With every motor manufacturer in the world looking for new mobility and power solutions, Toyota have embarked on a programme of adopting hybrid powertrains.
The Prius has been a leader in this sphere over a number of years. Lexus now has hybrid versions of every model in their range and is offering the IS model in hybrid versions only.
Andrew Kirby of Toyota stated recently that, with the lack of infrastructure for full electric vehicles, they will be concentrating on hybrid power for the African continent. An exciting development is the November launch of the Corolla Cross, which will be the first locally-manufactured hybrid vehicle in SA. Using the platform and powertrain from the Corolla, the new Crossover/SUV version adds space and ride height to the recipe. Available with either hybrid power or the 1.8 petrol engine, pricing is from only R413 000 – making this the cheapest hybrid model available in SA.
Toyota is quietly adding hybrid versions to other models as well. The Corolla and Rav4 Hybrids were launched in September. We were privileged to be given a test unit of the Corolla Hybrid ahead of the local launch. Having previously tested the latest 12th generation Corolla, I think this car is worthy of a Lexus badge. The comfort, luxury, smoothness and overall build quality are absolutely top-notch. This is even more apparent in the Hybrid version.
The only outside clues to the different powertrain are the blue accents on the Toyota badge and “Hybrid” badges on the front fenders and boot lid. The interior is familiar territory, with a few different dashboard displays being the only apparent difference. It’s spacious, comfortable and offers all the luxury spec that you would expect from a range-topping model.
The Toyota Hybrid system uses regenerative power for charging, so there is no plug-in necessary. The electric motor supplements the 1.8L petrol engine to provide motive force, meaning electric only driving provides a very limited range. The concept is for the petrol engine to do as little work as possible, thus achieving amazing fuel economy. Total combined power output is around 110kW
Economy is what this model is all about. Early in the test period, we took a road-trip to Parys. Cruising at 120km/h on the freeways, we returned from a 300km cruise showing 4.0l/100km with hardly a dent in the tank. The rest of the week involved another 300km of normal urban driving and I was amazed to see that when the car was collected, it was showing 4.1l/ 100km overall. The fuel gauge still read above half.
The Corolla Hybrid is best suited to a very relaxed driving style. It was interesting to see the EV mode light would often flash on when cruising at 120km/h and lifting your right foot to put gentle pressure on the accelerator. Yet, with the superb 12th generation platform, the car still handles extremely well when adding a bit of verve to your driving.
I must admit to having found previous generations of the Corolla somewhat dull. This is certainly not true of the latest generation. The pricing starts from only R409 600, making the Corolla the cheapest Hybrid available in SA. I predict sales will soar for the hybrid versions.
The Rav4 Hybrid utilises the powertrain from the Lexus IS Hybrid. The 2.5L 4 cylinder petrol engine adopts similar technology but ups the ante in terms of power. With a combined petrol and electric output of 160kW, performance will be excellent. The Rav 4 Hybrid is priced at R555 300 in enhanced GX spec. Considering that the base 2L model with lower spec retails at R489 900, this again shows the minimal premium for the Hybrid models.
What’s coming next from Toyota? I can’t help thinking what a success a hybrid powered Quantum would be for the taxi industry. Imagine the economies of scale for taxi operators with fuel savings, especially in their urban usage. One thing is for sure, Toyota have started a growing trend here in SA and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
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