Should I buy a 2024 BYD Dolphin or a Toyota Corolla?

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A wave of new, more affordable electric cars have arrived with prices comparable to similarly sized petrol cars. Should you make the leap? We pit electric against hybrid to find out.

Since the dawn of the modern electric-car age, experts have been trying to predict when we will reach ‘price parity’ – the point at which an electric car is no more expensive to buy than an equivalent petrol or diesel-powered vehicle. 

We are still some years away from the day when you will be able to buy an electric Volkswagen, Hyundai, Toyota or any other vehicle for the same price as an identical VW, Hyundai or Toyota with a petrol engine.

However – thanks to the growth of Chinese car makers BYD, MG and GWM – it is now possible to buy a small electric car for the same price as a similarly sized, top-of-the-range petrol-powered small hatch from Japanese, South Korean and German makes.

With purchase price now no longer a barrier – at least for shoppers with budgets that can stretch to $40K and a bit beyond – it presents a question many buyers have never before been able to consider: is it time to make the switch to electric?

To find out, we have what – in base-model, $38,890 before on-road costs form – is Australia’s most affordable new electric car (excluding limited-time offers), the BYD Dolphin hatch from China.

It faces off against the world’s all-time best-selling car, and the staple of the small-car category, the Toyota Corolla from Japan – armed with fuel-sipping hybrid technology to give petrol power the best chance of depleting the Dolphin’s batteries.

For the same money, is the BYD Dolphin a better buy than the Toyota Corolla Hybrid – and should you leap from petrol-hybrid power to electric? Let’s find out.

How much does the Toyota Corolla cost in Australia?

To close the price gap, we are testing the most expensive ‘regular’ model in the Toyota Corolla hatchback range, the ZR Hybrid, priced at $39,100 plus on-road costs.

It is the flagship of 12 model grades – excluding the GR Corolla hot hatch – which start from less than $30,000 before on-road costs, and span hatchback and sedan body styles, petrol-only or petrol-electric hybrid power, and Ascent Sport, SX and ZR equipment levels.

The ZR Hybrid’s price has gone up $1480 since late 2022 with no additional equipment, and is a fair way north of the 2018 launch price of $31,870, although today’s model is better equipped than six years ago.

This test vehicle is finished in Silver Pearl paint with a black roof – a $1350 option – and a no-cost red and black interior, bringing its price to $40,450 plus on-road costs, or about $44,500 drive-away in New South Wales, according to Toyota Australia’s online price estimator.

Petrol rivals include the Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Life ($39,190), Hyundai i30 N Line Premium auto ($37,300), Mazda 3 G25 GT ($38,420) and Subaru Impreza 2.0S ($37,990). All prices exclude on-road costs.

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Standard features exclusive to the ZR include 18-inch alloy wheels, upgraded bi-LED headlights, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display, synthetic leather-look and suede upholstery, heated front sports seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, eight-speaker JBL stereo, and ambient cabin lighting.

Features carried up from cheaper models include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless/wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, wireless phone charging, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, and a full suite of advanced safety technology.

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How much does the BYD Dolphin cost in Australia?

There are three models in the BYD Dolphin range: the Dynamic ($38,890 plus on-road costs), Premium ($44,890 plus on-roads) and Sport ($49,990 plus on-roads).

The car on test is the Premium, which adds a larger battery, more powerful electric motor than the Dynamic, and a few other features.

If you’re wondering why we’re not using the Dynamic, given it is within just $210 of the Corolla’s RRP: we asked BYD for that vehicle, but it wouldn’t supply anything other than a Premium.

While there is a near-$6000 gap in recommended retail prices, once the Corolla’s two-tone paint – which is standard on the BYD – is optioned, and once on-road costs such as registration and third-party insurance are added, only $1500 splits the vehicles on the road in NSW: $46,023 drive-away for the BYD, and an estimated $44,506 drive-away for the Toyota. BYD appears to charge far less in on-road costs than Toyota.

Unlike Toyota – which sells its vehicles through a traditional franchise dealer network that allows for negotiation – the BYD’s price is fixed and can’t be haggled.

