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Car Review

Toyota Corolla review

£23,115 - £35,270
Published: 25 Apr 2023


What is it like to drive?

Toyota may pitch this as much sportier than the Auris, but even with the 2023 upgrades it’s not suddenly morphed into an unlikely drivers’ hero. The Corolla handles tidy enough but doesn't bombard you with feedback or beg you to take it by the scruff of the neck, not least because of how frigid its powertrain feels.

Despite the new fifth-gen hybrid tech, the lower-rung, 1.8-litre version remains joyless and, when driven harshly, makes a noise instantly recognisable to anyone who’s taken an overly exuberant Uber home at 4.30am. In fact, give the throttle anything more than a gentle prod and the revs will soar until you've reached your desired speed. Quite quickly you'll get fed up of asking for moderate acceleration and accept languid progress as a fact of life. Best slot it into Eco mode and drive as smoothly and silently as possible.

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Is the 2.0-litre any better?

It's notably quicker and keener, not least because you can kick it further into life with the paddles. But 7.4 seconds to 62mph seems deeply optimistic in practice and it’s no hot hatch in disguise. Again, you need to drive it smoothly for it to feel most satisfying.

Sticking in emissions-free EV mode requires careful use of speed and throttle in both the 1.8 and 2.0, and unless you’re in Eco mode and driving deliberately conscientiously, you’re more likely to be shuffling between power sources than staying electric-only. But that’s fine, because with light throttle use the engine is quiet and there’s no physical or aural sense of it yo-yoing in and out of use.

One word on fuel economy: the 1.8 and 2.0 promise 64.1mpg and 61.4mpg respectively, but there's a good chance you'll better those figures in the real world. We saw just shy of 50mpg on a 280-mile round trip, around a quarter of which (largely stuck in London traffic) we spent in electric mode.

So much for the Corolla ditching the 'boring' tag...

Indeed. But resist the urge to push the throttle too far and it’s eerily quiet and unruffled. Mate that to its cushioned ride and the Corolla easily ranks among the most comfy and relaxing hatchbacks on sale. The second you try and drive briskly, the CVT groans into life and breaks the calm, and there’s certainly no satisfaction in hustling it. Those paddles (and the fake gears they operate) don’t replicate the whip-crack changes of a great automatic, so aren’t really worth bothering with.

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There may be a truly enjoyable chassis buried under there, and it looks like Toyota knows it on account of its launch of the GR Corolla. What a shame it won't be coming to the UK.

That's a pity...

It is, though at least we can make do with the GR Yaris. No, sadly the hybrid powertrain here simply stifles your enthusiasm. Rather than pitch this as a sporty car, Toyota should instead shout about just how cosseting it can be, even on stocky 18in wheels of the top spec. A rare thing as much of the rest of the hatchback car market ties itself in knots with faux sportiness.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Toyota Corolla 2.0 Hybrid GR Sport 5DR CVT [BI-TONE]
  • 0-627.5s
  • CO2
  • BHP196
  • MPG
  • Price£34,200

the cheapest

Toyota Corolla 2.0 VVT-i Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT
  • 0-627.9s
  • CO285.0g/km
  • BHP184
  • MPG
  • Price£25,710

the greenest

Toyota Corolla 2.0 VVT-i Hybrid Design 5dr CVT
  • 0-627.9s
  • CO285.0g/km
  • BHP184
  • MPG72.4
  • Price£30,895

Variants We Have Tested

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