By on December 10, 2018

Jack Hollis, Toyota North America’s general manager, was quite forthcoming during a roundtable discussion at the L.A. Auto Show. After unveiling the brand’s upcoming all-wheel drive Toyota Prius and hybrid Corolla sedan, he speculated on what else might be coming down the product pipe.

We already know that Toyota wants to TRD-ify as many models as possible (the Camry and Avalon aren’t an end point, apparently), but AWD and hybrid power serve the purposes of practicality, not style. There’s more reason to desire a vehicle that sips gas or blasts through snowbanks with aplomb.

That’s why an AWD, hybrid Corolla isn’t off the table. Upon hearing this, this writer’s mind drifted to the new-for-2019 Corolla Hatch and a small crossover that, strangely, isn’t offered with AWD. What would a would-be C-HR buyer be giving up if Toyota went ahead and electrified the rear axle of the Corolla Hatch?

Not much at all, it turns out. This gets us, unfortunately, into the ongoing discussion of “what makes a crossover?” Where does a hatchback end and a crossover start? We’ll let you mull that over.

As reported by AutoGuide, Hollis wants the brand’s small cars to be everything to everyone. Not a bad strategy, especially given that its domestic rivals are bolting for the exit.

“There’s no doubt that it is [being considered],” Hollis said of the AWD, electrified Corolla. “You’ve heard from Akio Toyota, our CEO, who has said his desire was to offer every one of our cars with a hybrid option. Or an electrification option is really what I should say. Because it can be different technologies. We’re not ready to make a comment about AWD (Corolla), but the AWD systems that are interchangeable, and or growth in AWD, is something we know is something that the US consumer has asked for, it’d be silly not to deliver on that.”

In this case, like the Prius AWD-e, the rear axle of the Corolla would be motivated by an electric motor, eliminating the need to send a driveshaft aft from the transaxle. Since driving the thing back in April, I’ve pondered improvements to the competent little five-door. Yes, the Subaru Crosstrek was part of these thoughts. While Hollis may have only had the sedan version in mind, I’m thinking hatch here.

Let’s say Toyota pulls the trigger on the idea:

The Corolla Hatch, which was the first small Toyota car to adopt the TNGA platform when it went on sale last summer (the sedan shows up next year with the same bones), stretches 172 inches in length. The C-HR spans 171 inches stem to stern. The Corolla Hatch is two-tenths of an inch slimmer, and both vehicles share an identical wheelbase of 103.9 inches.

So, nearly identical footprints. But the C-HR is a crossover, you say, assuming the lack of AWD doesn’t catapult the model from that segment in your mind. It’s got room for life. Well, that depends on how much living you’ve been up to.

2018 Toyota C-HR front quarter

It’s true that the C-HR stands 4.5 inches taller than the Corolla hatch, and that extra ceiling height gives it an interior volume of 102.8 cubic feet — 18 more than the Corolla Hatch’s 84.6 cubes. In practical terms, however, there’s not much more cargo room. Such is the life of a subcompact crossover. I’ve told you about my friend who’s selling her CX-3 because her baby won’t fit in the rear seat, right? Behind the rear seats, one will find 19 cubic feet of cargo volume, which is less than four cubes more than the trunk of my Cruze. Behind the Corolla Hatch’s rear chairs, there’s a paltry… 17.8 cubic feet.

Fold down the rear bench in the hatch and 23.3 cubic feet open up. Because of that ceiling, the C-HR affords more cargo area — 36.4 cubic feet of it. Still, this is only useful if your passengers count numbers less than two.

Still, as a crossover (or faux crossover), the C-HR can at least handle the rugged stuff, right? That depends on where you place the starting point of “rugged.” The C-HR’s ground clearance is 5.9 inches. The Corolla Hatch? 5.1 inches. You might make it 50 yards further down the trail. (The Crosstrek’s underbody towers 8.7 inches above the earth’s surface)

Also in the hatch’s court is a 2.0-liter engine boasting 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, hooked to an available CVT with a physical launch gear. The C-HR, making do with 144 hp and 139 lb-ft and carrying an extra 240 pounds, has no such trick tranny.

Given the hatch’s attributes, one wonders if Toyota will hold off on AWD-ifying the model — or at least forgo applying four-wheel traction to the five-door variant. Would such an addition end up cannibalizing C-HR sales? After all, raise this hypothetical electrified hatch eight-tenths of an inch, and it becomes more of a crossover than the C-HR (which sold 45,345 units in the first 11 months of 2018).

Anyway, this little bit of thinking is either an indictment of the C-HR or an appeal to the buying masses to give hatchbacks with lower starting prices a chance. We’ll see what Toyota decides.

[Images: Toyota, Chris Tonn/TTAC, Steph Willems/TTAC]

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22 Comments on “An AWD Hybrid Corolla Could Happen, but What Becomes of Toyota’s C-HR?...”

  • avatar

    I’m a pretty big Toyota homer, but I question some of their decisions. I am not sure why the C-HR wasn’t AWD from the beginning. And no option for a hybrid Sienna is also puzzling.

