The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatch is the second generation of the model series to come with a hybrid. The ZR is a top-of-the-range trim with several pleasing aesthetics, including 18-inch alloy wheels, which make the main difference. The upgrades present with the ZR are interior-focused, including a pair of sports front bucket seats with lumbar support for the driver.
The new model was brought to the market in 2018 with a TNG platform that allowed for various drivetrains and vehicle sizes. It made for quite a sharp look on the sedan. The design language is the same as the one used by its sister brand Lexus. The LED headlights are also well sculptured with a gaping grille. The rear is pinched and cleaved, so there are exciting angles.
The ZR is available with smart entry and start. There are grooves on the handles and a round button on the hatch next to the entrance. As stated before, the wheels provided a presence to the profile.
Great emphasis was placed on the interior of the ZR for the Corolla's 12th generation. The design is clean and ergonomic. It has excellent build quality, complete with durable and comfortable cloth upholstery. There is some obsession with asymmetric design considering the dash ebbs and flows and a Head-Up Display, which tops the pod. The minimalist centre stack is topped by a touchscreen equipped with Android Auto. The rear seating is tight for space with tall adults.
There are cup-holders and decent door bins as well, though keys and wallets may have to remain within the bags or pockets. The seating position is not too low as the controls fall within reach. The head-up display may seem simple, but it provides all the available information needed without having to complicate things.
There’s a 333-litre boot space, and there is no spare tyre within the variant. It is possible to fold the seating 60:40 if there is a need to fit in something bulky.
Some of the main features available in the 2020 Corolla ZR hatch include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with digital radio and navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay compatibility, wireless phone charger, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, heated auto-folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, fog and taillights. The list of interior features is quite long, providing the right balance and comfort. However, the centre console goes for form-above-function - one needs to lob the phone into the wireless charger and the CarPlay USB port.
The ZR hybrid combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with a battery-powered electric motor. When the driver brakes, it reclaims the energy wasted and uses it to recharge the battery, thus propelling the car. That affects the way fuel is used and especially around urban areas heavy with stop-and-go traffic. The engine is rated at 72 kW while the electric motor churns out 53 kW; though instead of adding to the engine for a combined output, the maximum output is documented at 90 kW.
Given that nearly every vehicle in the small-car class has pushed past the 100 kW mark, the Corolla outputs are slightly on the lower side. The powertrain is linked to an automatic transmission known as an e-CVT. It does the thinking when it comes to coordinating the motor and the engine. It provides for a smooth operator, usually free from delay. The fuel economy is 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres.
On the road, the CVT is nippy as it simulates the gear changes of the traditional automatic during harsh accelerations and when in the sport mode. It prevents high engine revving when going from the start. There is sufficient power available for overtaking, though it does need a bit of planning to execute.
The Corolla seems to be well set for cruising rather than sportiness. Steering is also well assisted but firm. The ride is quite smooth as well. Parking, though, involves a reversing camera that has rear cross-traffic alert systems and braking.
Safety packages aboard the ZR Toyota hybrid include seven airbags that are distributed adequately in the vehicle. There are two directly in front of the driver and passenger, one beside the front occupants and a curtain airbag down each side to protect them from side impacts.
All ZR hybrids come with speed sign assist, lane departure alerts with steering assist, and all-speed active cruise control. There is also blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high and low sped autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection.
For the flagship version, the costing is somewhat expensive. The ZR hybrid price begins at $33,635 before options and on-road coats. When other packages are added, the retail can go past $38,000. The servicing price starts cheap at only $180 per visit every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres for the first five scheduled services.
Toyota has given a warranty for five years or unlimited kilometres for private buyers. It allows for up to seven years of warranty for the engine and drivetrain or hybrid warranty and decade hybrid warranty for the cars that remain serviced to a Toyota dealership.
In a highly competitive car class, this is Toyota's attempt at stepping away from the safe catalogue and creates a model that has emotional appeal. It is a change from the predictable reputation that has sustained sales in the past. It does take advantage of the need to reduce emissions through the hybrid package, and the transmission makes up for it by simulating exciting gear changes.
However, it is somewhat underpowered. It is nippy around the urban areas but hardly sporty on the freeway. Some of the brand's primary sensibilities remain intact as there is nothing too complicated and no step-change in how the ZR operates. It is aesthetically moving, though, and priced above the regular hybrid variants of its class.
Wondering about Toyota Corolla’s history? Read about the world’s bestselling nameplate from the first generation to the twelfth! And do check us for our weekly Car Reviews. Here’s one more that you shouldn’t miss – the much-awaited 2020 Formula One Grand Prix in Austria – read it here!