2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Review and Test Drive

Toyota introduces new options for the hybrid version of its bestselling car.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

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The Toyota Corolla has cultivated a reputation for reliability, efficiency, and value over its nearly six-decade history. It's one of the bestselling cars in automotive history. Toyota has also kept its compact car competitive by responding to the market, which is shifting toward hybrid and electric vehicles. As a result, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid line has been expanded to include additional trim levels, an updated hybrid system, and a choice between front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

The car comes in LE, SE, SE Infrared, and XLE trim levels. Base prices range from the low to high $20,000s, including the destination charge to ship the car from the assembly plant in Japan to your local dealership.

For this Corolla Hybrid review, I test-drove the SE AWD in Maine and New Hampshire. It came with a Homelink rearview mirror, the All-Weather Floor Liner Package, the SE Premium Package, JBL Premium Audio, and Ruby Flare Pearl paint, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $30,444, including the $1,095 destination charge. Toyota provided the vehicle for this Corolla Hybrid review.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid: The Design

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

Many factors play a role in the Toyota Corolla's decades-long success. But, subjectively speaking, I don't believe styling has been at the top of the list. Even now, I find the base Corolla Hybrid LE visually underwhelming. Conversely, the SE makes a statement with its sporty honeycomb grille, dark 18-inch alloy wheels, integrated rear diffuser panel, and dual chrome exhaust tips.

Inside, the SE upstages the LE with simulated aluminum trim complemented by soft-touch surfaces for many touch points in the first row. Soft leather encases the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel and cloth upholstery covers the seats. Based on the car's appealing exterior, however, I expected something sportier than my test car's plain gray fabric.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

Frequently used buttons, switches, and dials are well marked and intuitively positioned. In other words, I could lower the window or change the climate-control mode without pulling over to consult the owner's manual. I found plenty of storage room, too, with several cubbies and a 13.1 cubic-foot trunk that expands by folding the split rear seatback.

The Corolla Hybrid SE features front sport bucket seats with padding that I found firm enough to be supportive during a long drive but soft enough to be comfortable. Upon returning home from my hours-long test drive, I was glad to be without the aches associated with other heavily bolstered seats I've been in. Credit also goes to the manual height adjustment, which allowed me to find a suitable driving position.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

In back, you get a three-passenger bench seat. However, this one includes large, integrated outboard headrests that slightly hamper outward visibility. Taller folks are likely to applaud the 2023 Corolla Hybrid for its rear headroom and soft front seatbacks.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid: The Technology

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

If I configured a 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE for myself, it would include the optional JBL audio system. Eight speakers, a subwoofer, and 800 watts of sound made my commute more enjoyable.

That upgrade can become part of the Corolla Hybrid's new-for-2023 infotainment system. It installs an 8.0-inch touchscreen atop the dashboard's center, equipped with a single knob controlling audio power and volume. There is room for a matching tuning knob, so it's a mystery to me why Toyota didn't provide one. However, with a bright and clear display within easy reach while driving, using and navigating the system is otherwise straightforward. The wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto setup are equally simple, though I received and ignored a prompt to download a Toyota app to my smartphone.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

Overall, the experience was positive — with one exception. After using Apple CarPlay and wanting to switch to the car's SiriusXM satellite radio service, I could not find a Home or Back button anywhere on the screen. I scrolled, swiped, pinched, and plastered fingerprints over every bit of that 8.0-inch screen without success. Later, I discovered that I'd forgotten to exit to the CarPlay main menu, where I could tap the Toyota icon to return to the main infotainment screen.

The Corolla comes with several plans offering connected services, each requiring a subscription after complimentary trial periods of varying lengths. With the new Drive Connect service, you can also use natural voice-recognition technology to get navigation directions, adjust the automatic climate-control settings, initiate a phone call, and more.

As for safety equipment: The 2023 Corolla Hybrid comes standard with an updated Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 collection of technologies. Among them is adaptive cruise control, which I tested while driving on New Hampshire's Route 16, a mix of two- and four-lane stretches. As expected, the car maintained my set speed and distance from other vehicles and slowed things down smoothly the few times I came to a red light or encountered any traffic. However, to avoid testing the automatic emergency-braking feature, drivers must be prepared to bring the car to a complete stop if necessary.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

Lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and lane-centering assist are also standard on the Corolla Hybrid. When the car is drifting toward the shoulder of a road, I found that the lane-keeping system responded as it should with gradual and predictable corrective steering. However, the lane-centering system was not as smooth during my test drive, and when driving on the highway, I felt the car doing most of the work. When I've driven other vehicles, the message coming through the steering wheel has been more suggestion and less command.

