- Amazingly frugal drivetrain
- Brilliant ride and handling balance with a solid feel
- Toyota's reputation for reliability
- Small, cramped boot with no spare wheel
- Tight rear seat for adults
- Hybrid drivetrain struggles under full load and is a generation behind the ones found in other Toyotas
There’s no denying that the Toyota Corolla is something of an automotive icon, having debuted all the way back in 1966. There’s also no denying it’s built up a reputation of being boring to drive and bland – Corollas of old were dull, dreary and very much appliances on wheels. That all changed in 2012 when Toyota committed to building “no more boring cars”, bringing out brilliant handling cars such as the Toyota 86, GR Yaris and GR Supra. Even better is the fact that Toyota started making the rest of its range equally decent to drive. The 2022 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is a fine example of this.
Not all is well with the Corolla however, as it’s more expensive than previous generations and no longer tops the sales charts. Descending from top spot finishes in its previous generation in 2017, to dropping out of the podium last year to finish in fourth position shows buyers are once again bucking small cars in favour of SUVs. But read on to see why the Corolla has what it takes to be on the top of your shopping list.
Price & Equipment: 7/10
Toyota should be commended for keeping the Corolla’s pricing unchanged for 2022, though the six-speed manual versions of the Ascent Sport hatchback and sedan were culled from the range last year.
Our 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatch ZR Hybrid comes with a list price of $34,695 before on-road costs. Using a Melbourne postcode, expect to pay $38,912 drive-away. Our car’s ‘Silver Pearl’ premium paint and contrast black roof add $1350 to the purchase price for a circa-$39,500 drive away price. That’s quite a lot of money for a small hatch, even in today’s market. Toyota does include quite a lot of standard kit with the flagship Corolla ZR such as a JBL premium stereo system, auto lights and wipers, all-LED lighting, suede and leather-trimmed sports seats, a heads-up display, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with smartphone mirroring which supports wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Safety kit includes seven airbags, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear auto braking, auto high beam, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, lane departure warning with lane trace assist, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and speed sign recognition. All Corollas come with a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Premium colours such as ‘Eclipse Black’, ‘Peacock Black’ (navy blue), ‘Eclectic Blue’, ‘Graphite’ (grey), ‘Feverish Red’, ‘Frosted White’ and our test car’s ‘Silver Pearl’ – are $575 extra. The only no-cost colour option is ‘Glacier White’. A contrasting coloured roof is $775, while the standard interior colour is black, you can option red and black leather and suede too.
Chief competitors to the Corolla ZR Hybrid include fellow high-grade, auto-equipped small hatchbacks such as the Mazda3 G25 Astina, Kia Cerato GT and the Hyundai i30 N Line Premium. None of the Corolla’s rivals are able to offer a hybrid option and will certainly consume more fuel in urban driving but many of the Corolla’s rivals offer more standard kit for the price. The Mazda3 offers features such as a larger centre screen, significantly more power and a lusher, more cohesive interior. The Kia and the Hyundai have longer warranties and impress too with their more willing drivetrains, even if they double the Corolla ZR Hybrid’s urban fuel economy.
Performance & Economy: 8.5/10
The 2022 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid sees a 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine teamed with a 53kW/163Nm electric motor under the bonnet for a combined system power output of 90kW. Toyota doesn’t quote a combined torque figure.
All that power is sent directly to the front wheels via a CVT automatic transmission. On paper, the Corolla ZR Hybrid’s 90kW power output looks paltry in comparison with turbocharged alternatives such as the Hyundai i30 N Line. In the real world, the Corolla is perfectly fine to drive. It gets up to speed and feels relaxed at higher speeds. It won’t set any speed records however, as we managed a rather slow 0-100km/h sprint time of 11 seconds.
Around town and with a light right foot, the Corolla actually manages to get around without using the petrol engine at all. By accelerating slowly from the lights, the nickel-metal hydride battery and electric motor will easily get the Corolla up to 30-40km/h. Pressing the accelerator anywhere past halfway however, causes the revs to flare bringing with it a earful of noise from the petrol engine. This sadly detracts from the otherwise serene hybrid experience, as the Corolla goes form eerily silent driving at low speed to a coarse blast of noise during stronger acceleration.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that some other Toyota products are vastly more civilised to drive thanks to newer hybrid systems. Cars such as the Camry Hybrid and even the smaller Yaris Hybrid come with newer lithium ion batteries and improved electric motors which are more drivable, quieter and offer even better fuel economy.
