The Toyota Corolla has not endured for twelve generations and 56 years as a result of rash decisions. Toyota is methodical and calculating with its bread-and-butter products, making small advances while maintaining the familiarity and consistency that keeps consumers coming back. The facelifted 2023 Corolla follows that strategy to the letter.
Freshened exterior styling, a modernized tech suite, and improved active safety gear move the Corolla forward, while the hybrid-powered sedan – the best of the bunch, feisty GR model excluded – comes with a more accessible starting price, improved fuel economy, and available all-wheel drive. As facelifts go, the Corolla remains as good as ever in the midst of its twelfth generation.
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|2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE AWD
|1.8-liter I4 w/Two Electric Motors
|134 Horsepower / 158 Pound-Feet
|47 City / 41 Highway / 44 Combined
|$22,800 + $1,095 Destination
Gallery: 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid: First Drive
Toyota continues the quest to improve the infotainment experience, long a weak point, in its vehicles. An 8.0-inch display is now standard across the board, dispatching the smallish 7.0-inch setup, improving resolution in the process, and adding standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The crisp icons and quick reactions are a marked upgrade over the blurry symbols of the past, and they need to be – volume knob aside, the Corolla loses all the infotainment's physical controls. Instead, and like the suites in the Tundra, Sequoia, and others, there are menu icons on the left side of the display. Navigating the system is as quick as tapping these icons, although some customers might be flummoxed by the lack of a dedicated home screen.
But those physical controls did more than give customers quick access to different pages of the infotainment system; they interrupted the huge bezels that surround the 8.0-inch display. Without them, the Corolla's now-standard screen is swimming in a sea of black, shiny plastic. People complain about slab-style displays and iPads glued to the dash, but the updated Corolla demonstrates the danger of bulky housings instead of thinner, standalone screens. Still, the new display's responsiveness, updated graphics, and simpler layout make it a net win.
Beyond the updated infotainment, Toyota is adding to the Corolla's active safety suite, replacing Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 with – wait for it – Toyota Safety Sense 3.0. But really, it's more like 2.1, since cyclist/motorcycle detection and a new Proactive Driving Assistant, which can provide light brake or steering inputs to maintain a gap through curves, are the main new additions.
The Corolla's gas-electric hybrid powertrain already made good sense as a fuel sipper, but aside from the GR model, it's now also the only way to score all-wheel drive without stepping up to a Camry, Prius, or one of Toyota's assorted crossovers.
Toyota offers two confusingly named hybrid all-wheel-drive systems – AWD-e, available in the Prius, and Electronic On-Demand AWD in the RAV4 Hybrid and Corolla Hybrid. The Prius' setup ditches the lithium-ion battery for a nickel-metal hydride pack and uses a totally independent, magnet-free electric motor on the rear axle that only works up to 43 mph. The Corolla Hybrid also uses a separate rear-mounted electric motor that works in a wider range of conditions and isn't quite as geared toward economy because of it.
Unfortunately, dry conditions on my test route around Franklin, Tennessee, meant I never really felt the Corolla Hybrid's extra motor come into play. Still, the gas-electric setup remains refined, with perfect interplay between the 1.8-liter gas engine and the two electric motors.
Output is up across the board, with 134 horsepower and 158 pound-feet of torque improving on last year's 121 hp and 146 lb-ft, but even with a mere 2,850 pounds to move, the Corolla Hybrid is not a speedy thing. The electric drive motor provides reassuring torque in light, constant-throttle situations, such as when climbing hills. But abuse the predictable accelerator pedal and the Corolla Hybrid runs out of steam. And aggressive inputs won't help you at the pump, even with the Corolla Hybrid's improved fuel economy. Per Toyota, the most efficient variant will return up to 50 miles per gallon combined.
SEeing In Infrared
While the Corolla Hybrid has been around for a few years now, Toyota is only now fleshing out its lineup with a sporty SE trim and a plusher XLE variant. By and large, these additions mimic their counterparts in the gas-powered Corolla family. But the Hybrid also adds a new Infrared Edition for the SE trim, which brings in flashy red accents both inside and out. But the pricing front tells the more important story.
Toyota is driving down the Corolla Hybrid's base price by $1,250 while slightly increasing destination charges. The 2023 Corolla LE Hybrid will retail for $23,895 (including $1,095 destination) rather than $25,075 (with the lower $1,025 destination charge). All-wheel drive demands a $1,400 premium and is only available on the LE and SE. For the full breakdown on the 2023 Corolla's price and improved fuel economy, click here.
It's A Corolla
None of Toyota's changes for the 2023 Corolla are especially earth-shattering. But they also aren't supposed to be – they're exactly the sort of thoughtful, focused updates that keep consumers coming back while still propelling this popular sedan forward. If you need a simple, honest, efficient, spacious, and well-equipped sedan at a low price, the Corolla Hybrid is hard to beat. That's as true now as it has been since 1966.
Corolla Competitor Reviews:
- Honda Civic: 9.6 / 10
- Hyundai Elantra: 8.5 / 10
- Kia Forte: Not Rated
- Mazda3: Not Rated
- Nissan Sentra: Not Rated
- Volkswagen Jetta: Not Rated
2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE AWD