With both versions of Toyota's new Corolla due on sale by February, the company is predicting that 80 per cent of all private motorists will be opting for hybrids.
The Corolla name makes its return after 12 years as the flag carrier for the Toyota range. Deriving much from the Prius and C-HR, the new Corolla is longer, wider and lower than the Auris it replaces and the designers have managed to inject a bit more flair into the overall look. The hatchback looks a good deal smarter and Toyota is promising better driving dynamics thanks to a lower centre of gravity.
However, the core character of the car is still meant to appeal to a fairly conservative customer base, so there is nothing very radical about the design, which is really no more than the direction first established by Nissan with its new Micra a few years ago. Still, there's a bit more emotion about the Corolla than was the case with the Auris - a car that sold more on the basis of its hybrid credentials than its looks.
Perhaps the strongest selling point for the new car is its list of standard safety equipment. Toyota set out some years ago to build in a strong package of safety features for all its cars and the Corolla now comes with active cruise control, lane assist, lane departure warning, road-sign recognition and automatic high beams. You can also have enhanced camera and radar recognition for night time driving and pedestrian recognition. There are also LED headlights, an 8" infotainment screen that sits proud of the dashboard and a rear camera. It's an impressive package all round.
There's a choice of engines, but the emphasis is on hybrid, with a nod to the continuing demand for petrol given with a 1.2 petrol engine option. The main choices, however, are the 1.8 and 2.0 litre hybrid petrol engines. These produce 122 horse power and 180 horse power respectively. One informal test on the Prius, recording durations for the car being driven in EV mode, by a Toyota executive indicates 63 per cent battery use (rather than petrol use) on a 20.2 kilometre mixed conditions journey from Kildare to Dublin, but we'll have to wait and see just how the Corolla performs in this respect when we get to drive the car.
The interior of the car is spacious enough, although rear legroom in the hatchback seemed limited given the increased proportions of the car. However, the car I sat into had leather seats, which usually take up more space. There are better displays but the interior could not be said to be markedly improved or any plusher than the Auris.
The entry level Luna hatchback starts at €26,995 and has 16" Alloy Wheels. The Luna Sport €28,995 and gets the equipment listed above along with 17" alloys, a two-colour arrangement for the roof and body, privacy glass, retractable mirrors, ambient interior lighting, rain-sensing wipers and a DAB Radio that is a bit before its time in many parts of this country.
There's also an estate version, starting at €26,996. This gets you 16" alloy wheels and the same package as the hatchback and saloon. You'll have to move up to the €30,000 Sol version to get more, including satellite navigation. We'll let you know more when we get driving the new Corolla.