2020 Toyota Corolla 1.8 V Hybrid First Impressions
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2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid First Impressions

It's your first taste of what a Tesla feels like.

I was able to drive the Toyota Corolla Altis hybrid around the block at Bonifacio Global City, and while it was definitely a short drive, it still gave me a solid first impression toward’s Toyota’s most well-priced hybrid model yet.

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid Exterior

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid Exterior

On the outside, the Corolla Altis 1.8 V hybrid has the same exterior as the 1.6 V, which means it has the same dynamic and sporty exterior design with its wide grille, full LED headlights, LED foglights, LED taillights, and 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels. The only exterior differences between the 1.6 V and 1.8 V hybrid are the blue highlights on the badge and headlights, as well as the three hybrid exterior badges.

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid Interior

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid Interior

The interior is likewise the same with the non-hybrid 1.6 V variant, utilizing the same 7-inch digital instrument cluster, 7-inch touch screen infotainment system, and synthetic leather upholstery. Because the Corolla Altis’ TNGA C platform has been conceived from the beginning to be able to utilize a hybrid powertrain, the interior and trunk space remains the same regardless of whether you are getting the 1.8 V Hybrid or 1.6 V.

The Toyota Corolla Altis hybrid shares the same powertrain found in the Prius, which means it consists of a 1.8-liter 2ZR-FXE Atkinson cycle petrol engine, producing 98 hp and 142 Nm, of torque. This is mated to a 600-volt electric motor that provides another 72 hp and 163 Nm of torque. In total, the whole system produces 121 hp with no total torque figures provided. This is mated to an eCVT (electronically controlled continuously variable transmission). Do note that the total hybrid system output is simply not a matter of adding the two power sources.

On paper, the hybrid powertrain does not seem all that powerful compared to the 1.6-liter inline-4 1ZR-FE petrol engine since it produces the same 121 hp power figure. However, out in the real world, the Corolla Altis hybrid performs better than the 1.6-liter Corolla Altis, at least based on my past experience with the 11th generation Corolla Altis using the same engine. More on that later.

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid First Drive Review

Starting up the Corolla Altis is as simple as pressing a button and then crawling out of the hotel in complete silence. Yes, if there is enough charge from the batteries, the petrol engine will not turn on. As I enter the streets of Bonifacio Global City, I was surprised that even after hundreds of meters away, the 1.8-liter engine still did not kick in, even when my foot was already about one fourth into the throttle pedal in order to accelerate. This is in contrast to my past experiences with hybrids, in which a little provocation of the throttle is enough to bring the engine into life.

Apart from the lack of any engine noise, the 7-inch digital instrument cluster displays a small EV icon if the Corolla Altis hybrid is running purely on electricity. The hybrid powertrain’s quietness can be quite disconcerting, given that we’re so accustomed to hearing our car’s engines. Do note that because of the Corolla Altis hybrid’s silence, a couple of gentle honks are needed if you want to let pedestrians become aware of your presence.

When you pull away from stoplights, a gentle electric motor whine can be heard, which to my ears sounds very futuristic. Mash your foot deeper into the throttle, and the engine seamlessly and smoothly kicks in when needed without any jolts or vibrations at all. As mentioned, the Corolla Altis hybrid has the same horsepower figure as the 1.6-liter variants, but the performance in the real world feels faster than what the specs suggest.

It’s a known fact that electric motors are able to provide all of its torque from as low as zero rpm. If you want to pull away aggressively from a stoplight, the electric motors assist the 1.8-liter petrol engine, filling all the torque gaps in the petrol engine’s torque curve. Sure, the eCVT has the typical rubber band effect that holds the engine’s revs as you accelerate hard, but it’s a compromise I’m willing to accept because the result is a Corolla Altis with a lot of pulling power—even more than the 2.0 V.

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid Interior

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid Interior

While the 1.8-liter engine does send power to the front wheels, there are instances when the engine will kick in simply to charge the nickel-metal hydride battery unit. Also, because this is a hybrid, the Corolla Altis hybrid has regenerative brakes, which captures the kinetic energy when braking and then charges the battery. This normally leads to a weird, somewhat on/off brake feel in most hybrids, but in the case of the Corolla Altis hybrid, the brakes feel linear and smooth, just like in any other car.

It’s hard to give fuel economy figures at this point since the Corolla Altis was just driven around Bonifacio Global City in mostly gridlock traffic, so we’ll just refer to the US EPA ratings of 52 MPG combined city and highway driving. This translates to 22.11 km/l in mixed driving scenarios, which is very fuel-efficient, especially since the current Corolla Altis with a 1.6-liter engine averaged around 10 km/l previously in my hands.

We are also unable to test the Dynamic Cruise Control feature of the Toyota Safety Sense and whether it is as good as Subaru EyeSight and Honda Sensing since they told us that we were not allowed to use any of the advanced safety and convenience features during our short test drive.

A proper test drive is really in order in the future for us to really know how efficient the Corolla Altis hybrid is in the real world and how Toyota Safety Sense will perform in Manila’s chaotic streets. Stick to Go Flat Out to keep yourselves updated with the latest local news and car reviews.

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