Review: Toyota Corolla 1.8V Hybrid CVT

Published March 16, 2021, 10:10 PM

by Inigo Roces

Same Corolla you love, but this does 20+ km/L

Written by Eric Tipan

It gets 20 kilometer per liter (km/L) even in Power mode, when the engine was roaring as it easily cruised to maintain 100 km/h on the SLEX. But more on the actual performance later.

Sharp looks

The Corolla looks absolutely sharp. No errant line nor element out of place from nose to tail. Credit that magnetic look to the nine-year old ‘Keen Look’ styling language that brings together the slim grille, the large vents (on the bumper), the gorgeous bi-beam LED headlamps, and the LED fog lamps (with a huge chrome-plated accent) to perfection. No wonder it still sold more than a thousand units despite the strict lockdown last year.

There are very faint hints of body lines (on the hood and the sides) and a sexy groove just above the rocker panel. The rear brings up slim full LED taillights and a bumper made shapelier by a border on the reflectors that mimic the ones on the front foglamps (minus the chrome accent).

I can’t say enough about how simply yet detailed the exterior is. It has just enough touches of chrome for sophistication and to make it really stand out. It also has the proper amount of curves without looking like it’s trying too hard (yes, there are models out there that do).

As a top trim, it gets the Smart Entry system where you just keep the key in your pocket and the doors automatically unlock when you reach for the handle. To lock, simply press the lines on the handle.

Welcoming interior

Inside, the black cabin is only broken up by a few silver and chrome trims found on the door panels, center console, and the dashboard.

While loaded with technology, the cabin doesn’t feel cluttered and riddled with all manner of fancy equipment. I was actually expecting a lot but was surprised to see just a modest touchscreen audio system (with Bluetooth and a USB port), a glossy climate control display with slim buttons and a couple of rotary knobs, and the highly colorful instrument panel with a seven-inch MID (multi-information display).

Seats are leather, of course. So is the steering wheel, shift knob, and there are some on the soft-touch dashboard that show visible stitching for added elegance.

The menu of the infotainment system and the MID is pretty straightforward, and it comes with colorful icons with a more intense blue hue, most probably because that’s how Toyota designates its hybrid models.

Despite having Toyota Safety Sense, which include features like Automatic High Beam, Lane Tracing Assist, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, the steering wheel looks unpretentious with buttons only for the MID, audio, telephony, voice command, Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System, and Lane Departure Alert.

Hybrid power

It is powered by a 1.8L gasoline engine and a motor generator that sends a combined output of 121-PS and 142-Nm of torque to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

On Eco mode, it feels heavy and sluggish, although it did manage to get 24.6 km/L. Normal is more to my liking as it moved and sped up to my expectations based on throttle input.

Power mode feels rather excessive and something you’d probably use only if you’re in a real hurry or find yourself on a track one weekend with the Corolla Hybrid. The engine notes are exaggerated in the cabin and it felt like an angry, manic kid after a candy binge.


Steering and throttle response was very quick but you won’t easily find it speeding past the limit as the roar from under the hood will let you know it’s time to slow down.

Comfort is impressive. It feels almost like being in a Camry save for the shorter wheelbase and slightly smaller cabin. No road noise, vibration, and harshness slipped in the cabin even though it rolled on 17-inch alloy wheels. The seats feel great and while they don’t look heavily bolstered, come with great support.

Handling is also very good. It moved gracefully around corners and kept its composure even under pressure to maintain high speeds and during overtaking maneuvers.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like, Toyota needs to swap this rear window-printed antenna to something better because I struggled to get a signal from FM stations even while in Metro Manila.

Other than that, it’s an awesome car. It might not have the ground clearance most buyers look for, (which is why crossovers are all the rage), but it certainly has great qualities that would be tough to ignore.

Priced at P1.610 million, it boasts of a 52-year heritage complemented by the cutting-edge Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive. If you want a vehicle that rides as well as it looks and is eye-poppingly fuel-efficient, the Toyota Corolla 1.8V Hybrid CVT should be very high on your list.