We road test the new, improved version of the Toyota Corolla Hybrid family hatchback…
The world may be in the midst of an electric car revolution, but there’s still space for hybrids and the latest Toyota Corolla is still one of the best.
Full or ‘self-charging’ hybrids are not as eco-friendly as pure EVs, but there’s no doubt that they offer savings on fuel costs and reduced CO2 emissions.
What’s more, if you are one of the many motorists (nearly half according to recent research) unable to fit a home charger, hybrids like the Corolla make sense because you never have to plug the car in – it re-charges itself.
Originally launched in 2019, the 12th-generation Corolla is built at the car maker’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire. Offered with two engines (1.8 or 2.0-litre), the former is manufactured at Toyota’s Deeside plant in North Wales.
The introduction of a fifth-generation hybrid electric powertrain is one of the new updates for 2023 with Toyota claiming it delivers more power, faster acceleration and a more rewarding drive, while maintaining the car’s high fuel and emissions efficiency.
The old battery has been replaced by a redesigned, lighter lithium-ion unit that weighs 14% less, yet delivers 14% power, while the gearbox is also lighter.
The electric motor is lighter and more powerful too – the one in the 1.8-litre is up 23bhp to 94bhp, and the 2.0-litre increases 4bhp to 111bhp.
Overall, the combined output of the 1.8-litre Corolla is now 138bhp (up from 120hp), while the 2.0-litre is up from 181bhp to 193bhp.
CO2 emissions are as low as 100g/km for the 1.8-litre system and 98g/km for the 2.0-litre, and fuel economy is as high as 64.1mpg for both units.
Other changes include a new Toyota Smart Connect+ multimedia system, new safety features, new wheel designs, headlights, colour options and upholstery options.
Available as a hatchback or estate (marketed as ‘Touring Sports’), the new Toyota Corolla is priced from £30,225 and you can choose from four trim levels – Icon, Design, GR Sport and Excel.
Our test car came with a Design specification and 1.8-litte engine (the biggest selling combo), which means 17-inch black machined-face alloy wheels, LED headlights, Smart Entry, a 10.5-inch infotainment screen with smartphone integration (inc Apple CarPlay) and built-in navigation, a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, rear window privacy glass, and much more.
Awarded a maximum five stars for safety by Euro NCAP, the Corolla is also loaded with safety kit (eg autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist), plus driver assistance aids such as adaptative cruise control.
The latest Corolla was always a great choice, but the revised infotainment system and next-gen hybrid-electric tech have made a big difference.
Judging by our week in the Corolla 1.8, there’s no denying that the changes have made an impact. Inside, the new infotainment is a big improvement, and even though the rest of the cabin is much the same, it’s nothing flash, but a pleasant enough place to be.
However, rear seat space for taller passengers isn’t the best, neither is luggage capacity (361 litres, expanding to 1,395 litres with the back seats folded).
Usually starting off in pure EV mode, it’s on the road that we noticed the biggest change.
The Corolla Hybrid’s performance is much brisker (there’s a 1.8-second reduction in its 0-62mph time to 9.1 seconds) and the switch from electric to petrol power and vice versa is seriously smooth.
The green EV icon was lit up in the driver’s display much more than we expected. Not just when coasting, but in urban driving for long periods at low speeds.
Clearly, the battery is only small so it can’t run in electric mode for too long, but once you get used to the hybrid system, you find yourself making a real effort to charge it up as much as possible via regenerative braking.
Braking and lifting off the accelerator pedal to lose speed, are good ways to boost the battery, as is flicking the gear lever to the B position.
We found that 60mpg is very achievable on mixed roads, putting the Corolla firmly into diesel economy territory.
It handles well too, with controlled body roll in faster corners, good overall grip and a decent ride, while the steering is light and precise.
However, the Corolla Hybrid is fitted with a CVT gearbox which puts you off more spirited driving because the revs soar if you’re heavy with your right foot, creating a temporary din in the cabin. In other words, it’s best suited to a relaxed driving style.
On the plus side, the build quality on our test car was impressive and it had a solid feel overall.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that the Corolla comes with a three-year warranty that extends up to 10 years/100,000 miles so long as your car is serviced annually at a Toyota dealer.
Verdict: The updated Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid hatchback is better than ever. Sleek, practical and economical, it drives well and is made in the UK. What’s not to like?