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September 9, 2019

Is Taking the Hybrid Plunge Worth It? Comparing the Ownership Cost of the Corolla Altis (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, we traced back our previous test drives and compared the Corolla Altis Hybrid using more realistic figures (i.e. our very own test drive fuel mileages). 9/11.

Targeting women and married couples, Toyota is clearly tugging more on the sensibilities of compact car buyers than the senses. Though improved in every conceivable aspect, buyers would likely flock to the Corolla Altis mainly thanks to Toyota’s reputation for making bullet-proof cars and of course, lower ownership costs.

Given that there’s a P 395,000 price difference between the 1.8 V Hybrid and the 1.6 V, and not much differences in specs, is taking the hybrid plunge actually worth it? Or will you end up being part of the 93 percent of Corolla Altis buyers who’d go for the conventionally-engined 1.6? To make things even more interesting, its two most direct price competitors, the Honda Civic 1.8 E and Mazda3 1.5 Elite have been added to this comparo as well.

Here’s some math to help you out.

For starters, let’s lay down the assumptions.
  • The cost of Preventive Maintenance Service or PMS is based off a service menu for the previous-generation Corolla Altis (circa 2017); the same goes for the Honda Civic. Meanwhile, the Mazda3 is covered by an all-inclusive Yojin-3 program.
  • Since Toyota Motor Philippines guarantees that the Corolla Altis Hybrid would have the same servicing requirements as its non-hybrid counterpart (except for a battery filter cleaning/replacement), for the sake of this computation, the rates are made the same.
  • The total distance traveled for this computation is 60,000 kilometers for a three-year period; meaning an average of 20,000 kilometers traveled per year. This may seem a lot, but at least it matches the prescribed PMS period by the manufacturer for ease of computation.
  • For the Fuel Mileage figure, the 2020 Corolla Altis hasn’t been tested yet by Toyota Motor Philippines. However, since it carries the Prius’s drivetrain, the Toyota product team says it should easily match the figures achieved by the Prius during the Department of Energy Fuel Economy Run. The figures of the Civic and the Mazda3 were also taken from the DOE run, but in the case of the Mazda3, it’s representative of the previous model. As for the Corolla Altis 1.6 V, this figure was achieved through Toyota’s own internal testing.
With the assumptions out of the way, let’s see how the Corolla Altis Hybrid does.

Because of its price premium over the 1.6 V, the Corolla Altis Hybrid will never recoup itself. Even if its fuel economy figure is 63 percent better than its non-hybrid counterpart, the 1.8 V Hybrid is still P 320,856.77 more expensive to own over a three-year period or P 5.35 more per kilometer (P 29.23 vs P 23.88).

Even more surprising is that Toyota’s quarterly PMS equates to higher maintenance cost compared to the Civic and the Mazda3. It’s so high that the Mazda is able to recoup its P 110,000 price difference cover the Altis 1.6 V.

Now, if you’re getting a Corolla Altis as part of a company car plan (in other words, your company is paying the initial cost), going the Hybrid route keeps your running cost to just P 2.90—30 percent cheaper than the 1.6 V’s. It is still slightly more expensive than the Civic’s (P 2.84 per kilometer) and the Mazda3’s (P 1.97 per kilometer).

This begs the question? When is the Corolla Altis Hybrid actually able to recoup itself? Its ownership cost per kilometer equalizes with its non-hybrid counterpart if the owner travels more than 74,627 kilometers in a three-year span—that’s about 24,875 kilometers more (4,875 kilometers more than the 1.6 V per year). Another scenario where the Hybrid breaks even over the 1.6 V is when fuel cost is more than P 136.56 per liter, assuming that the total distance traveled for 3 years stands at 60,000 kilometers.

With these figures in mind, it’s no surprise that Toyota Motor Philippines’s not expecting a lot of buyers to go the hybrid route. If everything is taken purely in pesos-and-cents, the hybrid only makes sense for someone who travels a lot or banks that fuel prices will skyrocket real soon.

