Toyota Corolla Commercial review

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Toyota's Corolla Commercial is a different kind of small van. Jonathan Crouch checks it out.

Ten Second Review

Toyota pioneers full-Hybrid self charging power in the LCV segment with this Corolla Commercial van. It's otherwise an LCV which in concept is anything but pioneering, based entirely on the Corolla Touring Sports estate. But for the right kind of company customer, it could be ideal.

Background

The commercial vehicle market offers quite a lot of electrical engine options these days: mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV powertrains are all available, should you want them. What the LCV sector's been lacking though, is the kind of powertrain that right here, right now, arguably makes most sense for a van operator: a self charging full-Hybrid petrol engine.

It's the kind of 'Prius'-like powerplant that Toyota has long championed, so it is perhaps fitting that Toyota has taken the lead in offering it in a van, this one, the Corolla commercial. The innovation pretty much ends there though, because the Corolla Commercial is nothing more than a Corolla Touring Sports estate with the rear seats removed to create a loading area. Still, that could be all some companies like couriers might need. Let's check it all out.

Driving Experience

After using this Corolla Commercial for a bit, you might wonder why full-Hybrid self charging engines like the one used here are otherwise absent from the LCV segment. This kind of powerplant makes so much sense, the 120bhp 1.8 hybrid system allowing the van to run on electric power in EV mode; it will also automatically switch to EV running when battery charge and driving conditions permit, maximising fuel and emissions efficiency. As you would expect from a full-Hybrid, the engine is matched to automatic transmission, this one a seamless belt-driven CVT auto with six speeds.

Expect refinement to be excellent; certainly far better than it would be in a rival rumbly diesel. Rest to 62mph 11.1s takes on route to a top speed limited to 112mph. That's OK but if you're used to a small diesel in your small van, you'll have to adapt to the way that big throttle inputs cause a flare of revs that the set-up initially struggles to translate into rapid forward movement. And you'll also need to accept a vast reduction in mid-range pulling power; this engine's very modest 142Nm torque output is about 40% down on what you'd get from a typical 1.5 or 1.6-litre rival small diesel unit, something you'll really notice in give-and-take motoring; overtakes have to be planned much further in advance.

Design and Build

You'll need to do a double-take to clock the fact that this isn't an ordinary Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate. It is of course built on the same UK Burnaston production line. It looks pretty smart for a van. The ultra-short overhangs are notable, as is the unusual mid-level panel creasing. This features the upward swage line that flows back from the front wheel arch take a sharp upward turn just before the C-pillar at the same time as a shorter crease just below starts above the rear door handle to emphasise the rather powerful haunches.

At the wheel, it's all just like the donor passenger car, it should all feel quite plush - for a van. An 8-inch 'Toyota Touch 2' centre-dash infotainment screen is standard, complete with a DAB tuner and a reversing camera. You don't get navigation but standard 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone integration means that you can bring a navigation app up onto the monitor with ease. The seats are height adjustable and supportive and feature powered lumbar adjustment - a rare thing for a compact van and a boon on longer trips.

Market and Model

Predictably, you're going to need to find a little more for this full-Hybrid Corolla Commercial than you might have expected to pay for an ordinary compact van. The on the road price is around £26,500 - that's just over £22,000 excluding the reclaimable VAT. Still, at least you get passenger car-like specification for that.

Standard features include a full metal bulkhead, an 8-inch multimedia display, smartphone integration with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto', a reversing camera, automatic headlights, heated and power adjustable door mirrors, dual-zone air conditioning and heated, height-adjustable seats with power lumbar adjustment for the driver. The van is also equipped with 'Toyota Safety Sense' active safety and driver assistance systems, including Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist.

Practicalities and Costs

A lift of the tailgate reveals the extent of the changes, the absence of the usual rear bench freeing up space for a quite spacious, lined and easily accessible load area. The cargo dimensions are 1,558mm long, 952mm wide and 682mm high. The design of the multi-link rear suspension means the load area isn't compromised by intruding components.

Toyota claims diesel like efficiency stats from this model and the official WLTP-rated figures broadly bear that out. The combined cycle economy range is 55.3-62.7mpg, with 102-115g/km of CO2 emissions. Toyota expects that for typical customers, up to 50% of typical urban or suburban journeys will be accomplished in all-electric drive. The Japanese maker describes the Corolla's Hybrid technology as being of the 'self-charging' kind, which means that it isn't of the currently popular Plug-in variety. The brand of course has PHEV technology (it's available on top versions of its Prius model) but currently feels it isn't necessary for the Corolla Commercial line-up.

What else? Well, this van has a three-year new vehicle warranty, after which it qualifies for the free Toyota Relax warranty of up to 10 years/100,000 miles. As part of the Toyota Professional range of LCVs, it also comes with five years' roadside assistance and the guarantee of a service appointment within seven days. If the service target is not met, the customer qualifies for a 50 per cent reduction in servicing labour costs. There's also three years warranty against rust and 12 years of anti-corrosion protection.

Summary

There aren't many businesses that are going to be able to make a vehicle like this work for their needs, but those that can will probably like it very much indeed. The old Vauxhall Astra van used to sell very well to people like computer support companies and carpet salesman who liked a long load area in a compact LCV.

This Corolla Commercial occupies a somewhat higher price point but there's the big advantage of its unique full-Hybrid self charging powerplant to compensate. If you're in these kinds of businesses and can make the monthly payments add up, this Toyota will likely prove a frugal, practical tool - and it'll almost certainly never go wrong. If you need a small van, you've a 'green' business ethos but you're not quite ready to go full-electric, it's worth a look.

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