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2023 Toyota Corolla reviews: the first media drives

The finishing touches are currently being applied to the 2023 Toyota Corolla, which among many other changes will debut the fifth generation of our world-leading, full hybrid petrol-electric powertrain. Members of the national motoring press were recently invited to test pre-production prototypes in both Hatchback and Touring Sports guise, including back-to-back comparisons with current 1.8-litre models. What did they think of this thoroughly refreshed model? What were their 2023 Toyota Corolla reviews?

Below is a selection of excerpts from their online reviews, which include a numerical rating where applicable. To read the full reports, simply click on the emboldened links.

2023 Toyota Corolla reviews

2023 Toyota Corolla reviews:

“The latest refinement benefits… particularly the 1.8 Hybrid. For 2023, it’s getting a 24bhp boost to 138bhp, for a 0-62mph sprint of 9.2sec. The point of the exercise is not so much to make the entry-level Corolla a fast car, but more to improve drivability.

“Toyota has also recalibrated the drive modes. [In Eco mode] the updated car… makes better use of the increased potency of the electric motor and waits for longer before it has the engine working. That makes the car feel more relaxed without noticeably compromising performance. At anything less than full throttle, the gearbox will build in some shift points and avoid holding maximum revs wherever possible. It helps that the 1.8 engine is a refined one, so when it pipes up, it’s not grating. Economy remains impressive: at the end of our test route, the car was indicating 57.7mpg.

This is a successful update of an already well-rounded family car

“Just as valuable in daily usage… are the improvements to the brakes. The pedal is now more progressive and allows clean limo-drive stops. The new car also uses the radar for the adaptive cruise control to judge how much regenerative braking it should apply when you lift off the throttle.”

2023 Toyota Corolla reviews

“Exterior changes include a new mesh pattern for the front grille, fresh alloy wheel designs, and on some trim grades, new bi-LED headlights. [Inside] there are embossed patterns aimed at giving trim pieces and upholstery a ‘three-dimensional depth’, a new 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (on mid-range trim and upwards) and a 10.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

“The biggest changes of all concern the powertrain. The updated Corolla’s redesigned lithium-ion battery pack is smaller yet more powerful, and the same goes for the motor unit. The 1.8-litre car… has a total system power of 138bhp, an increase of 14%. This is immediately obvious the first time you apply a generous amount of throttle. This isn’t only down to the power increase – Toyota’s hybrid and CVT tweaks have worked wonders. Toyota’s intention is for the response of the set-up to be more closely aligned with throttle inputs.

The Corolla does a remarkable job of replicating an EV-like driving experience

“At cruising speeds, the engine revs sit around 500rpm lower than before, making the Corolla more relaxing over longer distances. At lower speeds, the Corolla does a remarkable job of replicating an EV-like driving experience… making stop/start traffic a far more relaxing experience. It remains an efficient set-up – we achieved around 57mpg despite driving in an often less than sympathetic way to test the recalibrated powertrain.”

2023 Toyota Corolla reviews:

“This revised Corolla features the fifth-generation version of Toyota’s hybrid system, bringing a big boost in performance to the 1.8-litre model in particular, as well claiming improved refinement and response. The safety and infotainment tech gets an upgrade, too. Fundamentally, this remains a sharp-looking, comfort-orientated family car, with… a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain line-up that… shouldn’t be sniffed at as a stop-gap to going full EV.

“The lithium-ion battery pack has a 14% greater output, a 14% (18kg) lower weight and is more compact. The control electronics are more efficient and quieter. And the electric motors are more powerful. Put this together with a substantial amount of recalibration and the additional torque-fill now available from the gutsier e-motors… [and] the new 1.8-litre Corolla is more of a surprising transition than the overall increase might lead you to suspect.

Over a mixed driving route… the car was reporting it had been in EV mode 72% of the time. Toyota’s hybrid tech has really come of age

“The updated car is immediately more brisk. A lot of work has gone into remapping the accelerator response so it better matches driver intentions, dialling back the revs the CVT requires for a given amount of progress. It is also quieter at speed.

“The car can [also] use the adaptive cruise control gear to automatically vary the amount of deceleration you get when you lift off the throttle. This… simply means it maintains a safe distance from the car in front without you having to intervene with the friction brakes, even when slowing almost to a stop. This is so unexpectedly polished that it turns [the Corolla] into a one-pedal driving experience much of the time – something that’s usually the reserve of pure EVs.”

2023 Toyota Corolla reviews

“Updates to the Toyota Corolla’s hybrid system mean that the latest version of the entry-level 1.8-litre engine has 138bhp at its disposal. [That’s] more than enough performance for everyday driving and getting up to motorway speeds without needing to mash the accelerator into the carpet.

“Fancy a bit of pampering? Well, forget the spa and buy yourself a Corolla instead because… it’s one of the most comfortable cars in the family car class. It has softer suspension than [some other rivals], which means it smooths off the rough edges of road ridges better and fidgets less on patchy sections of motorway.

The Toyota Corolla is a brilliant family car. It’s comfortable, well made, well equipped and remarkably frugal in real-world driving

“When you’re driving normally, you’ll find that the Corolla is a fine handling car. The steering is precise and its weight builds in a progressive manner, starting light for city driving and ending up with a heft that’s reassuring. There’s even a reasonable amount of feedback streaming to your fingertips [and] a decent feeling of composure at faster speeds.”

Learn more: 2023 Toyota Corolla revealed

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