Should the safety tech prove insufficient to avoid an accident, crash-test results suggest the 2023 Corolla will still provide excellent protection. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid its best five-star overall rating, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the car a Top Safety Pick.*

*The IIHS does not differentiate between the gas and hybrid versions of the 2023 Corolla sedan.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid: The Drive

Toyota equips the 2023 Corolla Hybrid SE AWD with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission, and a lithium-ion battery pack located under the rear seat. All configurations come with a 70-kW electric assist motor for the front wheels, while AWD versions like my test car add a separate 30-kW motor that engages the rear wheels when extra traction is needed at low speeds. Net output is 138 horsepower and Toyota doesn't show a torque rating on its website.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

Those specs won't cause sport sedans to tremble in their Goodyears, but they're plenty for everyday driving. Toyota allows you to select one of three modes that balance performance and fuel economy. Normal mode is the default setting and the one I expect nearly all drivers will choose. It's what I used for the majority of my test drive. As its name implies, Eco mode aims to improve fuel economy, though I found it made the Corolla Hybrid feel sluggish. I stuck with that setting long enough to experience it, found that I didn't like abusing the gas pedal for a decent response, and switched back to Normal.

Sport mode rounds out the trio of settings. As someone who enjoys driving with a little spirit, this was my favorite, since it provided the best throttle response. Although I can't claim the Corolla Hybrid SE is fast, Sport mode makes the compact sedan more lively. It feels as though every pound-foot of torque and hoof of horsepower is ready and waiting under your right foot, and I found power delivery to be smooth.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

As is typical in my experience of most cars fitted with a CVT, hard acceleration caused the engine to rev high as speed built. Thankfully, the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE's four-cylinder sounded refined regardless of rpm. I kept my moments of intense acceleration to a minimum and recorded 45 mpg overall. That's slightly better than the EPA's 44-mpg estimate. Different versions of the 2023 Corolla Hybrid have EPA estimates as high as 50 mpg in combined city and highway driving. By comparison, the non-hybrid Corolla sedan peaks with an EPA-estimated 35 mpg, and it's only available as a FWD model.

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

In addition to impressive fuel economy, the Corolla Hybrid delivers a comfortable and compliant ride. I travel over a particular stretch of road daily, a mess of old broken pavement, relatively new asphalt, potholes yet to be filled, and patch jobs of various sizes and quality. Despite its low-profile all-season tires, my test car handled that obstacle course well, absorbing all but the biggest potholes without any fuss.

On two-lane country roads, body roll in corners is minimal, but I didn't search for the car's limits because Toyota doesn't pitch the Corolla Hybrid SE as a sports sedan. Besides, the numb, uncommunicative steering didn't inspire that type of driving in me. If a Corolla Hybrid's lack of driving excitement is a deal breaker, check out the sport-oriented 2023 Toyota GR Corolla instead.

Is the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid a Good Car?

2023 Toyota Corolla HybridThom Blackett

The answer to this question seems straightforward, and not just because of the Corolla's bestselling status. With the Corolla Hybrid, you get all the benefits of the gas model — reliability, functionality, comfort, and safety — with noticeably better fuel economy. Plus, with prices in the $20,000s, the car will probably feel like an excellent value.

With all-wheel drive, high safety scores, and a longer powertrain warranty, the 2023 Corolla Hybrid ticks a lot of boxes. It's worth a test drive to determine if it might be the right car for you.

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Thom Blackett
Everyone needs a few things to be passionate about in life. For me, cars are near the top of the list. I’m constantly searching the classifieds for that bargain-priced, one-owner Datsun 240Z barn find. I’m always up for seemingly endless conversations about the cars we wish our parents had kept, the benefits of EVs versus the lure of a thumping V8, or which reliable crossover SUV best suits your family and your dogs. Needless to say, I feel fortunate to spend my work hours analyzing vehicle data, test-driving the latest all-new or updated models, and sharing the knowledge and insights I’ve gained with readers.