Because several readers pointed out that a highway-biased fuel economy run like the one conducted by the Department of Energy will go against the strength of a gasoline-electric hybrid setup (which is stop-and-go traffic), we decided to re-visit these computations using our very own test drive fuel mileage figures.

Again, no one has tested the fuel economy of the all-new Corolla Altis Hybrid yet (no, around the block test drives don’t count), so we’ve decided to use data from the third-generation Prius which uses the same drivetrain more or less. The same goes for the non-hybrid Corolla 1.6—we simply used the data from the previous-generation model which uses the same 1.6-liter Dual VVT-i engine and CVT.

The scenario’s the same with the 2020 Mazda3. While we’ve already driven it on a mixed city/highway set-up, the figures won’t be an apples-to-apples comparison. Thus, here we used data on previous-generation 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter models.

Finally, we have the Civic. Since the 1.8 E and RS Turbo feature merely cosmetic enhancements this year, the fuel economy figures we’ve gathered are still up to snuff.

If we’ve driven the vehicles multiple times already, the fuel economy figures have been averaged.

Moving on to the results.

Despite these new assumptions, the Hybrid’s better fuel mileage (93 percent better than the non-hybrid Corolla) still won’t be enough to recoup the investment (P 29.76 versus P 25.47 per kilometer in ownership costs).

That being said, the Corolla Altis Hybrid’s running costs are ridiculously low—just P 3.42 per kilometer using today’s gas prices. The next closest vehicle would be the Mazda3 1.5 with P 4.95 per kilometer, and that’s because you don’t pay a cent in Preventive Maintenance Service for the first three years. On the other end of the spectrum, the Civic RS Turbo is the costliest to run at P 7.15 per kilometer—more than twice the Hybrid!

For those who want to know the breakeven point, the Corolla Hybrid only begins to make sense if you happen to travel more than 71,178 kilometers in a 3-year period or 11,178 more kilometers per year than the non-hybrid. Either that, or if gas prices go up to P 96.71 per liter.


  1. So the hybrid is targeted at those who travel a lot; that is, managers, directors or people who drive cars from, "nearby" provinces (eg: Cavite, Bulacan), or, "far" Metro Manila places (eg: Valenzuela, Las Pinas) - In other words, places where a lot are located thanks to cheaper houses - to the business districts of Makati, Taguig, Eastwood, etc.

    We spend around 3-4 hours of our lives every day in traffic. I want to think that getting to that break even value should be quick.

    And hopefully, we get a more direct comparison for the Hybrid, such as the Honda Civic RS Turbo, the Mazda3 2.0 and the Kia Forte Turbo.

    1. The only group of users that could take advantage of the hybrid premium are the Grab operators.

    2. For the sake of this comparison, we had to rely on the DOE fuel economy run figures so that all cars are more or less evenly matched. Rest assured, this is actually something good to re-visit once we get to test the Corolla Hybrid in the city! :-)

    3. indeed, cant wait for you guys to do the full review soon for the hybrid and make the conclusion if its really good for its price vs the competition. It's an exciting time in the automotive industry. :D

    4. @YellowBlue - Respectfully disagree. I for one will take advantage of it because, as Uly said, the hybrids are much better and should be revisited when it comes to city driving. Not to sound condescending, but I doubt it that, given our nature to disregard new trends in favor of old ones (DIESEL 4EVER, CROSSWIND/ADVENTURE PA RIN, CIVIC STILL DA BES), Grab operators will bother trying out hybrids here.

      Though when I went to other countries, yes Uber/Lyft/similar apps use hybrids instead.

