Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Wednesday 6th December
A sensible hybrid family estate with the fuel-sipping ability of a camel. Doesn't mean we have to love it...

Good stuff

Comfortable, cheap to run, easy to use

Bad stuff

There are bigger estates. And more fun ones…


What is it?

It’s a car with a clunky name: the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is a long-winded way of saying 'Corolla estate'. It replaced the Auris and brought the Corolla badge back to Europe after a 13-year break. In fact, the Touring Sports has been made specifically for Europe and is built in Britain.

It shares its oily bits with the hatchback version of the car, with the longer wheelbase of the Touring Sports yielding a bit more room in the back. While not quite as striking as the regular five-door, it’s a more interesting looking car than its predecessor. This current version has been on sale since 2019, though, so its impact has been somewhat impacted by the car’s ubiquity as a minicab.

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It's hybrid only, right?

Yes – the UK Corolla range is hybrid only (the self-contained, so-called self-charging set-up). It sloughs off energy from the petrol engine, but also uses regen braking to allow the 2.5kWh battery to enable electric-only running for short distances. As of 2023, it's now got the latest, fifth-generation version of Toyota's signature tech, too. 

There are two petrol engines available that go with the hybrid stuff: a 1.8-litre petrol unit that’s good for a combined 138bhp and a 2.0-litre engine that makes for 193bhp. Both engines manage over 60mpg on the official WLTP figures, and you should be able to get close to that in more urban-biased driving. Only the entry 2.0-litre car manages 100g/km CO2 to get cheaper VED rates, though.

It all sounds very sensible.

Almost too sensible. For what it’s worth, Toyota claims the Corolla is sharper to drive than ever (the words 'than ever' doing a lot of heavy lifting there), with a lower seating position and wider track helping spread out the weight distribution and make you more inclined to drive it with a bit of vigour. Probably not when the boot’s full of groceries, flat pack furniture or animals, we’d suggest.

The steering is light, robbing the driver of any meaningful enjoyment, and while Toyota has done a good job of minimising CVT-induced engine roar from this latest version of its hybrid tech, there’s still enough noisiness to stop you wanting to make full use of any of the Corolla estate’s acceleration potential.

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How much more expensive is the estate?

The estate carries a premium of around £1.3k over the Corolla hatchback, which means prices start from £31,560 for the Icon model with the 1.8-litre petrol engine, topping out at £36,875 for the 2.0-litre engined Excel car.

For the price premium to get into the estate model you jump from 361/313 litres of space in the boot (the 2.0-litre car has a slightly smaller boot because the battery is larger) with the seats up, versus 596/581 litres of space in the Touring Sports. The estate version is only around 50kg heavier, which has a small impact on economy, and all versions of the car are rated to tow just 750kg of braked trailer. 

What's the competition?

Good question. The Corolla Touring Sports rubs shoulders with the Ford Focus Estate, Skoda Octavia Estate and Volkswagen Golf Estate. The BMW 3 Series Touring and Volvo V90 are a bit plusher and therefore outside the Corolla's direct circle of enemies. There are plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW and Skoda available, while the MG 5 EV is an all-electric estate option with up to 250 miles of WLTP range available.

What's the verdict?

The Corolla Touring Sports is about as quiet and calming as small estates get, so long as you don’t work its CVT too hard

The Corolla looks more striking than ever, and proves Toyota is really on a roll with making its cars less visually uninspiring (by its own admission). But no matter how sporty its pitch, beneath the smart styling is a car entirely focussed on hybrid power and thus making every drop of fuel last as long as the laws of physics will allow. That's where it stands out from its many talented rivals.

The Corolla Touring Sports is about as quiet and calming as small estates get too... so long as you don’t work its coarse CVT transmission too hard. In terms of simple enjoyment it falls short of the class best, and it can't compete for connectivity or practicality either. That said, if you want a frugal hybrid estate, it currently has the market almost all to itself.

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