The Toyota Corolla is one of the most significant vehicles in this country.
Toyota has sold more than 50 million Corollas in its history, and more than 1.6 million in Canada alone. It’s long been one of the most popular cars in the country for many great reasons, and last year it surpassed the Honda Civic as the best-selling car in Canada. Coming off a recent refresh, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid has been made even better with the addition of all-wheel drive.
The added traction of its optional all-wheel drive system makes the Corolla Hybrid even better for dealing with Canadian winters, but you still need winter tires. Adding an electric motor to the Corolla’s rear axle enables all-wheel drive without any significant impact on efficiency. The system predominantly powers the front wheels and will only send electric power to the rear wheels when accelerating or when slippage is detected.
Along with two electric motors and a battery pack, the Corolla is powered by a 1.4L four-cylinder engine with 134 hp and 156 lb-ft, both increases from last year. The powertrain enables you to drive on electricity alone in low-power situations like parking and coasting. It even shows you what portion of your drive has been done in electric power.
Dropping the gear selector into B mode maximizes the energy recuperation from the regenerative brakes to charge the hybrid battery. It’s not strong enough to do one-pedal driving like in an electric car, but I’m here to squeeze every possible bit of efficiency from this car, so I’m glad it’s included.
The Corolla Hybrid has an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT), the best bet for maximizing efficiency. CVTs can tend to feel lazy at takeoff, but the Corolla Hybrid has a real first gear to make the sedan more responsive when starting from a stop.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
The Toyota Corolla LE AWD Hybrid’s fuel economy is officially rated at 4.6 L/100 km in the city, 5.4 on the highway, and 4.9 combined. Meanwhile, the SE and XSE versions that ride on bigger wheels are rated to burn 5.0 L/100 km in the city, 5.7 on the highway, and 5.3 combined. After more than 600 km of testing predominantly in B mode and with the eco driving mode engaged, my average was 5.4 L/100 km. With a gentler driving style, more city trips, and more mindful planning, I’m confident a driver could achieve even better fuel efficiency.
Driving Feel: 7/10
This Corolla Hybrid’s acceleration isn’t going to wow anyone, but passing and getting up to highway speeds isn’t as painfully slow as it used to be. Visibility from the driver’s seat is clear and unobstructed, and the sedan is straightforward to drive. Still, it has surprisingly good steering feel, and I’m impressed by how smoothly the powertrain works and how quietly it flips from battery to gas power and back.
There’s not much in the features department that sets the Corolla apart from its competition, and the sedan isn’t raising the bar regarding features or technology, though that’s not really its mission. The all-wheel-drive Corolla Hybrid LE includes basics like a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Smartphone integration is supposed to be wireless, but I couldn’t connect my Android phone without plugging it in. My LE AWD Hybrid tester didn’t come with the wireless phone charger that is available in the top two trims. Heated rear seats are only available in the top XSE trim. Navigation is subscription-based, and I don’t see a point in opting for this feature simply because Google Maps works so well.
I’m impressed that every Corolla comes standard with Toyota’s entire arsenal of safety equipment. All hybrid models come with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, road sign recognition, automatic high-beam control, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, and a pre-collision system with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian and cyclist detection. That’s a robust set for this price.
The Corolla Hybrid’s drive battery is located under the rear seat, which means it has the same 317 L of space in the trunk as the gas-only version. Inside the cabin, there are also a few useful cubbies for small item storage.
The cabin is quite noisy (a combination of wind and engine noise with little sound deadening used), and the sedan makes a strange angelic sound when running on electricity that I find grating, but neither of those are deal breakers. [That sound is a requirement of the federal government as part of minimum noise regulations introduced last year, although Toyota has included it for longer. – Ed.]
Our 6-foot-8 intern could comfortably sit in the driver’s seat but struggled to fit into the rear seats. It should, however, be room enough for most people. The seats are comfortable enough for short trips, but drivers might be uncomfortable on longer hauls, as the seats don’t offer the most support.
Driving the Corolla feels very familiar, and most controls are intuitive. However, I’m not a fan of the Corolla’s infotainment system because it’s clunky to use and requires too many taps to complete simple tasks, which can be distracting. Adding a home button would help alleviate this, but I appreciate the physical buttons for climate control.
As one of the most popular cars in the country, the Corolla has a tendency to blend in, so it might be hard to find in a parking lot. Though it’s not exciting looking, it’s still attractive with new LED daytime running lights, some minor styling tweaks, and newly available colours. The interior is also nothing to get excited about – it’s dark, there’s a lot of hard plastics, cloth seats, and cheap-feeling materials used, and it feels very barebones.
If the Corolla can’t offer value, then the whole world’s gone upside down, so it’s important that Toyota continues to ensure this entry-level sedan remains affordable. The 2023 Toyota Corolla LE AWD Hybrid goes for $27,490 plus the $1,760 destination fee, which seems entirely reasonable – especially when you consider the strong set of safety features combined with the sedan’s efficiency and all-wheel drive. This also makes the Corolla a tiny bit more affordable than the Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, which feels less baren but isn’t available with all-wheel drive.
If you’re shopping for a simple, reliable, and efficient mode of transportation, you can’t go wrong with the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid. It’s quite common to see perfectly healthy Corollas with more than 300,000 km on them, which is a testament to their proven track record. Although the Corolla Hybrid isn’t really raising the bar in its segment, this robust sedan is more compelling than ever – especially because it’s now available with all-wheel drive without compromising on the efficiency and affordability it’s known for.
|Engine Cylinders||Hybrid I4|
|Peak Horsepower||134 hp net|
|Peak Torque||156 lb-ft net|
|Fuel Economy||4.6 / 5.4 / 4.9 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||317 L|
|Model Tested||2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE AWD|
|Price as Tested||$29,350|