HYBRID powered cars used to have about as much appeal to keen drivers as a rare fillet of beef does to a vegan.
Sure, they are cheap to run, easy to drive and greener than pea soup. But when it came to having fun and cracking on a bit...well, best forget it.
That was until I got behind the wheel of the new Toyota Corolla with its 2.0-litre hybrid motor which knocks out a very useful 178bhp.
And in Touring Sports guise - estate car, in other words - it's super-practical with acres of luggage room and decent passenger space. It doesn't look bad either with a definite Darth Vader appearance, especially in metallic black.
Of course, it's no hot hatch but with acceleration to 62mph in barely more than eight seconds, it leaves behind most other hybrids struggling in its tyre tracks. Best of all, it has managed to retain the traditional strengths of an EV - good economy, refinement and ease of passage.
Priced at just under the £30,000 mark it competes with established models with conventional power such as the Golf estate and Focus Estate.
Unlike the pathfinding Prius which is somewhat odd-looking, the new Corolla is rakish and attractive with angular lines and well defined body creases giving it a sporty and fresh image. It might even tempt some buyers back from SUVs.
It is a self-charging hybrid so no need to plug it in to recharge, the onboard technology looks after this on the move and deploys the saved electricity automatically. Coupled to an automatic, belt-driven transmission it all works well and is no more difficult to drive than a normal petrol or diesel model.
In fact, the automatic gearbox and impressive stream of torque make it smoother and quieter in most situations, particularly in town running. Not everyone will fall for the CVT gearbox, though, which inevitably sounds somewhat stressed under full acceleration. Artificial ‘steps' give it five gears and steering wheel paddles are useful to drop the revs down.
There's a satisfying immediacy and energy about the performance that means the slightest dab of the accelerator sends the five-door surging forward.
Ride is comfortable and well controlled with little cornering roll but more than adequate bump suppression. A good compromise, then. Steering, however, is rather lifeless offering little feedback.
The cabin is well appointed with plenty of soft-touch plastic about the dash and good panel fit. The dark facia together with a black headlining make for a sombre environment. A touchscreen sprouts out of the centre of the dash with a row of conventional buttons below. All work well, although the sat nav is not terribly intuitive.
With emissions of just 89g/km taxation is pleasingly low and overall fuel consumption pretty frugal. My average of 49mpg mirrors the official WLTP figure.