Toyota Corolla Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Monday 25th September
Car Review

Toyota Corolla review

£23,115 - £35,270
Published: 25 Apr 2023
Exciting looks clothe typical Toyota cleanliness and worthiness. It's still bland though

Good stuff

Cheap to run, comfy, looks pretty cool

Bad stuff

Coarse when worked hard, not much fun, should be roomier


What is it?

Oh, it’s only the best-selling badge in the whole car industry, having recorded more than 50 million sales across 12 generations since its launch in 1966. The more astute among you will note it has only recently rejoined the fold in the UK, replacing the Auris having itself departed in 2006. After two generations out it would appear Corolla is more trusted, and the badge is back.

Attached to arguably the best-looking iteration of the car in its sixth decade of existence, too. It’s based on a brand-new platform, during the development of which Toyota prioritised good looks and decent handling. At one glance, the former appears to have been nailed, more on the latter on the Driving tab.

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Its platform is shared with the C-HR crossover, which is about as handy to drive as such crossovers get, but the Corolla aims to take it a step further with quicker steering, more advanced rear suspension and a lower centre-of-gravity. Indeed, the car’s chief engineer is well aware some people think ‘Corolla’ is just a synonym for ‘boring’, but reckons the new looks and handling can turn that on its head.

Intriguing. What's the situation with the engines?

In keeping with the current climate, there are no diesels. In fact, even the old entry-level, 114bhp 1.2-litre petrol turbo has fallen by the wayside. Now your choice comes down to a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre self-charging hybrids only.

But for the 2023 model year, Toyota has introduced its fifth-generation hybrid technology, with the 1.8-litre now outputting 138bhp (up 18bhp) for a 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds (1.8-second reduction), and the 2.0-litre 193bhp (up 15bhp) for 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds (half a second reduction). We approve.

The upgrades have also resulted in improved efficiency, with CO2 emissions from 100g/km for the 1.8-litre engine and 98g/km for the 2.0-litre, plus fuel economy from 64.2mpg. There are paddleshifted gearchanges via steering wheel paddles, but given both cars use a CVT transmission, these are effectively simulated gears.

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Got it. What else do I need to know?

There are two body styles to choose from; the hatchback is 40mm longer than the old Auris, every millimetre contained in the wheelbase to make it roomier. You can also have an estate – clunkily named the Touring Sports – about which you can read by clicking these blue words.

Both are manufactured in Burnaston, Derbyshire, with the 1.8-litre engine produced in Toyota’s plant in Deeside, North Wales. So if you want to give the British car industry a bit of a shove in the right direction then, like the similarly Jap/Brit fusion Honda Civic and Nissan Qashqai, you can feed your patriotism by buying one.

What's it up against?

Um, virtually every hatchback that dares to exist? Kidding. Although crossovers and SUVs are so prominent now that the humble hatch looks like the rebellious choice these days. Think Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Honda Civic, VW Golf, Kia Ceed, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane... you get the idea. Though few of these use hybrid tech nearly as well as the Corolla does for real-world fuel saving.

How much does it cost?

Prices start from £30,225 for the 1.8-litre and £31,970 for the 2.0-litre, with four trim levels (Icon, Design, GR Sport and Excel) available. Full details on the Buying tab.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

The Corolla looks more striking than ever, but in terms of tech, practicality and simple enjoyment, it falls short of its rivals

The Corolla looks more striking than ever, and proves Toyota is really on a roll with making its cars less boring (by its own admission). The looks alone may tempt some people away from competitors like the Focus, Astra and Civic, as might its British-built status.

What they’ll find is a car that now exclusively offers hybrid powertrains and thus is angled away from keen drivers, no matter how sporty the trim. Instead, the Corolla is about as quiet and calming as hatchbacks get, so long as you don’t work its coarse CVT transmission too hard.

That – and its cost saving for business users – is the area it stands out from its many, many talented rivals. Because in terms of tech, practicality and simple enjoyment, it falls short of the best in class.

The Rivals

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