The Dolphin is better equipped than the Corolla, with features such as a panoramic glass roof, a power-adjustable passenger seat, larger 12.8-inch touchscreen that rotates, a 360-degree camera, front parking sensors, front cross-traffic alert, and synthetic leather-look seat trim not fitted to the Toyota.

Other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, a 5.0-inch digital instrument display, LED headlights and tail-lights, wired Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, wireless phone charging, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, six-speaker stereo, single-zone climate control, rear-view camera, seven airbags, and a suite of advanced safety technology.

Key details 2024 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2024 BYD Dolphin Premium
Price (MSRP) $39,100 plus on-road costs $44,890 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Silver Pearl with Black roof Ski White and Urban Grey
Options Two-tone premium paint – $1350
Red and black interior – no cost
None
Price as tested $40,450 plus on-road costs $44,890 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $44,506 (NSW) $46,023 (NSW)

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How much space does the Toyota Corolla have inside?

The Corolla does not have the flashiest or most high-tech interior in the small-car class, but with buttons and dials for key audio and air-conditioning functions – and a clean layout – it is simple and easy to get along with.

Drivers looking for a sporty feel can sit low in the car, with eight-way power adjustment in the driver’s seat and tilt and reach adjustment for the faux leather-trimmed steering wheel making it easy to find a comfortable position.

The sports seats in this ZR grade are a highlight, offering good comfort and excellent support for a humble hybrid hatchback – not a high-performance car – mixing synthetic leather-look trim with suede inserts that add to the sporty feel. They offer heating and lumbar support.

If it were our money, we’d tick the box for the no-cost red accents; a more restrained all-black option is also available.

All key interior surfaces touched by occupants – the armrests, door tops, dashboard, and areas of the centre console where your knees rest – are wrapped in a synthetic leather-look material, though some padding in the armrests could be softer.

Amenities up front include dual-zone climate control, a wireless smartphone charging pad, keyless entry and start, electric parking brake, illuminated vanity mirrors, two USB-C ports, and a 12-volt socket.

While the glovebox is generously sized, storage elsewhere is limited, with a tiny compartment in the centre console that can’t fit much more than a wallet and a pair of sunglasses. The door bins are not as large as some rivals, and front occupants will find themselves squishing phones, glasses, wallets and keys in the cupholders or on the wireless phone charging pad.

Space in the rear seats has been a weak point for this generation of Corolla hatch since it arrived in 2018. At 6ft (183cm) tall, I can fit behind my driving position, with adequate headroom and toe room – but my knees are touching the seat in front, and it would be an even tighter squeeze for taller adults.

Carrying three passengers across the rear in a pinch is possible, but it’s better suited to two people.

Ease of entry and exit is hampered by the sloping roof line and a small door opening, and the black roof lining exacerbates the cramped feeling in the rear.

Rear-seat passengers are treated to rear air vents, cupholders in the doors, fold-down centre armrest, two map pockets, three child-seat top-tether points, and two ISOFIX anchors. However, there are no USB ports nor any pockets in the doors for storing wallets, devices or other items, and the door tops are made from hard, scratchy plastic.

At 333 litres, the ZR Hybrid has the largest boot in the Corolla hatch range because it swaps the spare wheel – either a full-size or a space saver – for a tyre inflator kit to repair minor punctures on the roadside.

It means the boot goes from one of the tiniest in the small-car class to a roomy space that defies its capacity, with enough room for a full-sized suitcase, a carry-on suitcase, and a few soft bags.

However, there are no amenities in the cargo hold beyond a shopping bag hook. As the boot is deep with the deletion of the spare wheel, the load lip is also quite high, and the rear seats don’t fold flat at the same level as the boot floor.

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How much space does the BYD Dolphin have inside?

Compared to the more restrained Corolla, the Dolphin’s cabin adopts a funkier design with dolphin flipper-style door handles, an interesting shape to the air vents and dashboard trim, and a toggle switch in place of a regular gear selector.

The dashboard is dominated by the giant 12.8-inch touchscreen which – as with other BYDs – can rotate between landscape and portrait orientations. We will cover this in more depth in the next section.