  2. The perceptions of low maintenance for toyotas are a bluff. Still mazda 3 > Forte > Altis > Civic

    1. Wait after the Yojin 3 expires, and it's time for the Mazda's cost to skyrocket. I know people with Mazda3s, Mazda6s and one with a CX-9 who stand by that fact.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. If you know your stuff, there are some stores in banawe selling original parts. Still a bit(20%) more expensive than toyota/mitsu but I agree with your statement if you'll be confined to the dealership. Still, being happy for 3 good years with an exciting and desirable compact car that makes you feel special everyday is a lot better than in a boring one. The special feeling driving your mazda 3 everyday is priceless.

      That said,
      Toyota buyers= go for the most practical choice
      Mazda buyers= foregoes a bit of practicality for more satisfaction

      Excited for that big compact car comparison.

    4. I don't disagree with that statement. I've driven the Mazda6, and it's worlds apart in driving satisfaction and feel compared to the Accord, Camry, and Peugeot 508 (which itself is better driving than the others, and my friend's one is pretty reliable 2 years running).

  3. Every owner should also factor in the yearly cost of INSURANCE.

    1. Unfortunately, Toyota hasn't worked with any insurance company to lower the cost of insurance (sadly, something they overlooked with the introduction of TSS). Typically, insurance values are dictated more or less by the expect them to have more or less the same sort of premium.

    2. I agree, compared to other countries, here it's just really based on SRP and nothing else.

  4. hybrid vehicles should get a tax break from the govt as well as lower insurance premiums if not, people will just stick to diesel or cheap sub compacts

  5. Most of these cars will live in the city. The DOE fuel economy test you quoted is for controlled highway driving. In real world city driving, the gas powered Civic, 3 and Altis would average 8-10 kpl. Hybrid cars are more efficient in the city since they charge on braking and can easily achieve 22 kpl. So if you do most of the driving in the city, you can save at least 50K a year on gas assuming 20Tkm mileage per year.

    1. Agreed...this comparison is worth revisiting once I get to drive the Hybrid and put it through the same conditions as the Civic and the Mazda3.

  6. Just get a diesel car such as Accent crdi if you want to save on fuel. Mileage is 12-15 kpl in the city and you don't have to replace the battery in 5-8 years which could cost hundreds of thousands, wiping out your savings in fuel.

  7. The data is waaayy off.. how did a Mazda 1.5 and a Civic 1.8 achieve more than 22 km/l while the Corolla 1.6 can only achieve 16 km/l. I am not blowing smoke here and I am speaking from experience. I have an HR-V that has a 1.8l engine and CVT, same as with that Civic, car weight is not to different and by experience on mixed city and highway, the best it can do is 11 or 12, and pure Hi-way on a 14 to 15, same as what the Honda salesman said. Then I also had a 1.0 Liter Fiesta DCT, the best it has done is 18 to 19. So there is no way a Civic 1.8 or Mazda 1.5 can ever reach that and if the author is getting this data from DOE, then he should have known better from experience because I believe he has driven and tested a lot of cars and is more aware of the REAL numbers.

    I am not to defend any cars or this Hybrid from Toyota, but there a lot of inexperienced people who read this articles and will be put off with such numbers. From his article he admits that the numbers came for DOE economy run but that is exactly my point, if we are going to rely on agency or car company to tell us what it is then what is the purpose of individual reviewers who should tell us what it REALLY is... rather than parroting data from DOE or Car company why not use data from real experience because that is what people wanted to know... The 1.8HV is not yet real world tested, that is forgiven, but the Civic, Mazda and it's outrageous mileage can already be disputed.

    Again, no offense to the author, just constructive criticism.

    1. I think it's because the test was mostly done on a highway, not in a city (EDSA, C5, Zapote, Mindanao Ave, etc) where we spend around 4 hours or more each day in stop-stop-stop-go traffic.

      And yes, they only covered the 1st three years in maintenance, probably to make Mazda look good (they aren't as reliable and PMS costs way more the following years).

  8. So this comparison is only for new vehicles for 3 years? Because as far as I know, Mazda's PMS after year 3 is very expensive, assuming you still go for PMS at dealers


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