- Efficient hybrid powertrains offering a more rewarding driving experience
- All-new infotainment system and upmarket cabin
- Economically-sound running costs
- New-tech at a price. Costs have jumped by about £3k
- Although it’s not so noticeable, there is still a little whine from the CVT automatic gearbox
- Rear passenger space is fairly tight
Toyota may have the world’s best-selling car in the Corolla, but the Japanese carmaker is constantly looking at ways to improve the model and give it even more appeal.
So, the latest Corolla may look almost identical to the existing 12th-generation car, but there are significant improvements. It is the first UK car to feature the company’s fifth-generation hybrid electric technology. This brings with it extra efficiency and improved performance.
The family car is available in Hatchback and Touring Sport body styles and the engines on offer are a 1.8-litre self-charging hybrid system delivering 140hp or a 2.0-litre self-charging hybrid unit with an output of 196hp. Toyota believes 80 per cent of sales will be hatchback and 80 per cent of customers will also opt for the 1.8-litre powertrain.
The trim line-up has been simplified with grades called Icon, Design, Excel and GR Sport. This sees the Icon Tech and Trek versions being removed.
The new model also gains extra safety features as part of the latest Toyota Safety Sense package. It boasts a number of smart new design features and the entire infotainment system has been enhanced.
If that’s not enough to get your attention, then it’s also a fact the Corolla is built in its entirety in the UK with approximately 500 models rolling off the production line daily at its Derby-based plant. This could well be the deciding factor when so many manufacturers are jumping ship and looking to move elsewhere.
The five-door Corolla has a fresh new look for 2023 with upgraded headlights and taillights, modernised grille treatments, enhanced wheel designs and more colour options. It maintains its sporty good looks with sweeping curves, privacy glass, twin tailpipes and a sloping roofline.
Our test model, in GR Sport specification, included GR badging and 18-inch Machined Face alloy wheels to give it a dynamic twist.
Moving inside, the GR Sport theme continues with heated leather GR Sport seats and neat red contrast stitching to the seats, steering wheel, gear lever and doors.
The main focal points are the all-new 10.5-inch multimedia display and 12.3-inch digital driver display behind the steering wheel which can easily be personalised according to taste. These have increased in size from seven and eight inches respectively so are clearer and offer lots more information. The infotainment system was one of the main criticisms of the Corolla, but Toyota bosses have listened to the customer feedback and acted accordingly.
The new set-up is fast, easy to operate on the fly and looks far more upmarket.
On-board tech is plentiful and includes full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, sat nav, reversing camera, heated front seats, dual-zone air conditioning, plus over-the air software updates.
On The Road
Handling & Performance
Our Corolla Hatchback test car in GR Sport specification was powered by the all-new 1.8-litre hybrid system. The new compact battery pack is 14 per cent lighter than its predecessor but can deliver 14 per cent more power.
The total output is 138bhp with 142Nm of torque and it can sprint from 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds (which is 1.8 seconds faster than the model it replaces) and onto a top speed of 112mph.
Those figures may not sound particularly thrilling, but the performance of the latest Corolla has improved immensely with more rewarding driving qualities. It feels more assured with superior accelerator response delivering sharper all-round handling.
In addition, Toyota believes 80 per cent of most owners day-to-day driving will be completed in electric-only power. And that claim was well backed up during our test drive that featured some fast roads and lots of stop, start city driving – we were seeing 66 per cent of the drive was in electric power and the car was delivering almost 60mpg.
When put to the test, the Corolla is beautifully balanced and poised with impressive grip through tight bends. It quickly reaches motorway speed limits and is happy cruising at 70mph. Then in busier city centres, it has sharp acceleration out the starting blocks thanks to improvements to the CVT automatic transmission. This does get a little vocal if pushed too hard, too quickly, but is far more polished than previous versions were.
And the Corolla is refined at higher speeds these days too with barely any road surface or wind noise filtering through and that quieter CVT is much appreciated.
The steering is well weighted with ample driver feedback and the car has drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport to alter the reactions, and there is a B mode to recoup more energy when braking.
Space & Practicality
The Toyota Corolla is a five-door family car available in Hatchback or Touring Sports body styles. We tested the hatchback model stretching 4,380mm in length, 1,790mm wide and 1,460mm in height with a wheelbase measuring 2,640mm.
Up front there is oodles of space for the driver and passenger to stretch out in complete comfort and all the controls, dials and readouts are perfectly positioned for driver convenience.
Space in the back of the car is not quite so notable with limited leg room and passenger head space is also fairly restricted due to the sloping roof design of the Corolla.
There is, however, plenty of room for a trio of youngsters to sit comfortably on a long journey and Isofix fittings to the outer seats make securing a child seat possible.
When it comes to storage, the boot can swallow 361 litres of luggage (313 litres on the 2.0-litre version). The Touring Sports models can accommodate 596 litres (581 litres on 2.0-litre versions) and, of course those limits increase considerably with the split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
In addition, there are a number of convenient storage options scattered throughout the cabin, including a glovebox, trays, door bins, a central cubby, seat back pockets and cupholders.
The latest Toyota Corolla line-up costs from £30,210 for the five-door hatchback in Icon trim level powered by the 1.8-litre hybrid electric powertrain. The most expensive version is the Touring Sports Excel car with the 2.0-litre powertrain and this costs £36,860.
Our GR Sport Hatchback, powered by the 1.8-litre hybrid unit, was priced at £32,990 and there were no additional options to bump up the costs any further.
Under WLTP testing, our Corolla could deliver a combined 60.1mpg with carbon emission of 105g/km. This CO2 figure would result in a first-year road tax (or Vehicle Excise Duty) bill of £160 dropping to £155 after 12 months.
For business drivers, the Benefit in Kind tax relief rating is 26 per cent and the car sits in insurance group 17.
Toyota clearly has every confidence in the reliability of the Corolla as reflected in the warranty. The basic three-year, 60,000-mile package can be extended for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles provided regular services are carried out at authorised Toyota workshops.
We get used to carmakers introducing mid-cycle facelifts to their models accompanied by quite a price hike and often the enhancements are barely noticeable.
However, Toyota has really upped the stakes with the latest Corolla. It has a fresh new look, a wealth of improved technology, including advanced safety features. And it features an all-new hybrid system that certainly delivers the goods.
Maybe that explains just why this car is such a world champion.