There are still some buttons and switches for key controls – including a volume dial and a toggle for the regenerative braking modes – however most functions are controlled through the touchscreen.

Silver and grey Dolphins come with a black interior, but there are pink, blue or ivory versions available with other exterior colours. But in contrast to the faux leather-lined surfaces of the Corolla, the surfaces in the BYD’s cabin are largely hard, scratchy plastic – aside from a neoprene-like insert on the dashboard – and the armrests aren’t very soft.

The seating position can be set even lower than the Corolla – despite the battery under the floor – though taller drivers may wish the steering wheel went out further, and there are only six ways of seat adjustment, with no ability to increase the amount of under-thigh support.

The front seats are comfortable – though not the last word in support – and come with heating. The synthetic leather-look trim looks good, but it doesn’t breathe as well as the Corolla’s suede inserts.

There’s more storage up front than in the Toyota, with a modestly sized glovebox, a tray under the touchscreen for wallets or keys, another lidded compartment next to the USB ports, and two cupholders. There is a large storage area under the centre console, but it can only be accessed from the side and is partially blocked by the seats – and the door pockets are small.

Amenities include a wireless phone charging pad – positioned in a slot cut into the armrest – plus USB-A and USB-C charging ports, single-zone climate-control air conditioning, a microSD card slot, one 12-volt socket, and a large, fixed panoramic glass roof with a power-operated shade for sunny days.

Visibility is average out the front of the car, and better than the Corolla out the side – but the rear window is small.

The Dolphin is narrower than the Corolla – and most of its electric-car rivals – so it’s not the widest cabin, meaning occupants front and rear find themselves fighting for armrest space occasionally.

It is shorter nose to tail than the Corolla, but longer between the wheels – which translates to much more legroom, even for me at 183cm (6ft) tall sitting behind my driving position.

However, with the driver’s seat set low, there is little to no toe room, and head room is not markedly better than the Corolla, despite the taller body. The sporty front seats also compromise the view ahead in the outboard seats, though the windows are large.

It is possible to carry three passengers in the rear, but it’s best used in emergencies – and the middle passenger best not be tall, because they will find their hair brushing the roof, and will whack their head into the structure around the sunroof if they lean forward.

Amenities in the rear include one USB-A and one USB-C port, a cupholder in the back of the centre console, map pockets and smartphone holders on the front seatbacks, a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders, three child-seat top tether points, and two ISOFIX anchors.

Unlike the Corolla, there are pockets in the doors for more than just a bottle – but unlike the Toyota, there are no rear air vents.

The 345L boot is larger on paper than the Corolla, but there is a divider in the middle, and the width and depth of the cargo area beneath it are not as large as the Toyota. The result is that while it is more useful for shopping bags or smaller items, as they use the divider, a full-sized suitcase will not fit flat on its largest side, with or without the divider.

The rear seats fold 60:40 for more space – and a flat floor with the divider in place – but there are no bag hooks, nets or 12-volt sockets.

As with the Corolla – and most electric cars on sale – there is a tyre repair kit for patching up smaller punctures on the roadside.

At a glance 2024 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2024 BYD Dolphin Premium
Seats Five Five
Boot volume 333L seats up 345L seats up
1310L seats folded
Length 4375mm 4290mm
Width 1790mm 1770mm
Height 1435mm 1570mm
Wheelbase 2640mm 2700mm

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Does the Toyota Corolla have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

Standard in all Toyota Corolla hatchbacks and sedans in Australia is an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with wireless and wired Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice control, and AM, FM and DAB digital radio.

All variants except the Ascent Sport petrol and hybrid hatch, and Ascent Sport petrol sedan are fitted with embedded satellite navigation.

At eight inches, the screen is small – compared to the 10 or 12-inch screens in similarly priced rivals – and the thick black bezel around the display cheapens the look. Toyota offers a 10.5-inch touchscreen in other markets but not in Australia.

