Toyota Corolla 2021 ascent sport + navi hybrid
long-term-report

2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid sedan long-term review: The driving gig

$28,395 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    3.5L
  • Engine Power
    72kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    81g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars
The Corolla has been many things to many people over the years – today James puts it to the test as a gig-economy workhorse
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Today I put on one of my many hats worn around the CarAdvice/Drive office, and become your small business consultant.

With changes to the way we buy and consume, and in the manner we expect or even demand instant gratification and supply of our goods, it’s no surprise that the gig-economy is one area we can see changing daily.

When Uber first launched in Australia, it was a premium service that utilised the ‘black’ hire car fleet to provide a high-end user-bookable transport platform. And while the offering now may be broader, the service is a bit less deluxe.

Sure, you can get a ride, a rental, some food or even a package, but you’ll probably never see a Caprice answering the call, instead, something far more economical will likely be your wheel-ticket. Something like our long term 2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid sedan.

So for this update, I look at what the little ‘Rolla is like in terms of extended urban seat time. Comfort, economy and general usability will all play a part, to see how the world’s best-selling nameplate may work as the hardest worker in your small business.

2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid Sedan
Engine configurationFour-cylinder petrol with hybrid drive (twin-electric motors and 1.3kWh battery)
Displacement1.8L (1798cc)
Power90kW combined, 72kW @ 5200rpm (petrol only)
Torque142Nm @ 3600rpm
TransmissionCVT automatic
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Power to weight ratio66.2 kW/t
Fuel consumption (combined cycle claim)3.5L/100km
Fuel consumption (combined cycle on test)-
Fuel tank size43L
Estimated range1200km
Sales categorySmall car (sedan)
Key competitorsHyundai i30 sedan / Kia Cerato / Hyundai Ioniq

To recap, our Toyota tips the pricing scales at $27,395 before options and on-road costs. We’ve added the $1000 technology package (satellite navigation and digital radio) and the $500 Volcanic Red Metallic paint.

This brings the total to $28,895 before on-roads, or for our Melbourne office location, $32,940 drive-away. Cash flow is key for any small business though, so it may make sense for you to look at finance options.

Using the simple calculator on the Toyota Australia website, you can get moving in this car with a $2500 deposit, a $445 per month instalment ($103 per week) over four years, and a $12,698 final balloon payment.

A quick scan of the classifieds has a four-year-old Corolla at a higher value than that, which means in this example, you could sell the car, pay out the finance, and still have some left for a deposit on your next set of wheels.

Note though, I’ve said I’ll be your small business consultant and not your financial advisor, so take this only as information and don’t do anything without speaking to your accountant first.

Numbers squared away, what is the little sedan like as a platform for your rideshare or delivery business?

2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid Sedan
Length4630 mm
Width1780 mm
Height1435 mm
Wheelbase2700 mm
Turning circle10.8m
Boot volume470L
Tare mass1360kg
Wheels/tyres195/65 R15 Bridgestone

To find out, I officially became a gig economy worker, for my family.

That meant picking up and bringing home takeaway, shuffling my pre-teen daughter, her friends and their TikTok skills to and from after-school and social activities, as well as regular communing and household errands. I even took on some delivery tasks for selling goods on Marketplace, just to really go full-method on this write-up. You're welcome.

I tried to group things together as much as I could, so as to spend the maximum amount of time in the driver’s seat, and I kept an eye on my fuel consumption and energy use throughout.

Due to my geographic location, the majority of driving was done around Melbourne’s inner-east and inner-bayside suburbs, with the occasional detour taken through the city, because, why not.

Needless to say, if I could dish out negative ratings to grumpy family members I would, but as a whole, the little Corolla handled the job pretty darn well!

Almost too well in one instance, as when picking up dinner in South Yarra, the store staffer saw the Corolla and automatically went to hand me an Uber Eats order. Typecast much?

As, to be fair, the sedan seems to be a more popular choice for this role.

