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Driven: The 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Is More Compelling Thanks To Extra Oomph And Available AWD – CarScoops

by Oct 28, 2022Blog0 comments

With soaring inflation, record high transaction prices, and a summer of $5 per gallon gasoline, affordable and fuel efficient sedans have never looked better.

Unfortunately, it’s slim pickings as the carpocalypse continues to claim victims with some of the latest being the Chevrolet Spark, Hyundai Accent, Honda Insight, and Nissan Maxima. However, Toyota is committed to cars as officials recently noted 3.4 million units were sold in the United States last year alone.
That dedication was apparent at a recent press drive in Tennessee, where we drove the all-new Crown and the facelifted Corolla. We’ll be talking about the Crown next week, but today we’re focusing on the updated Corolla Hybrid, which sports revised styling, an updated interior, a more powerful hybrid powertrain, and a new all-wheel drive option.
Lightly Revised Styling And Two New Trims

› Model: Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE AWD
› Starting Price: $24,200
› Power: 134 hp
› Fuel Economy: 47 city / 41 highway / 44 combined mpg
While the 2023 Corolla Hybrid sports a number of changes, you’d be hard pressed to tell by looking at the exterior as the model is virtually identical to its predecessor. However, a closer inspection reveals a lightly revised front fascia with a new grille and updated LED headlights.
The entry-level LE also gains 16-inch steel wheels, which replace the previous 15-inchers. Furthermore, the color palette has been revamped as Midnight Black Metallic replaces Black Sand Pearl and Underground replaces Blue Crush Metallic.
The styling changes are minor, but Toyota responded to customer requests and added two new Hybrid trims. The XLE grade focuses on luxury, while the SE variant has a sportier appearance thanks to an aggressive front bumper, a gloss black mesh grille, and larger 18-inch alloy wheels. The model also has a sport-tuned suspension and a unique rear diffuser, which features a cut out for a sportier exhaust system.
A Spacious Interior With An All-New Infotainment System

The modest updates continue in the cabin as the biggest change is the addition of a new 8-inch Toyota Audio Multimedia system. The voice-focused infotainment system originally debuted in the 2022 Tundra and has been slowly spreading across Toyota’s lineup.
It’s a big improvement over the Corolla’s previous infotainment system as it offers over-the-air updates, cloud-based navigation with Google point-of-interest data, and an Intelligent Assistant that responds to the “Hey, Toyota” wake word. Other highlights include available Apple Music and Amazon Music streaming, and a Safety Connect subscription that provides Automatic Collision Notification and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance.
All of those subscriptions add up, but the infotainment system is fast and responsive, while also offering wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The latter negates the need for cloud-based navigation, but there’s no escaping the infotainment system’s beefy bezels.

Additional changes are limited, but buyers will find two new USB-C ports for rear seat passengers. Those are welcome additions, but Toyota eliminated some content to reduce the LE’s base price by $1,250.
The model now starts at $22,800 but ditches the previously standard Smart Key and push-button ignition. Likewise, the 7-inch multi-information display is now reserved for the XLE trim as the LE and SE sport a smaller 4.2-inch display. Both eliminations are small tradeoffs and consumers can get the Smart Key system by ordering either the LE Convenience or LE Premium package. The packages also add 16-inch alloy wheels, a blind spot warning system, and rear cross-traffic alert.
On the bright side, the facelifted Corolla remains relatively spacious as there’s plenty of room up front. The rear seats are also adult friendly, although getting three of them in the back would be a tight squeeze. Buyers will also find 13.1 cubic feet (371 liters) of luggage space, which is the same amount as the conventionally-powered sedan.
An Upgraded Hybrid Powertrain With 134 HP

Under the hood, the 2023 Corolla Hybrid has an upgraded powertrain that consists of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, two motor-generators, a small lithium-ion battery pack, and a continuously variable transmission. While that sounds pretty familiar, the system sports a new “high-output/low-loss drive motor” that features two additional magnets for an increased output.
Thanks to this change, the hybrid powertrain produces 134 hp (100 kW / 136 PS) and 156 lb-ft (211 Nm) of torque. That’s an increase of 13 hp (10 kW / 13 PS) and 10 lb-ft (14 Nm), which helps to improve acceleration as well as mid-range performance.
Of course, customers should keep their expectations in check because 134 hp isn’t much when it’s being asked to propel a 2,850 pound (1,293 kg) sedan. Acceleration is simply adequate and launches are leisurely even with the extra oomph.