The infotainment software is not the fastest, sharpest or most attractive in the class, but it’s relatively easy to use and responds quickly enough. Wireless Apple CarPlay worked well in our testing, although we found that if we wanted to charge the phone via the USB port – but still use wireless CarPlay – we had to let CarPlay connect before plugging the phone in, as doing the opposite wouldn’t engage CarPlay.

It is worth noting there is a wireless smartphone charging pad ahead of the gear shifter, which is powerful enough to add charge to the phone while running navigation and music streaming.

The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is clear and bright, but it doesn’t offer much customisation in terms of layout – though it can display a widescreen navigation map, which many other cars with digital instrument screens aren’t able to do.

A rarity in this class is the fitment of a head-up display, which shows the vehicle’s speed, the current speed limit, and other key information. It’s a handy feature that means you’ll rarely need to look down at the instrument cluster.

The eight-speaker JBL sound system is above average, but doesn’t deliver the punch or sound quality we would expect of a ‘premium’ branded sound system.

The quality of the rear-view camera is below average – and grainy at night – with simple guidelines that don’t move when you turn the steering wheel.

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Does the BYD Dolphin have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

The Dolphin’s party piece is its 12.8-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto, satellite navigation, a ‘Hi BYD’ voice assistant, and FM and DAB+ digital radio – but no AM radio, which is still key in regional areas for emergency alerts where FM bands don’t reach.

It can rotate between landscape and portrait orientations, however – after showing the rotating feature off to their friends – we suspect owners will leave the screen in landscape, as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can’t be shown in portrait view.

The infotainment system – based on Android, as you’d find in a phone or tablet – is quick to respond, and the screen is high resolution. However, it attracts sun glare and in apps with dark-coloured interfaces becomes hard to see in direct sun.

Most vehicle functions are buried in menus on the screen, including the air conditioning. Frustratingly, there is no permanent shortcut from Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to the climate controls – so changing the temperature or fan speed is at least three taps away and another two taps back to the app you were last using.

There is a voice assistant activated by saying ‘Hi BYD’, but it’s not as user-friendly as a button or dial. Apple CarPlay worked generally well in our testing, though on one occasion it took some troubleshooting to connect when the car was started, and it only works through the USB-A port.

There’s also support for a BYD Connect phone app, which allows for remote door unlocking/locking, vehicle location tracking, and other functions.

The 5.0-inch instrument display is mounted to the steering column – so it is always in the driver’s view – and shows key information such as speed and battery charge. However, the buttons on the steering wheel used to control it take some time to learn.

The resolution of the 360-degree and rear-view cameras are good, and the six-speaker sound system delivers above average punch, though it’s not up to the level of the Corolla’s JBL stereo, which itself is not as good as premium audio systems in other cars.

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Is the Toyota Corolla a safe car?

The Toyota Corolla 2.0-litre petrol and 1.8-litre hybrid hatch were awarded five stars by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) in 2018 based on crash testing conducted in Australia.

The score will expire after 31 December 2024 – unless Toyota submits the Corolla for retesting under the current crash-test criteria, which are far more stringent than those in 2018 when the vehicle was initially rated.

Is the BYD Dolphin a safe car?

The BYD Dolphin also wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, but it was tested in 2023 to the latest and most stringent 2023–25 test criteria.

It earned scores of 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 85 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 77 per cent for safety assist technology.

Its score is due to expire after 31 December 2029.

At a glance 2024 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2024 BYD Dolphin Premium
ANCAP rating Five stars (tested 2018) Five stars (tested 2023)
Safety report ANCAP report ANCAP report

What safety technology does the Toyota Corolla have?

Standard safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian/cyclist/motorcycle detection and intersection assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-following assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, speed sign recognition, door exit warning, and front and rear parking sensors.

There are also seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees.

Some of the advanced safety systems are overzealous and have been tuned to react at the slightest chance of a collision – rather than risk intervening too late.

There was a false activation of the AEB system – during a quick lane change approaching a set of traffic lights, when the car thought we were going to crash into the line of cars waiting to turn. And on multiple occasions, the blind-spot monitoring system slammed the brakes if a car drove past while parallel parking, even if the car was in reverse gear and pulling into the spot, rather than towards the line of traffic.