    • 0 avatar

      Given that the Sienna is scheduled to move to TNGA within the next couple of years, I’d say no hybrid Sienna YET makes sense.

      They’ve had plenty of time to evaluate the Pacifica and its sales and market strengths. And Honda has the MDX with the electric driven rears for AWD now, leveraging their NSX work; I fully expect that to be on an Odyssey any day now, further giving Toyota food for thought.

      So Toyota will be the last to market, and whatever decision they make, it will be very well thought out. But the option of hybrid won’t pop up until the complete makeover.

    • 0 avatar

      Given how much people complain about it being slow already, imagine it with 200 more pounds and less horsepower reaching the ground.

  • avatar

    Every CH-R I saw in Europe were hybrids. The RAV4 Hybrid uses an electric motor to make it AWD.

  • avatar

    An AWD Hybrid Corolla sounds like a perfectly decent all-weather commuter. Over in Siberia, I was always amazed at how the Japanese offered AWD versions of seemingly every single passenger sedan and wagon they made, at all different trim levels to boot. A white Toyota Corona/Corolla/Fielder covered in road dirt with a “fulltime 4wd” decal on the lower rear door panel was an awfully common site.

  • avatar

    The old 4WD Corolla/Accord models are pretty delectable. Japan was was ahead of the curve with AWD/4WD but it didn’t survive the bad economics…

    • 0 avatar
      cimarron typeR

      While I would like to read a review of an awd hybrid car, I don’t really get juiced up about speculative journalism on commuter cars. I mean it’s not 4 door Mustang or the prospect of a manual transmission G20 BMW we’re talking about.Inner JB is fuming…

    • 0 avatar

      The Japanese 4wd/awd cars you’re talking about weren’t all that special. Bracketed both before and after by American competition:

      AMC made domestic versions in the 60s and 70s— my family had a 1989 4wd Tempo LX

  • avatar

    Perhaps it was the dealers who asked for more AWD options even in spite of making CH-R redundant?

  • avatar

    The C-HR is such a denuded and disfigured little runt that one may as well settle for a hatch. Same for the HR-V though it’s far less ugly.

  • avatar

    When I look at how bad Ford and GM are doing, I get jealous of Toyota’s success.
    It seems Toyota can come up with a hit product literally overnight. This happens while the big three continue to cut product lines. The once mighty big three think they can cut there way to success, while in contrast Toyota builds up to success.

    Will Detroit ever produce something as good as a RAV4, Lexus, Camry, and Prius? The answer right now is a resounding no!

    • 0 avatar

      “Will Detroit ever produce something as good as a RAV4, Lexus, Camry, and Prius? The answer right now is a resounding no!”

      I just happily bought a 240K mile 2005 Toyota Matrix.

      I mean, what can go wrong with a Corolla wagon that’s been driven an average of 17K miles/year? Nothing. This thing will be running when the cockroaches roll over.

      • 0 avatar

        Hopefully not an AWD model with the 1.8—my parents had a new one back then, and my God, that thing was dangerously underpowered on the highway.

        Other than that, it was a pretty nice car.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      From what I understand, at GM and Ford trucks and body on frame vehicles weren’t the places future “Captains of Industry” went for corporate mentoring and grooming for the top spot(s). That also meant the flashy marketing types and bean counters left them alone. The Corvette, Camaro, and Mustang guys were considered corporate apostates and pretty much left alone. The fast movers and those who “really understood the industry and the consumer” got the big promotions and corporate glory. The Japanese pretty much wiped the floor with those guys and their mantra become “next years models will NOT EQUAL BUT BEAT THE JAPANESE!!! in quality, fuel mileage, and will mow you lawn while you sleeping and make hot sorority women want you. The American buying public didn’t think so; not a bit. The wheel has turned with GM and Ford giving up on sedans almost across the board. Ford and GM are relying on pickup truck technology that hasn’t changed THAT much since 1947, throw Dodge in there too. Jeep? Heck; ‘Murricans chased Nazis clean across Europe in them. I would heartily argue that not THAT much need changing for trucks and jeeps; some tweaking and increased creature comforts, yes; radical changes; Oh No Sir! Not all. Since those fancy European types would spend more on gas driving to and from their fancy dinner of cow innards in cream gravy or moby dick meets orange ketchup; they never sought, bought, or got American pony cars. Something Americans have been doing well since 1965. Older candidates are always welcome in this illustrious category. Let the Japanese and low-end Europeans fight it out for the “appliances”. Let the Detroit 2&1/2 concentrate on the vehicles they are excel at. Sorry bout all, that; I got wound up.

  • avatar

    If they start building an AWD hybrid Corolla, with the Prius sales in complete freefall, the handwriting is on the wall in North America.

  • avatar

    Man those are some ugly wheelcovers on the Corolla Hybrid.

  • avatar

    Slap the Celica name on it and resurrect the old homoligation specials. Maybe no one will notice the 4 doors.

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