However, no one buys a Corolla Hybrid for excitement and the model excels where it matters – at the fuel pump, as it has an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 50 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, and 47 mpg combined.
Despite being respectable, those figures are significantly worse than the outgoing model which returned 53 mpg city, 52 mpg highway, and 52 mpg combined. The highway hit is particularly troubling and it means the Corolla Hybrid is less impressive than some competitors.
In particular, the Hyundai Elantra Hybrid returns 53 mpg city, 56 mpg highway, and 54 mpg combined which gives it a pretty sizable advantage over the Corolla. For consumers who aren’t sold on sedans, there’s the pricier Kia Niro which has an EPA rating of 53 mpg city, 54 mpg highway, and 53 mpg combined.
A New All-Wheel Drive Option For $1,400

While the upgraded hybrid powertrain is certainly welcome, one of the most interesting additions is a newly available all-wheel drive system. As in other Toyota hybrids, the all-wheel drive system features a rear-mounted electric motor that provides power to the rear wheels when the front wheels begin to slip due to a loss of traction or a forceful launch. The system also helps to reduce understeer for improved dynamics.
We didn’t have much need for all-wheel drive on a sunny Tennessee day, but the system worked seamlessly and allowed for drama-free launches. Of course, its real benefit is in colder climates where snow and ice is a fact of life.
The all-wheel drive system is a $1,400 option on the LE and SE trims. That’s pretty affordable and it means owners can snag an all-wheel drive variant for as little as $24,200 before factoring in the $1,095 destination fee.
However, the all-wheel drive system carries a penalty at the pump as the model has an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 47 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and 44 mpg combined. That’s a slight drop of 3 mpg city, 2 mpg highway, and 3 mpg combined when compared to the front-wheel drive variant.
A Familiar Driving Experience And New Safety Features

Besides the extra power and added security of all-wheel drive, the rest of the driving experience effectively carries over. As a result, customers will find a familiar sedan that prioritizes comfort over sportiness.
The suspension soaks up minor road imperfections with ease, although the electric power steering is a little too light for our liking. The brakes are also decent and there’s a Sport mode to help liven things up a bit.
While the driving experience remains unremarkable, all Corolla Hybrids now come equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite of driver assistance systems. The big news is the addition of Proactive Driving Assist, which includes Obstacle Anticipation Assist and Deceleration Assist. It provides “gentle braking and/or steering support to help control [the] distance between your vehicle and a preceding vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist, or to help the driver stay within the lane.”
The suite also includes Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Road Sign Assist, Lane Tracing Assist (Lane Centering), and a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection. They’re joined by Auto High Beams and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.
A Cheaper, More Capable Corolla

The 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid isn’t a radical departure, but it’s far more appealing thanks to a $1,250 price cut, improved performance, a modern infotainment system, and the availability of all-wheel drive.
That being said, there are some tradeoffs as the entry-level model loses some previously standard equipment and fuel economy ratings take a significant hit. However, it’s hard to fault numbers of up to 50 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, and 47 mpg combined – especially when the national average price of gasoline is hovering around $3.90 per gallon.
So while the Corolla Hybrid isn’t terribly exciting, it’s a solid, fuel-sipping companion that’s comfortable and relatively spacious. It also promises to be a viable option in colder climates, where all-wheel drive crossovers typically dominate.
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