However, the lane-keep assist system is well calibrated and isn’t too intrusive in the city. The lane-centring assist tech – marketed as Lane Trace Assist – is natural in its operation, though as with many systems of its type, it struggles on tight highway bends.

When stopped at the front of the queue at the traffic lights, pedestrians walking ahead of the car trip the front parking sensors. At other times, we found the sensors – and distance display on the infotainment screen – slow to react to the closing distance to the car in front or behind when trying to park in a tight space.

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What safety technology does the BYD Dolphin have?

Standard safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian/cyclist/motorcycle detection and intersection support, lane-keep assist, lane-centring assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition with an overspeed warning, door exit warning, auto high beam, and tyre pressure monitoring.

There are also front and rear cross-traffic alerts – which can detect and brake for obstacles to avoid collisions – plus front and rear parking sensors, front, rear and 360-degree cameras, and seven airbags, including one between the front occupants to avoid head clashes in side impacts.

There were no false activations of the autonomous emergency braking system, but there is room for improvement in the performance of other safety features.

The lane-keep assist is more intrusive and overzealous around town than we would like, and even on relatively straight roads the lane-centring assist is not particularly smooth in its operation, and gently bounces between the lane markings rather than holding the centre of the lane.

The front cross-traffic alert system is prone to beeping at roundabouts – even if the driver has an unobstructed view of the entire intersection – while the adaptive cruise control can only be adjusted in 5km/h increments.

The traffic light recognition system beeps – and flashes a ‘Speeding’ warning in the instrument display – when you exceed the detected speed limit by any more than 1km/h. That said, the warning is not too loud and can be drowned out with music or radio. It can be turned off through the infotainment screen, but it requires a few taps through menus to access, and automatically re-activates when the car is restarted.

None of these systems are dangerous – or potential deal-breakers – and they can be fixed with a software update, but they are far from perfect.

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How much does the Toyota Corolla cost to run?

The Toyota Corolla is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre vehicle warranty for private buyers (excludes commercial use), including the hybrid battery.

If buyers follow the service schedule as per the logbook, Toyota will extend the warranty on the petrol engine, hybrid components and driveline to seven years/unlimited kilometres, and “up to” 10 years/unlimited kilometres for the hybrid battery pack if it is inspected annually by a Toyota dealer.

Servicing costs are among the cheapest in the car industry, at $245 for each of the first five visits, separated by 12-month/15,000km intervals – amounting to $1225 over five years/75,000km.

Among petrol-powered cars, only the Honda Civic – available in petrol and hybrid – is cheaper, at $199 for each of the first five services at shorter 12-month/10,000km intervals. Rivals with the same service intervals as the Toyota charge between $1700 and $3350 for five years of scheduled maintenance.

After the first five services, the Toyota becomes more expensive to maintain. The next five services at a Toyota dealer (until 10 years/150,000km) are said to cost between $380.80 and $700.50, for an annual average of $501.20.

The Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050 (225/40R18) tyres on the Corolla ZR Hybrid are priced from $262 (from Bob Jane T-Marts) at the time of writing.

A year of comprehensive insurance coverage from a leading provider costs $1604, based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

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How much does the BYD Dolphin cost to run?

The BYD Dolphin is covered by a six-year/150,000km warranty, whichever comes first, with a separate eight-year/160,000km for the high-voltage battery pack.

However, dig deeper into the warranty terms, and there are myriad conditions and shorter warranty periods for different parts of the vehicle – such as three years/60,000km for the infotainment screen or four years/100,000km for the headlights. Click here to read the full terms and conditions (scroll to page 15).

Services are scheduled every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first, and total $748 over three years, or $1384 over five years – slightly dearer than the Corolla. Individual service prices range from $189 in years one, three, five and seven, to $447 in years four and eight.

When calculated to distance, not time intervals, the Dolphin buyer is estimated to spend $748 over 60,000km, compared to $980 for the Corolla – and the gap widens by 120,000km, totalling $1754 in servicing for the Dolphin, and $2857 for the Corolla.

The major tyre stores don’t stock the Dolphin’s standard 205/50 R17 Linglong Comfort Master tyres, and we could only find them at one online retailer for $97 each.

