WHEN it comes to building hybrid or self-charging cars few companies can lay claim to having more experience than Toyota.
So it comes as no surprise to find that the new Toyota Corolla hybrid is a class act.
The latest and 12th incarnation of the Corolla - the first was launched back in 1966 - is a low, sleek, highly aerodynamic hybrid hatchback offering enormous driver satisfaction.
Not only does it provide dynamic handling and a quiet, refined ride but boasts frugal motoring which - thanks to the amount of time the car is running on the electric motor - I found often allowed me to complete journeys with petrol consumption averaging over 70 miles per gallon.
In fact with an electric motor mated to a 1.8-litre, 120bhp engine in the model driven here - a 2.0-litre,178bhp hybrid is also available - Toyota says up to 50 per cent of a daily commute can be achieved on electric power alone.
And when driving through towns and cities or stuck in traffic jams you can actually set the car to run solely on electric for a limited period.
Unlike a number of hybrids, however, the Corolla is a genuinely engaging car to drive. Change the driving mode from normal to sport and the dashboard turns red and this little hatchback becomes a brisk little mover which handles fast corners with ease and plenty of satisfaction.
An increase of around 60 per cent in body rigidity and the lowering of the centre of gravity compared to previous Corolla/Auris models means better handling all round.
A lot of work has also been done to ensure the cabin is much quieter than on previous models with generous applications of sound-absorbing and insulating material in the engine bay combined with a triple-layered dashboard inner silencer to minimise the amount of noise entering the cabin.
The interior is stylish yet minimalist. There's an instrument binnacle with a seven-inch multi-information display immediately in front of the driver and a centre-set eight-inch touch screen for operating onboard functions including satellite navigation and the reversing camera.
Front and rear seats are comfortable but I found the legroom for rear seat passengers disappointing, particularly compared to a similarly priced rival hybrid, the Honda HR-V.
All Corolla models now have LED headlights with an automatic dipped/main beam function and are amongst the best I have come across, certainly taking a lot of the stress out of night driving and working almost as well as the more expensive matrix headlights.
The Corolla is an easy car to live with, having numerous useful functions like keyless locking and unlocking, push button starting and an automatic handbrake release as soon as you move the gearshift to drive and the applying of the brake as soon as you move the shift back to park.
There's also park assist for those who struggle to park, heated front seats and hill start assist, not to mention a plethora of safety system including adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and road sign assist.
For anyone who is wary of buying diesel or petrol but doesn't want to make that leap of faith to a full electric car the Corolla is an ideal halfway house with fuel consumption which is hard to better and none of the electric car range anxiety of looking for a charging point when your battery is almost flat.