Time Well Spent: Toyota Corolla Excel 2.0 Hybrid Touring Sports – 8/10

8 out of 10 – *Recommended Car*


To win the hearts and minds of rival brand drivers they really need to get bums on seats to overcome the perceived stodginess the brand possesses – but I loved the drive of this one.

Read on…


The £30,345 all new Toyota Corolla Excel 2.0 Hybrid Touring Sports – suprisingly impressive.

Recently launched, the Corolla has replaced the amazingly dull but faithful Auris. Along with the Camry, it also heralds the return of a model name we haven’t seen in the UK for a number of years. Its all part of a sizeable investment at the companies Derbyshire and North Wales production facilities to continue UK assembly – although Burnaston is now a one model factory (Corolla) following the deletion of the Avensis range. As before, the cars are produced at Derby while the powertrains are assembled and transferred over from the Deeside engine plant.

The Corolla has a tough act to follow, insofar as the Auris, despite the fact it never set the soul on fire, was adored and respected by its owners. Even though Toyota have no intentions of going head to head with the likes of the Astra, Focus or Golf in terms of sheer numbers produced, it is sitting in a hostile battleground. The Corolla is aimed at private and fleet user-choosers and even though the Toyota brand has proven quality and reliability on its side, its nevertheless got to offer something different if its to really stand out in the showrooms.

I’m no total stranger the Corolla it must be said. I first experienced the car at a recent SMMT test event at the Millbrook proving ground albeit briefly – I came away rather impressed. In fact the actual car I have had on test is the actual car I drove at the event. The model chosen is the estate (or to correctly call it – Touring Sports) fitted with their 1987cc Hybrid CVT driveline in top-of-the-range “Excel” trim that, excluding options, is priced at £30,345 on the road. Options fitted to the test car were Scarlet Flare pearlescent paintwork  adding £795 and upgraded JBL audio at £450.

First impressions of the car as you approach it are favourable. If you appreciate quality and tight shut lines you will feel at home with the Corolla. The paint finish looks impressive as do all the gaps between the doors and panels. There’s no waviness to the flanks as you look down the bodywork either – everything just fits and lines up well. Visually the Corolla is a smart looking machine, its clearly a Toyota from ten paces as it echoes slightly the former Auris silhouette. Thankfully though it is visually different enough to distance itself from the previous model.

Good to see the return of the rev counter rather than an annoying flailing power dial needle. The facia is better than the Auris but still lacks design flair. Ergonomically its fine but the infotainment badly needs improving and updating – sound quality of this optional JBL system is very good.
Its not all bad news though. Those front seats are both supportive and very comfortable. Its a great place to spend plenty of time in.

Step inside and once again the Toyota style of interior is very much present. The facia is much improved over the dare I say it – crushingly drab Auris. That said, it sorely lacks the design flair of the current Focus or the deep-rooted indestructible feel of a Golf.  Gone is the hilariously out of date LED clock that illuminated with a bluey hue and the all new instruments now revert back to a rev counter rather than a power dial who’s needle would flail around like a compass in a magnet factory. The new clocks looks smart and are easy to the eye when reading at a glance.

“It lacks any real excitement to look at inside, but that’s really as not to offend brand loyal Toyota owners while still being engaging enough to vacuum up a good few conquest sales along the way”

Other welcome improvements include the cruise control functions that now work from buttons on the steering wheel rather than a poorly sited lever that used to poke out of the bottom of the wheel boss. In fact, pretty much everything that used to annoy the hell out me in the Auris has been improved and refined in this all new Corolla. It lacks any real excitement to look at inside, but that’s really as not to offend brand loyal Toyota owners while still being engaging enough to vacuum up a good few conquest sales along the way – it all works rather well.

As a driving choice,  I’ll confidently say most people will rather enjoy it. Firstly, the front seats are some of the finest I have come across. They’re deep in their padding and feature a really good level of bolster support when cornering with vigour while also having an excellent scope of lumbar adjustment too. The seats look good too – almost emulating a sporting bucket type affair trimmed in a leather and suede material on this range topping Excel model. Passengers remarked that rear seat comfort is also of a very high standard – Toyota have done a superb job in terms of comfort.