Fuel consumption is officially rated at an exceptional 4.2L/100km on the combined cycle using 91 RON regular unleaded. During a week of mixed urban and freeway driving we still managed fuel economy in the low-fives. If the petrol engine didn’t have to work so hard to get the Corolla up to speed, that fuel consumption figure would be even better, much like we have seen in some newer Toyota hybrid products.
We really hope Toyota Australia would consider offering the Corolla Hybrid with the more potent 142kW 2.0-litre hybrid available overseas, to better match the other warm-hatches on sale. Doing so would make the Corolla more relaxed on the open road, without greatly impacting real-world fuel economy.
Ride & Handling: 9/10
There’s no mistaking it, this Corolla has a driving experience that’s a world away from the dull experience afforded by previous iterations. The 2022 Toyota Corolla is a lovely hatch to drive with a ride and handling experience which rivals class leaders such as the Volkswagen Golf.
Throw the Corolla into a corner and the steering is fluid and predictable, giving a natural feel of what the front wheels are doing. The ZR’s 18-inch wheels and 225/40 low-profile tyres provide loads of grip and the Corolla has a neutral feel through corners. Body control and body roll are kept in check too, making the Corolla one of the most engaging cars to drive in the class.
On all roads and bumps, the body feels solid as a rock thanks to the rigidity of Toyota TNGA platform on which the Corolla rides. The ride is firm but more than pliant enough with a beautifully damped and comfortable feel, even on the rather fashionable low-profile tyres the ZR wears.
Road noise is unfortunately ever present in the Corolla meaning isn’t ultimately as relaxing to drive as the Mazda 3. Coarse chip roads seem to boom at all speeds – perhaps smaller tyres would help. Toyota’s Safety Sense active safety assistance tech works well in the real world, with the speed adaptive cruise control with stop/go function, lane-keep assist with Lane Trace Assist (lane centering) and road sign recognition all performing flawlessly.
Interior & Practicality: 7/10
The 2022 Toyota Corolla’s interior first debuted back in 2018 and still manages to feel modern. The design is clean and uncluttered with the decent quality and a good mix of higher end materials for a small car.
In the Corolla ZR, the leatherette-trimmed elements on the dash and doors, along with the racy bucket-style seats add a certain element of sporting flair to the interior. The interior is a nice place to spend time in and whilst it might not beat a Mazda3 in terms of design or quality, it’s a step forward from the blocky, lackluster design and feel of the previous generation.
The Corolla’s infotainment continues to be lacking however, like in most Toyotas. Graphics are poor, animations feel slow, loading times are quite laggy, and the screen resolution and brightness aren’t the best either. The look and feel of the infotainment system, as well as that of the dials in front of the driver are a generation or so behind the more polished rivals.
Up front, the driving position feels spot on with ample adjustment for the steering column and the driver’s seat. All the switchgear is user friendly and falls well to hand. No surprises here. Storage options up front include with an array of cubbies, shelves and bins to store your loose items and the wireless phone charger and single USB-A port are placed in front of the gear selector to keep your phone out of harms way when driving.
Sadly, in the second row, things take a turn for the worse in the Corolla. Legroom is super tight for adults in the rear, as is headroom with the sloping roof line eating away at rear-seat space. Not all is lost however, with air vents and a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders for rear passengers.
Bootspace is also another sore point for the Corolla, as all models feature sub-par storage space for luggage. In the ZR Hybrid we tested, boots space comes in at only 333L with no spare tyre under the boot floor, there’s only a tyre repair kit.
That figure trails rivals such as the Hyundai i30’s 395L. With a space save spare wheel fitted, the Corolla’s boot size falls to an abysmal 217L, which is below the class average and what we have come to expect from light cars.
Service & Warranty: 8/10
Every 2022 Toyota Corolla is covered by a the Japanese brand’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, with the first five services capped at $205 each.
The 2022 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Rating: 7.9/10
The 2022 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is another fine Toyota which can be bought with the head and the heart. It drives well, looks good, is exceptionally frugal and is backed by Toyota’s legendary reliability. It might be a tad overpriced and ultimately lacking the latest hybrid tech, but it is an excellent car which deserves to be on shopping lists.
Instead of getting lost in the sea of SUVs on sale these days, the Corolla proves that when done right, humble hatchbacks can be all you need. It’s hard not to see how it’s still Australia’s favourite small car and a cracking purchase. Let’s just hope Toyota brings a Corolla Hybrid to Australia with a more potent engine.