Toyota Corolla 2018 zr (hybrid)

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The CarAdvice Winners Circle 2018, James Wong: Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid

My winning pick for 2018 is the new Toyota Corolla Hybrid. Shortly after the all-new model launched locally in August I reviewed the mid-spec SX variant.

Why a Corolla? The new-generation model is such a leap forward in so many ways, and personally I believe it’s a genuine top pick in the small-car segment.

The hybrid version offers such seamless transitions between petrol and electric power, on top of that it’s impressively efficient in the real world, and offers a comprehensive suite of active safety and driver assistance technologies across the entire range – something that various rivals are unable to match.

MORE: CarAdvice WINNERS CIRCLE 2018

I’m also quite a big fan of the design – both inside and out. It’s edgy without being overtly unattractive, and the interior has a nice look and feel to it, especially in ZR trim with its awesome leather/suede bucket seats.

Where older versions were more of a safe buy than vehicles you actually wanted to drive, the new-generation Corolla actually steers and rides beautifully regardless of the surface or speed. The steering is nicely weighted and direct, and combined with the hunkered-down feeling you get from the chassis it feels rather ‘sporty’.

Sure, the hybrid isn’t anywhere near hot hatches in terms of straight-line performance, but the Corolla is engaging to drive through twisty country roads and eats up country kilometres. The fun-to-drive element doesn’t impact comfort levels, either. Over long journeys the Corolla is impressively refined and comfortable, though there are some caveats, unfortunately.

We have to penalise it for the lack of rear passenger and luggage space. Behind taller drivers anyone 180 centimetres tall and over will feel a little squishy in the back row, and all models bar the top-spec ZR hybrid have a sub-par 217 litres – though the petrol-electric ZR bumps that up to 333L as it goes without a spare tyre, which could be seen as another issue entirely.

It’s also a shame Toyota Australia only brought in the 90kW 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain as opposed to the 133kW 2.0-litre hybrid powertrain offered in markets like Europe.

In saying that, if you’re looking to carry people in the back fairly regularly you’re more than likely to be looking at a Camry or RAV4-sized vehicle as opposed to a Corolla, and the 1.8-litre hybrid system does the job adequately in terms of performance, just don’t expect to win any traffic light drag races.

All up, it’s probably the first time in my life where driving or owning a Corolla can be considered ‘cool’ and I believe it’s more than worthy of being a top pick for the year.

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