The future as Toyota sees it: City bans and doubts over hybrids deadline
Preview of five new hybrid models due in Ireland during the first 12 weeks of 2019
Quite a few claims and predictions were made in the course of previewing five new Toyota hybrid models in Dublin recently.
The cars include the new RAV4 hybrid (here January 7), the Corolla hatch (Jan 16), Corolla saloon and Touring Sport (mid-Feb) and the Camry (April 4).
There is no doubt that hybrids, including plug-ins, will account for a higher percentage of buyers in 2019 as they are seen as the immediate step from diesel.
Which is where the claims began.
We were told that diesel's rapid decline will accelerate. Toyota, of course, are contributing to that by no longer selling new diesel passenger cars.
Executives also said the 1pc surcharge on new diesels was "only the tip of the iceberg".
And they forecast that Dublin would not escape city bans on cars in the medium term, especially those with high emissions.
Contrary to perception, they claim that rural Ireland is driving the swing to hybrid. And they give Offaly as an example. It has recorded the biggest percentage increase (142pc) in hybrid buying (from a small base, admittedly) this year.
Reflecting the swing to hybrid generally, the company said it has 800 orders, even though people have not seen the cars in the flesh yet. And there are a reported 6,000 people waiting to drive the cars when they arrive. Half the Camrys have been pre-sold.
Toyota is also saying it is beginning to see people turning back towards saloons from SUVs - that would be a real reversal if it continues.
Significantly, the firm also believes hybrids and plug-ins will run well after the current deadline of 2030. But the company itself will launch 10 new EVs by the early 2020s.
Meantime, it is further forecasting that 80pc of all cars it sells next year will be a hybrid. Virtually everything else will be petrol.
Not having a diesel won't affect their market share either, Toyota reckons.
Comparisons are odious, but how much more will buyers have to pay for a new Corolla hybrid than for an outgoing model?
The simple answer is around €1,200, but that is comparing with a 1.4-litre diesel, which, for obvious reasons, is not like for like. Certainly not on looks and styling, which have improved significantly.
The main event, given that I've driven the Corolla hatch and estate, was the saloon (world's best-selling car: 40m since 1966). It's big, roomy and looks the part. There was heavy emphasis on spec levels - again something that obviates comparisons.
Prices start around the €27,700 mark. The saloon with the 1.8-litre hybrid has a 2,700mm wheelbase, which is the same as the Avensis and Corolla estate. The 470-litre boot is slightly up despite the larger battery pack.
Rear legroom is improved and it's got a different front than the hatchback.
Meanwhile, Toyota expects the RAV4's Luna grade to be most popular trim. The SUV has a new 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain (Dynamic Force) and it develops 218bhp (v 197bhp for old one). It has a 30mm longer wheelbase, bigger boot and more passenger room.
The Camry has a 218bhp 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain too (4.2l/100km) and a 524-litre boot. Apart from the steering wheel, nothing else is shared with the other models. The firm sees a lot of premium drivers taking a look at it.
All cars come with three years' free servicing.