However, as we will explain in the ‘Driving’ section, we would advise swapping them at the first opportunity for higher-quality rubber from a known brand for better grip and roadholding. The Corolla’s Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres in the BYD’s standard size cost $264 each from Bob Jane T-Marts, at the time of writing in December 2023.

A year of comprehensive insurance coverage from a leading provider costs $2997, based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

It is far more expensive than electric-car rivals, including $2004 for an MG 4 Excite 64, $2079 for an MG 4 Essence 64, and $1986 for a GWM Ora Extended Range.

At a glance 2024 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2024 BYD Dolphin Premium
Warranty Five years, unlimited km Six years, 150,000km
Battery warranty Five years, unlimited km Eight years, 160,000km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km 12 months or 20,000km
Servicing costs $735 (3 years)
$1225 (5 years)
$748 (3 years)
$1384 (5 years)
Energy cons. (claimed)  – 14.2kWh/100km
Energy cons. (on test)  – 14.5kWh/100km
Battery size  – 60.5kWh
Driving range claim (WLTP)  – 427km
Charge time (7.2kW)  – 9h 20min (estimated)
Charge time (50kW)  – 50min (estimated, 10–80%)
Charge time (88kW max rate)  – 38min claimed, 41min 20sec as tested (10–80%)
Fuel cons. (claimed) 4.0L/100km  –
Fuel cons. (on test) 5.7L/100km  –
Fuel type 91-octane regular unleaded  –
Fuel tank size 43L  –

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Is the Toyota Corolla fuel-efficient?

Toyota claims the Corolla ZR Hybrid will use just 4.0 litres per 100 kilometres of 91-octane regular unleaded petrol in mixed driving – or 3.8L/100km in urban motoring and 4.3L/100km on the highway or country, where hybrids are less efficient as they have less opportunity to use the electric motor.

Over a week and 700km of testing across city, highway and country-road driving, we observed 5.7L/100km at the fuel bowser, which – while still very frugal for the class – is still 40 per cent higher than the claim.

However, it is worth noting that, prior to some spirited country-road driving – where we were working the engine hard – the trip computer showed 5.0L/100km, or about 5.3L/100km at the pump. This is derived from city commuting and about 400km of highway driving.

On a 195km test loop on the Hume Highway south of Sydney – which has a 110km/h speed limit – we observed fuel consumption of 4.9L/100km on the trip computer, equating to 5.2L/100km at the fuel bowser. With fuel prices at $1.80/litre, it would cost $18.25 to cover that distance at the fuel economy we observed.

In city driving – when the hybrid system can capture energy under braking and use the electric motor to move the car at low speeds – we regularly saw fuel consumption in the 4.0 to 4.5L/100km range, occasionally dipping into the high 3L/100km bracket, which is half of what a petrol-only hatchback would use in similar conditions.

We found the trip computer reports fuel consumption optimistically by about five per cent.

Is the BYD Dolphin energy-efficient?

BYD claims the Dolphin Premium’s 60.48kWh battery is good for 427km of driving range in European WLTP lab testing – and energy consumption of 14.2kWh/100km based on more lenient Australian testing standards.

Over 550km of city and highway testing we observed energy consumption of about 14.5kWh/100km – which dipped as low as 12kWh/100km in purely urban driving.

On the same 195km highway route as the Corolla we saw energy consumption of 16.5kWh/100km, which equates to a highway driving range of about 365km.

For reference, on a near-identical test loop, we observed energy consumption of more than 18kWh/100km from an MG 4 Essence 64.

As a guide, our 195km test loop would cost $19.31 to complete if the car is connected to a fast charger priced at 60 cents per kilowatt-hour. If charged using off-peak electricity from the grid at home, it would cost a third of that amount.

For a more detailed look at running costs – and which car is cheaper to run on the open road – watch the video at the top of this review.

But whereas the MG can recharge at up to 140kW, the Dolphin Premium maxed out at 88kW in our testing – according to the in-car display, or 89kW on the charger. It meant a 10 to 80 per cent fast charge took 41 minutes and 20 seconds in our testing, 15 minutes slower than the MG.