To start, while it may arguably look a little ‘dorkier’ than the Corolla hatch, the sedan offers a boot with more than twice the volume of the five-door ‘Rolla (470-litres v 217-litres). There’s more rear passenger room too, as the wheelbase is 60mm longer.

In fact, the car as a whole is 255mm longer than the hatch, but since we’re talking about you driving rather than parking for a living, there’s no real downside here.

And driving is really the key here.

The Corolla’s 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and 53kW/163Nm electric motor does a pretty solid job of shuffling the Corolla about town. More importantly, they do a very efficient job of the task with our real-world 4.2L/100km urban result still impressive despite being 23 per cent higher than the claim of just 3.4L/100km.

And to be truthful, during some sustained seat time around the city, the car would regularly sit in the mid-high 3L/100km, as it was only more ‘urgent’ driving, and running the heater on some cooler mornings, that tended to push the consumption up.

Strangely though, there were a few times when you could hear the engine running but the car’s efficiency display didn’t show this to be the case.

Plus, taking a contradictory stance to pretty much every other car, the Corolla Hybrid uses MORE fuel at sustained higher speeds than it does around town, as the hybrid setup needs to rely on the petrol engine more than the battery.

It’s not much higher, 3.6L/100km highway claim against 3.4L/100km urban, but even a short run on the freeway can tip you from the 3’s to the 4’s in terms of overall consumption. Whatever the case, it is real-world low, real-world achievable and effortless to deal with.

It’s effortless to drive too.

2021 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid Sedan
ColourVolcanic Red Metallic
Price (MSRP)$27,395
Options as tested$1500
Servicing 3yr$540
Servicing 5yr$900
ANCAP safety ratingFive-star ( tested 2018)
WarrantyFive years / unlimited km (for private use) 160,000km (for commercial use)

The steering is light, the ride is compliant enough for the usual urban obstacles of speed humps, rail crossings and cobblestones, and importantly, the 10.8m turning circle makes it nimble enough for a swift u-turn.

Even the automatic transmission works well, offering a quick change from drive to reverse and swift take up in either direction.

I don’t want to go out and call it a golf-buggy… but it’s a bit of a golf buggy. Go. Stop. Left. Right. Everything is very easy,

In terms of passengers, the back seat is quite firm, but its roomy enough back there and considering I didn’t get any real complaints from my daughter, or my dog, I’ll take that as a pass too.

Up front, the cloth seats are comfortable and supportive for running about town, but for longer stints behind the wheel, they could really use some lumbar support. Make sure you grab a little pillow on hand if you plan on logging big hours in your Corolla.

Toyota’s 8.0-inch touch screen works well enough, providing you don’t use it often or just opt for device projection by way of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

The menus can be cumbersome to navigate, but once you have a phone paired, and your radio station set, you don’t need to fiddle with it too much.

However, I found that Apple CarPlay was so effective, that I’d even suggest you could avoid the $1000 tech pack, as the native Toyota navigation interface is pretty clumsy to use, and I only use digital radio to listen to Triple-M ‘90s, which is essentially my old Triple-J CD collection on shuffle, and Apple Music manages that too.

The only real benefit is not getting the AM-radio static when listening to talkback (and myself) on 3AW.

I will note that the placement of the USB port on the passenger side of the console is pretty naff, but if this was your car you would plug something in on day one, then never think of it again.

Back in the 1970s, there was a computing industry catchcry that ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’. Meaning that the product was so reliable and the knowledge base so expansive, that a default purchase of IBM was never a bad decision, even if it wasn’t the best decision.

It is a mindset that aligns perfectly to our story of your small business in today’s gig economy and that if you opt for a Corolla Hybrid, you’re already starting from a good place.

The level of comfort, equipment, space and affordability is hard to beat, especially as a set.

No, it might not be the most exciting or coolest thing getting around, but I’m hard-pressed to find anything it legitimately does wrong, even if there are things it can do better.

So in terms of a low-risk set of wheels, that might just become the hardest-working member of your small business, I doubt anyone will be fired for buying a Corolla.