Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid – the cheapest hybrid comes at a cost

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For many years, Toyota Motor Philippines has stood on their first step towards the future by not pulling out the Prius and Prius C – their only hybrid offerings for a long time. Toyota knows, as do the whole world, that mobility has to move away from fossil fuels because of the harm it does to the planet. It may be too late now with ice caps all over the world melting, but it’s still a much needed step.

This is why I was cheering on the Altis Hybrid when they launched it back in 2019. I told myself that finally, Filipinos now have a cheaper option towards a cleaner means of transportation. It may be a bit late considering the crossover craze happening at the time, but bringing in a car with an alternative power source is still very much appreciated.

I really thought that with more people aware of the issues about our environment, I’ll see more of the Altis Hybrid on the road. Fast forward to today and you’ll rarely see this iteration of the Altis with the blue Toyota badge on it. What gives? Well, I took one out for a drive to find my own answer.

Efficiency and safety

The Altis Hybrid delivers its promise of a fuel efficient drive. I was able to reach 11 km/l in traffic and 16 km/l in a less congested city. Remember that for this size, normally it will only rack up around 6-7 or 8 km/l if you’re lucky in the horrendous rush hour traffic of Metro Manila. On the highway I averaged around 27.5 km/l, depending on how many overtakes you’ll do.

There’s also no mechanical quirks to the new system. The switch between the gas engine and the electric motor was so seamless that you’ll only know it because the gas engine produces a noise; or you’re looking at the engine management screen on the gauge cluster.

Speaking of noise, there’s a lack of it with this Altis. When you start it up, it goes into hybrid mode by default so it doesn’t emit any sound. I even turned it off and on again because I thought I made a mistake. As you move around in the city, you’ll have to make quick beeps more than usual when hybrid mode is engaged, especially when going through residential roads. The pedestrians and cyclists won’t be able to hear the car unless there’s noise from the tires and the road.

A safer drive is also ensured thanks to the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) of this Altis Hybrid. It consists of a Pre-Collision System, Automatic High Beam, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Add to that the 3 driving modes—Eco, Normal, and Sport—that add some spice to this sedan. It’s just that, it’s still not enough.

Tangible luxuries

What’s good for Toyota became bad for this Altis. Put the powertrain and TSS aside and everything else becomes identical between the Altis Hybrid and the cheaper V-trim. The headlights, wheels, leather appointments, even the stitching is the same between the two. That made this hybrid easier and cheaper to produce since it’s already built on an existing model.

The downside to that is, it doesn’t stand out as much as it needs to be. The cloning is so consistent, it even inherited the faults of the V-trim which include the lack of smartphone mirroring, the stale 6-speaker system, no Blind Spot Monitoring, and the same merely decent resolution rear camera, among others.

Overall, it’s still a banger of a car. Solid quality, really comfortable to ride or drive, a quiet cabin, the outstanding fuel efficiency, and Toyota says there’s no extra maintenance needed for the battery of the hybrid system; so that’s another win. It’s just that with the V-trim at 380k cheaper and having most of the features of this hybrid, it’s understandable why one would take a pass for an affordable next-generation car.

I know that price went into valid features; the TSS for one isn’t cheap by any means. It’s just that people would want tangible luxuries especially when the top trim is identical to a lower trim. Improving on the faults of the V-trim alone could’ve given the Altis Hybrid more fighting chance but it seems Toyota had their hands tied in this scenario.

At P1,595,000, this Altis Hybrid is your cheapest option if you’re going for the next generation of vehicles with less environmental sin. It’s just unfortunate that it was caught between two fronts. The first of which is as mentioned, the cheaper V-variant that looms in the background. Second is it came in a time when more crossovers in the same price range arrived in the country. Toyota has an answer for that trend with their Corolla Cross Hybrid, but that further puts this Altis in limbo.

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