In the charging curve graph embedded above, you will notice a sudden dip at 40 per cent charge. It came a few minutes after we turned on the air conditioning in the car. We’re not sure if a sudden power draw as a result of this is to blame, if it was a fault with our test vehicle, or if this is how the car is intended to charge.

The BYD uses lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery chemistry, which can be charged beyond 80 per cent on a regular basis without causing excess long-term damage to the battery cells.

AC charging is capped at about 7kW, which is comparable with the MG but slower than the 11kW standard we expect of modern electric cars.

What is the Toyota Corolla like to drive?

The Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and a small lithium-ion battery for a combined power output of 103kW.

Around town, the hybrid system does its best work, accelerating from rest – the most energy-intensive part of day-to-day driving – to between 25 and 35km/h on electric power, depending on how gentle you are with the accelerator pedal, before the petrol engine fires up to assist.

It feels zippy at low speeds, but above 60km/h or 70km/h it starts to run out of punch – even by small hatchback standards.

Overtaking on a country road may require some planning, and doing so generates a lot of noise from the petrol engine, as the continuously variable transmission holds it at the optimal RPM for maximum power.

Aside from this, the transition between petrol and electric power is close to seamless.

The battery pack is small – and is not meant for travelling meaningful distances on electric power – but it can store enough energy to let the car creep through a traffic jam without firing the petrol engine too often. It’s charged by the petrol engine, or energy captured under braking, so it doesn’t need to be plugged in externally.

The 18-inch wheels and low-profile sports tyres on the ZR mean it’s not quite as comfortable over bumps as other models in the Corolla range – you can feel sharp edges and imperfections in the road – but it is by no means too stiff or harsh to live with.

The steering is light yet direct and accurate – though the 11.4-metre turning circle is big for a car of this size – and the brake pedal is easy to modulate, with a smooth transition from the electric motor’s regenerative braking to the regular ‘friction’ disc brakes.

The sportier suspension set-up around town makes for a more tied-down feel on an undulating country road and a surprisingly fun car to drive. It feels nimble and keen to turn into corners, it’s not disturbed by mid-corner bumps, there’s not much body roll, and the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres hold on well in fast corners.

The only shortcoming here is the lack of power at speed, which is noticeable when you’re met with a winding country road and want to have some fun behind the wheel. But there is a Corolla for enthusiast buyers, the 220kW GR hot hatch – built on the same excellent bones as this ZR.

The trade-off of the sporty Dunlop rubber is an incredible amount of tyre roar at highway speeds – particularly on coarse-chip surfaces – which can’t be completely drowned out by the sound system. There’s also some wind whistle at high speeds.

The bi-LED headlights offer good illumination under low and high beams, though they’re not the best we’ve seen in a small car or SUV.

What is the BYD Dolphin like to drive?

The BYD Dolphin Premium’s 150kW/310Nm outputs are on par with petrol-powered hot hatchbacks in the size category below, so it may be no surprise performance is brisk.

This electric car is not tuned to push you back into the seat like a Tesla – rather the power comes on progressively – but it’s more than enough power to zip into gaps in traffic, and the claimed 0–100km/h acceleration time of seven seconds is approaching hot hatch territory, considerably quicker than the Corolla.

We found Normal mode to be the sweet spot around town, as Eco mode dulls the accelerator-pedal response considerably, and in Sport mode it is too easy to chirp the front tyres when pulling out of junctions.

It is not helped by the Linglong Comfort Master tyres, which struggle to cope with the electric motor’s torque at times – even in dry conditions – and run out of grip relatively quickly in a fast corner on a country road.

Around town the Dolphin is easy to drive, with soft suspension that irons out small bumps in the road – and feels more comfortable than the Corolla, on the roads we tested the cars on in Sydney – and light, quick steering that makes for easy parking.

The trade-off of the soft suspension is that it does not feel as accomplished on the open road. At high speeds on the motorway or an undulating country road, the Dolphin feels its weight as the body moves around over bumps, and it does not feel as sure-footed as the Corolla.

