perfectly.
Hammer on the throttle and it sounds strained, though that’s the fault of the CVT more than anything else. And despite all the commotion, it generates enough gusto when called upon to pass or merge with inducing panic.
Fuel Economy: 10/10
The Corolla Hybrid is best driven gently in order to maximize efficiency, though doing so isn’t all that difficult – and the returns are impressive, with its official ratings topped with little effort. According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), this gas-electric sedan is good for 4.5 L/100 km combined, which is comparable to the Prius and Elantra Hybrid, with the Ioniq Hybrid coming in at 4.0 L/100 km.
However, an evaluation drive covering some 270 km of major and secondary highways, with only a small amount of city driving mixed in, finished at an astonishing 3.6 L/100 km. Meanwhile, the full week of testing ended at 3.9 L/100 km over the course of nearly 520 km. (To get technical, the Corolla burned 20.225 L across 517.1 km, resulting in consumption of 3.911 L/100 km.)
Driving Feel: 9/10
Given the focus on efficiency here, the Corolla Hybrid is an agile little sedan. There’s almost a squishiness to the suspension, but it’s countered by minimal body roll and sharp chassis response (even if the steering feels rather numb and artificial). No, there won’t be any confusing this compact with the Honda Civic Type R that swallows chicanes whole, but in the context of what it is, this Toyota is outstanding.
That controlled pliability also allows this Corolla to maintain its comfort and composure even on the most disruptive surfaces. It’s also quiet, with only the most porous pavement generating road noise. Otherwise, the drive experience is upscale and serene – words not commonly associated with economy cars, hybrid or otherwise.
The front seats in this tester also proved more comfortable than in previous Corollas, with good bolstering and plenty of support, while the faux leather upholstery doesn’t look or feel like an especially convincing fake, but it’s certainly soft. Then there’s the automatic climate control system that features an eco mode that limits output in the name of efficiency (that’s where the heated seats all around will come in handy on chilly days).
As far as compact sedans go, the Corolla Hybrid is spacious enough to fit four adults inside, though prospective ride-share drivers take note: headroom in the back is limited, while the rear doors don’t open especially wide. Legroom is adequate, though, while front-seat occupants are rewarded with the lion’s share of space. It’s here that the lack of an available sunroof pays dividends, with headroom hard to come by in the Corolla otherwise.
Small item storage isn’t especially abundant, with a shallow covered console bin and a narrow shelf beneath the centre stack that can house a smartphone (it’s where the Premium pack’s wireless charger is located). While the front door pockets are a decent size, the ones in the back are barely big enough for a water bottle. At 371 L, the trunk is more than adequate and features a large opening, though its hinges are exposed and swing down into the cargo area when closed, cutting into outright usability and potentially damaging cargo in the process.
Overall, the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a stylish little sedan that’s all but indistinguishable from its gas-only siblings. Besides a unique wheel design and a tiny badge on the trunk denoting what powers it, there’s simply no indication that this one’s any different than the rest. Finished in the brand’s Blueprint hue of navy paint, it’s a subtly stylish compact.
The space inside is much the same, while this tester featured a two-tone cabin that’s exclusive to the Premium package. Not only does it brighten up the cabin but it provides the illusion of even more space – though that comes with a higher risk of stains showing up on the various surfaces.
User Friendliness: 7/10
Outward visibility is great in all directions – a credit to the tall greenhouse and narrow pillars – while cabin controls are straightforward and match the simplicity of the space itself. However, they’re all not as easy to use as they should be, with tiny buttons for climate and audio control, and massive rockers for the heated front chairs that are obscured from view by the bulging dashboard.
The USB port used to connect to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto suffers a similar fate, with its location tucked beneath the dash. Those connections are all but necessary here, too, with the infotainment interface itself lacking much of any features or frills. And while the eight-inch display isn’t among the most crisp out there, it responds quickly to pokes and prods, while the voice-to-text speech recognition works well.
The 2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid isn’t exactly an exciting car, but few others are this efficient. Now consider this compact’s notoriety for lasting approximately forever, and it just might be worth getting hyped about after all.
|Peak Horsepower||121 hp net|
|Fuel Economy||4.4 / 4.5 / 4.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||371 L|
|Model Tested||2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid|
|Price as Tested||$29,050|
$2,070 – Premium Package, $2,070