A quiet, safe and efficient hybrid – Manila Bulletin

2020 Toyota Corolla Altis CVT 1.8V Hybrid

The title sums up what the 2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8V Hybrid CVT is all about. The test unit came in with a reading of 14.4 kilometers per liter. After just two days and under average driving conditions (some passing, maintained top speed on the freeway), it performed better. Now I’m at 15.6 km/l and climbing.

Except for the ‘Hybrid’ badge on the side and rear and the blue halo on the front and rear logo, this model resembles non-hybrid Corolla Altis models. Its body is elegant with a great looking facade that comes with the most elegant interpretation of Toyota’s “Sharp Look”. The lines at the front are slender and come with just the right amount of chrome accents to match the slim bi-beam LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights. At the rear are similarly styled LED combination lights connected by a chrome bar and bumper with shapely edges that match the housing of the front LED fog lights.

This model is probably one of the most attractive sedans on the local market, along with the Mazda3. It is sexy without exaggerating its curves and exudes elegance despite the minimal chrome effects. Its beauty lies in its design, and after building Corollas for 56 years, it feels like Toyota has built its best body to date.

As a top variant, it uses a smart entry system and a Push-Start button. Despite the low roof and center of gravity, it was surprisingly easy to get on and out of the vehicle.

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For a car with a sleek body and highly advanced powertrain, the cabin design leaves a lot to be desired, looking like something from the previous generation. It has a padded dashboard and soft-touch surfaces on the door panels.

In the middle is an eight-inch touchscreen. The operating system is a bit dated compared to the competition in the segment. The spec sheet says it has Apple CarPlay, but it didn’t turn on when I plugged in my device. Pairing via Bluetooth is easy and only needs to be done once, but playing music wirelessly has to go through a process, which was tedious.

The air vents are thin but with large openings, which made it easier to cool down the cabin. There are also rear vents. I like that it still has manual A/C controls so it only took less than a second to adjust the fan speed. New designs on other cars today will have you going through various menus just to turn the temperature up or down.

It has an EV mode button to go fully electric, which depends on the battery level (it should have around 40% charge), and a drive button to switch between Eco, Normal and Sport (Power). Sport mode gets the revs up but has more bark than bite, which means strong revs with only a slight increase in pull at best. Eco is more subdued and retards almost all of the feedback in favor of lower fuel consumption. I stayed on Normal most of the time. It’s the perfect compromise between the two modes and offers just the right response in relation to driver input.

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Steering is light, but twist ratio could be better. For a compact sedan, it barely made a full U-turn on a four-lane highway. I expect better in the next generation.

Comfort is excellent, and that is why this model is known. It takes all shapes and sizes of humps easily and always lands softly. The suppression of noise, vibrations and harshness is very good. Handling is commendable because its low stance keeps body roll to a minimum.

I saved the two best features of this model for last: the 1.8-liter engine complemented by an electric motor and Toyota Safety Sense.

The first is the hybrid powertrain mated to a continuously variable transmission. The maximum output is 121 PS and 142 Nm of torque. It is quiet when starting, since it uses the electric motor to start the vehicle. Even with the engine running, it’s quieter than most other models in its segment. Acceleration is smooth, but overtaking along city streets is a doddle with extra throttle pressure. Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) is a collection of advanced driver assistance systems including pre-collision, automatic high beam, lane keeping assist, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control.

At P1.595 million, the 2020 Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8V Hybrid CVT isn’t the most affordable compact sedan. But with a hybrid powertrain and TSS, it’s hands down the most efficient, quietest, and safest sedan you can buy on the market right now.

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