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You probably don’t drive around as much as you did pre-pandemic, but even then, fuel efficiency surely remains as one of your primary consideration when choosing a vehicle. Even if you just gas up once a month nowadays, that’s still one too many. Toyota Philippines is offering several interesting alternatives for customers who are conscious about their fuel bills.

Corolla Cross 1.8 V Hybrid

Let’s take the most interesting choice first: the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. It’s a mouthful of a model name, but the concept is simple. Take one compact SUV; add a hybrid powertrain. You get the space and high driving position of an SUV, with exemplary fuel efficiency. We got a minimum of 15 km/liter in city driving, with the car capable of 25 km/liter when traffic conditions are light. 

Now usually, we look at the fuel savings, with more than double the fuel efficiency of a conventional compact SUV, and compare it to the purchase price. If the price of the hybrid car is so much more than that of a similar-sized car, there’s no advantage for the buyer. It’s like paying for 4-5 years’ worth of gasoline up front, and only after that time can you claim that you’re actually saving money. That’s why the Toyota Prius, despite its refined hybrid system, has not become an attractive option. Add to that the sedan body type, which is currently out of favor.

Toyota has remedied all that by checking all the boxes that a typical buyer wants nowadays: SUV body, leather interior, audio system connectivity, electronic displays, reconfigurable seating, and, especially—the price. The Corolla Cross hybrid starts at P1.650M. That is about P350,000 more than the non-hybrid Corolla Cross, and thus might spur that “pay up in advance for the fuel savings” argument again. However, the hybrid variant adds a lot of interior equipment including Apple Carplay and Android Auto integration, 18-inch alloys vs 17s, and the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense active safety features. Competing compact SUVs with premium trim start in the P1.6M range, and those are non-hybrids. So the value equation is in Toyota’s favor here.

The Corolla Cross hybrid is a preview of how all cars will be one day. Pushing the “start” button powers up the hybrid system. There’s no noise and the only indication is a “Ready” light within the digital display. The Corolla Cross hybrid is then ready to roll off silently. It can motor in all-electric mode for a kilometer or two on level ground, then the petrol engine typically fires up for additional thrust. The engine is a 1.8-liter engine tuned for efficiency rather than high power, at it doles out 98ps and 142Nm of torque. Combined with the 72 ps electric motor, the combined system outputs 122ps. Uphill climbs are smooth and unstrained, with the system seamlessly switching between power sources and combining both when needed. The power delivery can made more responsive with the Eco/Power switch near the gearshift. There’s also an EV button that makes the SUV cruise purely on electric power when the battery is sufficiently charged. 

Inside, the Corolla Cross hybrid features a digital display incorporating the gauges. Instead of a rev counter, there’s a dial that indicates efficiency, from Power (least efficient) to Battery charge  (most efficient). You can monitor the hybrid system’s operation on the central 8″ display. 

Driver’s seating is on the comfort side, with little in the way of lateral support. This suits the Corolla Cross just fine. Despite its sporty-profile 225/50R 18 tires, it doesn’t naturally relish going fast around bends. The front-wheel drive crossover’s drive is more stoic that enthusiastic—it just obeys without much fuss, but don’t expect it to elicit any after-corner grins. 

While trunk space is a useful 440 liters in a cube-like configuration, the rear seating is just sufficient for adults. Adding 50mm of rear legroom and allowing greater range by switching to a plug-in hybrid powertrain—that would have made the Corolla Cross hybrid even better.

Corolla Altis 1.8 V Hybrid CVT

If a particular model had sedan and SUV variants at practically the same price, the usual advice would be go for the SUV. In the case of the Corolla Cross vs Corolla sedan, it’s not quite so straightforward.

For one thing, the Corolla Altis, to our eyes, looks quite a lot better. It doesn’t have the dramatic fender, door and rear-quarter scallops that the Corolla Cross has, and it’s the better for it. The front looks suitably modern, with slim angular headlights, and a sporty bumper with big black lower intake. The classic side profile is clean and makes the car look longer. The rear is downright elegant, with complex taillight elements within a simple shape. There’s a chrome accent that ties in the lights, stretching across the width of the trunk—quite Lexus-like. Both Corollas feature electric blue accents on the front and rear, to highlight the hybrid drive. 

The main advantage that the Corolla sedan has over the hybrid is, strangely enough, space. The interior is not as tall, of course, but thanks to the 60mm-longer wheelbase, there’s appreciably more rear-seat legroom. The dashboard layout and design is identical to the Corolla Cross’. Good or bad thing—that depends on whether you like having a big touchscreen sticking out of the center of the dash. In its favor, it’s easy to navigate and provides a suitable display for apps or the reverse camera. 

The Corolla has come so far from its basic-sedan roots that almost every reasonable premium feature you might need is already on board. Connectivity, 8-way power driver’s chair, ambient lighting, faux-leather seats and trim, keyless entry—they’re all standard on the hybrid. 

The Toyota Safety Sense incorporate active safety features: dynamic radar cruise control, auto high beam, pre-collision warning, lane departure alert, and lane-tracing assist. The Corolla Altis feels more planted than the Corolla Cross, but likewise, don’t expect any fireworks. They’re more on a scale of Sedate to More Sedate. The Corolla Altis makes a good case for the sedan being the most comfortable body configuration, and the hybrid drivetrain allows for lower operating cost while maintaining suitable everyday performance.

Toyota Wigo 1.0 TRD S AT

The Corolla Altis and Corolla Cross hybrid represent efficiency through technology. Not everyone can go for the P1.6 million plus price tag, and that’s where the Wigo comes in. The Wigo aims for efficiency the traditional way: small and light body with a small engine. 

The Wigo uses a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine good for 66ps and 89Nm. In the subcompact and lightweight hatchback, that’s enough for city driving. Mated to an automatic transmission, the engine is audible but not annoyingly loud. 

Go for the TRD variant, perhaps in the eye-searingly bright yellow paint, and you get sportier bumpers front and rear, side skirts, and a rear spoiler. The audio system is upgraded to a touchscreen unit with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and a dash cam is standard. 

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