Rear seat comfort matches the front but legroom is only at its best described as average
The tailgate opens up to reveal a fat floor with seat up space of just over 580 litres. No false floor owing to the hybrid battery pack positioning. In my opinion, its got a nice looking rear look to it – especially in this optional pearlescent “Scarlet Flare” red paint job.

When you get out on the road you’ll find the biggest revelation of all – its an absolute joy to drive. The ride comfort is supple and smooth, road noise is notably quieter than you’d experience in some rivals and motorway cruising relaxing. Cornering is undertaken without fuss and the steering weights up at the rim nicely giving you plenty of confidence and feel. My only handling worry was a noticeable lack of poise and grip from the front wheels when you really push beyond the norm. What I would say though is its absolutely nothing to worry about – unless you drive like a total twonk.

I liked the strong brakes very much. Toyota have refined the hybrid driveline to an extent that when you make light brake applications, enough to kick in the re-generation system that is, there’s none of the grabbing or snatching you used to find in older hybrid models. Refinement is generally superb – especially around town or city, it slips in and out of  electric (EV) mode with little sensation or slight jolting as the engine takes over. It squirts away from traffic lights nicely and the steering is quick and precise – mini-cab and fleet drivers are simply going to love this.

2.0 Hybrid power unit gives a total power output of 178bhp. Refinement is rather good and performance is lively enough to get you out of urban bother. Credible economy and emissions too.

There are some downsides with the Corolla though. For the moment, there’s no Apple or Android support on the infotainment – yeah big deal I know but the infotainment system itself is dreadful. Ease of use and sound quality is rather good but the system operating software is annoyingly slow, the graphics are old looking and the sat-nav display is laughably out of date compared to may rivals. Its not all doom and gloom though as Toyota tell me the system is due to be updated in the near future.

Rear legroom is at best only average too. I feel this has been done at the expense of the front seats – the front seat runners seem notably longer than others. So as far as brickbats and gripes matter, there really isn’t a great deal to make the Corolla a deal breaking turn off. If they sort that damn head unit out and perhaps add a dash of colour into the interior then the Corolla should really fly out of the showrooms. But to win the hearts and minds of rival brand drivers they need to get bums on seats to overcome the perceived stodginess the brand possesses – I loved the drive of this car.


The Humble Opinion:

The original and still the best as the adage goes. Toyota know what they are doing when it comes to hybrid. I was shocked at how well this car drives, and to live with for some time, it really grows on you.

Its built well, feels strong, comes well equipped and has front seat comfort that puts many a prestige car in he dark. Its all about perception though, and its here Toyota need to educate people. Those who don’t know will dismiss the Corolla as a car for no-nonsense older driver who bimble to the garden centre and generally get in your way – the 2.0 Hybrid Corolla is so much better than that.

In a nutshell, its a hybrid that you don’t have to make excuses for, or sacrifice your driving enjoyment. You don’t have look like a hipster- cum-berk to be green. The Touring Sports may not be the most engaging machine but it drives and fits into the real world really well…

Well enough to rather impress…. go and try one!


MODEL TESTED: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 2.0 Excel Hybrid

BUILT BY: Toyota Manufacturing UK Ltd Burnaston in Derbyshire

PRICE: £30,345

DRIVELINE: 2.0 16v Atkinson cycle petrol with Hybrid EV CVT final drive

POWER: Total system output – 178bhp

*ECONOMY: 50.43 to 60.62mpg WLTP combined (56.4mpg on actual test)

*C02: 89g/km

*PERFORMANCE: 0 – 62 in 8.1 seconds with 112mph max


BOOT SPACE: 581 litres (seats up)

*=Manufacturers or Govt claimed data



  • Overall build quality
  • Refined driveline
  • lively performance
  • Long distance seat comfort
  • Equipment levels
  • Ride quality
  • Economy & Emissions
  • Proven pedigree of reliability


  • Excel trim level is expensive
  • Dashboard lacks design flair and style
  • Infotainment system badly needs an upgrade
  • At best, only average rear legroom
  • Smaller boot than some rivals – but the seats at least fold fully flat

For more information on the Toyota Corolla range CLICK HERE







  1. It’s just appeared on our fleet car list and I’ve heard many a positive comment on them.

    Thanks mike for this write up. I actually think this looks rather smart.

  2. A fair dinkum review as we have just had a demo in the five door hatch version. Sadly to bland for our liking but I loved the handling and ride.

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