Behind the Wheel

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Review: So good, you wonder why they still make the Prius

The Toyota Corolla Hybrid is surprisingly fuel-efficient and cheap.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Toyota Prius. I said that when it first came out twenty years ago, it was for environmentalist wackos and early-adopter do-gooders who didn't mind driving a weird looking car. In fact, that was the point—to show everyone how green you were.

That new Prius gets terrific fuel economy and still looks a bit weird, but that remains the point if you want to show off how green you are. But what if you don't want to show off? What if you just want a car to get you from point A to point B? A car that is normal and doesn't stand out in a crowd?

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Toyota delivers the Corolla Hybrid on standard 15-inch wheels.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

In that case, my friend, you want to get yourself a Toyota Corolla. It's the least show-offey car around and, if you buy the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, it's just as fuel efficient as the polarizing Prius. In fact, it's so good that I think it might be the best small car that you can buy today.

The Corolla has always been a top choice for small car buyers. Between it's terrific reliability and reasonable price, it's a car that's easy to recommend (if a little boring). While the Corolla Hybrid won't get any hearts racing, it checks every box and then some.

The powertrain has been transplanted from the Prius, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit along with the requisite battery pack. There's no plug (that is kept for the Prius Prime and the new RAV4 Prime), so you drive it just like a regular car and the only hint to the outside world that there's anything different going on is the litany of "Hybrid" badges all over the thing.

The front end is also a bit more aerodynamic than the standard Corolla, but not so much that you'd notice unless you had them side by side. Easy-rolling low-resistance tires are fitted to 15-inch wheels to complete the look — no rolling on dubs here. In other words, it looks basically like every other Corolla you've ever seen. It's inoffensive and vaguely pleasing to look at.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid The car has a a traditional shifter setup that leaves the cabin feeling spacious.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Inside, it's a little more exciting. The floating dash leads to a surprising feeling of spaciousness for the front passengers, with reasonable amounts of storage in the doors and a big pocket for a phone sitting fore of the shifter. That shifter, it's worth noting, is a standard P-R-N-D unit (with an added "B" mode that adds additional engine braking for going down a hill) so it's familiar and easy to use.

The steering wheel allows easy access to volume and media controls, as well as the buttons to control the adaptive cruise control. A big digital display for the driver keeps you apprised of what the hybrid system is doing, including a tachometer which is lets you know what the internal-combustion engine is up to — not that you'll really care.

The center infotainment stack leaves a bit to be desired. Sure, it has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, so you're good to go there, but the buttons surrounding the 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen are completely unnecessary and use up valuable real estate that could be a larger screen. It's a nitpick, but I wish Toyota would just give us a bigger touch screen and forget all the hard plastic buttons. There's single-zone climate control which works perfectly well, and there is no center-stack Prius dash cluster.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid The Corolla Hybrid comes with a standard 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

But the most important part of the Corolla Hybrid is actually made up of two numbers. First is the fuel economy. The EPA estimates it can make 53 miles per gallon city and 52 highway, with 52 combined. And... that's exactly what I got, too. Without particularly trying, and by that I mean I was cruising down the highway in the left lane, quickly pulling away from stop lights in a manner unbecoming a hybrid, etc — basically doing everything I could to not be an economical driver — I still managed 52 mpg. It was astounding.

Then there's the price. There are basically no options to be found on the Corolla Hybrid, aside from some paint protection film ($395) and carpeted floor mats ($249), and it still lands at $24,524. You get out under $25,000 with 52 miles per gallon and a normal looking, easy to drive, friendly car that will probably run forever without any major problems.

After my week with the Corolla Hybrid, I honestly found myself asking "why would anyone buy anything else?"

I haven't come up with a good answer, yet.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2022 Audi Q5 Sportback has debuted but Americans will have to wait around six months to get one.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The Audi Q5 Sportback takes the traditional dimensions of the Audi Q5 and shaves some off the back of the roof to creating a more sloping design. The result is a model that fits right into Audi's lineup.

At the front of the new all-wheel drive model is an octagonal Singleframe grille that is flanked by large air inlets. The car's headlights feature daytime running lights with the buyer's choice of LED or matrix-design LED technology. At the rear are taillights that feature OLED lighting technology split into three ties of six segments each.

2022 Audi Q5 Sportback

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Like the roof, the car's windows taper as the design of the vehicle flows backward. Its rear bumper appears to be high-mounted.

Base Audi Q5 Sportback models are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is paired with a 12-volt mild-hybrid system to to deliver 261 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can upgrade to the 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 349 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.

The SQ5 will come standard with adaptive dampers and has an available air suspension and dynamic steering capability.

Each model has Audi's new MIB 3 infotainment system, which can be optioned to include a 12.3-inch digital display in front of the driver as well as virtual cockpit and head-up display technologies. At the center of the dashboard is a 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen with navigation. The system allows for multiple user profiles.

The Audi phone box and a Bang and Olufsen sound system with 3D sound are available.

Inside the cabin, the car has a rear bench seat the can be shifted laterally as well as forward and aft. The seat also reclines.

Each Q5 Sportback comes with a standard hands-free power tailgate.

Buyers can option their model to include numerous driver assist systems including adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, standard Audi Side Assist and Audi Pre Sense Rear, lane departure warning, and Parking System Plus.

The 2020 Audi Q5 starts at $43,000. Expect the Sportback model to be slightly pricier when it arrives in the U.S. in the first half of 2021. It will be assembled at the San José Chiapa plant in Mexico.

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The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is made to be trail-ready

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

If you want to go off-roading but you’re apprehensive behind the wheel? Jeep is introducing the Jeep Adventure Academy, a program that provides hands-on, off-road driving instruction to Jeep 4x4 owners.

"Off-roading is a rite of passage for Jeep 4x4 owners and the new Jeep Adventure Academy will provide key knowledge every off-roader can use for hitting the trails," said Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand, FCA - North America. "The new Jeep Adventure Academy underscores the Jeep brand's commitment to delivering Jeep 4x4 vehicles that provide owners with a sense of capability, safety and security to handle any condition or adventure with confidence."

2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Jeep Trailhawk models are trail-tested ahead of their retail salePhoto courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Academy kicks off this October and will take place at select locations nationwide. Instructors from Jeep Jamboree USA will lead the program alongside off-roading experts.

Each Academy session will focus on several essential areas of off-roading instruction, including 4x4 system basics, driving techniques, trail etiquette, vehicle preparation and equipment, how to properly read terrain and challenging obstacles, safety tips and more.

The Jeep Adventure Academy will take place during the first three weeks in October at the following locations:

  • Holly Oaks Off-road Vehicle Park, Holly, Michigan: October 2-4
  • Southern Missouri Off-Road Ranch, Seymour, Missouri: October 9-11
  • Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, Hollister, California: October 16-18

Registration is available at jeepadventureacademy.com. A one-day session starts at $99 and requires Jeep 4x4 vehicle ownership. The academy sessions will be led by professional staff from Jeep Jamboree USA, an organization that has been conducting off-road adventures since 1953.

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