What you need to know:
When driving, there is regenerative braking. The brakes use the heat generated during braking and convert it into electricity that is stored in the battery.
On a Thursday morning, I set out to test drive the 2023 model Toyota Corolla Cross hybrid electric. The test drive started at Toyota Kampala Office in Industrial Area via Yusuf Lule Road to the Northern Bypass, Entebbe Expressway, all the way to Munyonyo roundabout and back to Kampala through Ntinda, Bukoto and eventually to the starting point. The purpose of the drive was to test the stability of the car, how fast it performs, fuel consumption, interior comfort, at what point it switches from fuel to battery mode and vice versa, among other features.
I noticed that when you are used to a fuel combustion engine and you start the Corolla Cross, you may wait for forever for the car to move. This is because it is completely quiet as it ignites with the battery. Some of the features that differentiate the Corolla Cross from your ordinary combustion engine is that it runs on two systems; the normal combustion engine and the electric or battery systems. In motion, when the engine is charging the battery, the smart screen will show an icon of the engine and battery, with an arrow directed from the engine icon to the battery icon.
The other feature is that when driving, there is regenerative braking. The brakes use the heat generated during braking and convert it into electricity that is stored in the battery.
The car has different driving modes; the EV mode where you are instructing the car to drive using battery and the B-mode where you are extracting as much heat from the braking of the car. With the Corolla Cross, you will have a monitor show how you are using your power sources. You also have a monitor on the instrument cluster to show you what is happening. For example, when using the fuel and at what point the battery is being charged.
When driving in electric mode, the electric mortar uses the battery. In case the battery is depleted, you have two sources of charging the battery; the engine comes in to intervene in case you are not getting power from the brakes (regenerative braking). During motion, the heat generated from the brakes turns into electricity that is stored in the battery.
There is also an element of costing where you are not using any effort from the engine when your foot is off the accelerator and brake pedals. As the car moves, the motion also generates power stored in the battery.
A front wheel drive by design, handling of the Corolla Cross is swift. It is fitted with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that ensures you have optimum fuel efficiency, good torque and power no matter your driving speed. It can also be used off-road but it does not guarantee you the best off-road performance such as the other 4WD sport utility vehicles.
Built with an eight-inch smart screen, the smart infotainment system allows you to mirror cast, a process where you operate your phone on the smart screen. You can also connect to any WiFi network or tether from your phone, use android auto, Apple CarPlay, meaning you have seamless connection from your phone to the vehicle.
Dos and don’ts
Albert Besigye, the sales executive at Corporation for Africa and Overseas (CFAO), commonly known as Toyota, says when you attempt to jumpstart the Corolla Cross, there is a possibility of short circuiting one of the car computers that are costly to replace.
“It has an electric system that works together with the engine and a number of components that include the power control unit. The unit is the manager of the systems and has a number of computers it works with that can be damaged when you try to jumpstart the car,” Besigye explains.
It is not advisable to drive in flooded areas. If it is unavoidable, make sure the water levels do not exceed the middle of the car rim.
Do not attempt to fix anything without a trained technician or mechanic. This is because the orientation of the Corolla Cross is different from that of a combustion engine. For example, the battery pack is high voltage. Besides, it is not easily accessible. You need special tools to access this car.
Service for most cars is usually done at 5,000km intervals because of extreme weather environments such as poor quality fuels and bad roads. With the Corolla Cross, you can service at 10,000km intervals because the engine is not overworked since it is assisted by the electric mortar.
Because of regenerative braking, the brake pads do not run out as fast, meaning the service cost is lower. Built with a ground clearance of 161mm, the Corolla Cross is a car you can comfortably drive through Kampala’s potholed roads, albeit cautiously.
Apart from the standard side and front airbags, all passengers in the car, including those at the rear, are provided with three-point seat belts that guarantee high chances of survival in case of an accident.
Regenerative braking also helps with the ice engine, the internal combustion process with the electric mortar. The mortar helps you slow down when using the regenerative system, a component that ensures that brake pads do not wear out fast.
There is also the brake assist system that monitors how hard you brake. When it notices you are in panic mode, the system automatically enhances the brakes to be more efficient. It also has the traction control that keeps the tyres in touch with the road surface and the anti-lock brake system that prevents wheels from locking.
The Corolla Cross also has crumple zones. It was built on a platform called Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), a process of building cars from the ground to the roof by changing the chassis and features to meet the global and new demands on the market.
Crumple zones mean the vehicle is supposed to absorb as much impact and give less impact to the occupants. It is why the newer vehicles have somewhat soft bodies to absorb the impact so that occupants can survive any impact.
The mileage at the start of the three-hour test drive was 1,720km. At the end, I had driven a further 61km to make it 1,781km.
The cruising range on the smart screen showed that I was covering an average of 19km per litre of fuel and regenerated 30 watts of power at an average speed of 160km/hr.
On average, the Corolla Cross costs Shs150m. By default, it should be higher in price than the normal engine. But because of the government incentive of preserving the environment, import duty is not included.