The Toyota also holds the edge in handling on a winding road. The BYD’s steering does not communicate much of what’s happening under the car to the driver, and there is a surprising amount of body roll for a small car with a heavy battery placed low in the chassis.

Enthusiastic drivers, after a fun-to-drive electric car at this price, are more likely to enjoy the rear-wheel-drive MG 4.

There is no one-pedal drive mode capable of bringing the car to a halt using the electric motor’s regenerative braking alone. This is not a big issue in the Corolla – which is in the same boat – as the petrol engine is on hand to top up the battery (so energy recuperation under deceleration is not as important), but it’s a key omission in the electric Dolphin, where recapturing every last watt-hour of energy counts towards improving driving range.

Drivers can choose between Standard and High ‘regen’ modes – to mirror the Corolla’s D and B positions on the gear shifter – but none are strong enough for my liking.

Other notes: there is a reasonably well-judged transition in the brake pedal between regenerative and the traditional ‘friction’ disc brakes. There is a fair amount of wind noise around the mirrors at 110km/h – more than the Corolla – but less tyre roar than the Toyota and its sportier Dunlop rubber.

Key details 2024 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2024 BYD Dolphin Premium
Engine 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric motor Single electric motor
Power 103kW combined 150kW
Torque 142Nm (engine only)
Combined figure not quoted
310Nm
Drive type Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive
Transmission Continuously variable automatic Single-speed
Power-to-weight ratio 73.6kW/t 90.5kW/t
Weight 1400kg 1658kg
Spare tyre type Tyre repair kit Tyre repair kit
Tow rating None None
Turning circle 11.4m 10.5m

Should I buy a Toyota Corolla or a BYD Dolphin?

For many buyers, it won’t matter which car – the electric BYD Dolphin or petrol-hybrid Toyota Corolla – wins this comparison.

Some have their heart set on an electric car and won’t consider petrol power, while for others – who maybe don’t have the ability to easily charge an electric car at home, and therefore would need to rely on public charging infrastructure – an electric vehicle won’t fit their lifestyle, at least not yet.

For buyers on the fence – and shopping for the better car, irrespective of what powers it – it is the Toyota Corolla that wins this test, by a whisker.

As the ratings show, these cars’ strengths lie in different areas, and will appeal to different buyers depending on their priorities.

The BYD is quicker, more comfortable around town, better equipped, has more storage inside, better cabin technology (though far from perfect), and if you can charge it at home, is cheaper to run day-to-day.

Meanwhile, the Toyota is more enjoyable to drive, feels more sure-footed on the open road, the boot is smaller on paper but more usable, its interior has fewer quirks and is easier to live with, it is cheaper to buy, Toyota’s dealer network is larger, and its warranty lacks the confusing conditions of its electric rival.

The pair are closely matched in terms of passenger space – the Corolla delivers better ergonomics up front, and its cabin is wider, but the Dolphin is roomier overall in the rear – and the safety technology is better calibrated in the Toyota, though both vehicles have room for improvement.

While the BYD is slightly cheaper to service if you keep the car for more than five years, or cover long distances annually, it is more expensive if you don’t do many kilometres – and any remaining advantage the Dolphin has in this area is wiped out by its expensive insurance bill.

And for many city buyers without off-street parking who need to rely on public fast-charging infrastructure to keep the Dolphin charged, it may not be any cheaper to run than the fuel-sipping Corolla.

It is hard to go wrong with either of these cars, but in this test it is the Toyota Corolla that comes with fewer asterisks and delivers the best compromise.

Overall Ratings

Drive’s Pick

2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback

7.5/ 10

7.5/ 10

2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback

7.4/ 10

7.4/ 10

Ratings Breakdown

Performance
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Ride Quality
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Handling & Dynamics
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Driver Technology
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Interior Comfort & Packaging
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Safety Technology
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Infotainment & Connectivity
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Energy Efficiency
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Value for Money
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback
Fit for Purpose
2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid Hatchback
2023 BYD Dolphin Premium Hatchback

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

Read more about Alex MisoyannisLinkIcon

This post was originally published on this site

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