With the Corolla Hybrid, Toyota took its winning formula and made it even more enticing. There’s just one problem…
- A reliably economical hybrid
- Toyota’s ownership costs are hard to beat
- A sleek, enjoyable city driving experience
- It has a properly tiny boot and back seat
- Visibility is limited and isn’t helped by a basic reverse camera
- Less performance than the full-petrol variant
2023 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid
Ah, the Toyota Corolla. A mainstay on Australian roads for decades.
Since landing Down Under in 1967, the Corolla has become perfect first-car fodder, the ideal compact commuter and, in recent years, an economical hybrid.
But the automotive industry has changed a lot since the Corolla made its local debut – SUVs and dual-cab utes rule the roads, prices have risen, technology has advanced and plenty of new entrants have arrived, ready to steal the Corolla’s thunder.
The Corolla range underwent a midlife update in late 2022, with new technology, a new infotainment system, bigger screens and more power for the hybrid models, with price rises to match.
So, does this little legend still hold up by today’s standards? And is bigger always better?
How much does the Toyota Corolla Hybrid cost in Australia?
Here, I’m testing the 2023 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid – it sits one step above the base grade and is priced from $34,280 plus on-road costs, representing the mid-point in the Corolla range.
The same grade in non-hybrid form is $31,780 plus on-road costs, which is only $2500 more affordable than the hybrid variant.
If you want a sedan instead of a hatch, there’s no difference in price.
On top of the entry-level Corolla, the SX adds things like dual-zone climate control, a wireless phone charger and keyless entry and start.
The Sunstone Orange premium metallic paint my test car is wearing adds another $575 to the purchase price.
The Corolla is also one of the few models left in Australia with a starting price below $30,000, along with rivals like the Kia Cerato, Hyundai i30 or Mazda 3. To squeeze under $30K, you’ll need to opt for the non-hybrid base-model Ascent Sport, however.
As a closer match to the variant we have on test, a mid-spec Cerato hatch is priced from $31,440 plus on-road costs, a mid-spec i30 hatch is $30,250 plus on-road costs, and a mid-spec Mazda 3 hatch starts at $33,460 plus on-road costs.
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With that in mind, the Corolla has a slightly more expensive starting price, but it’s also one of the only cars in its segment available with a full hybrid powertrain – the Honda Civic offers a hybrid, but for a much higher price of $55,000 drive-away.
The Corolla’s hybrid powertrain combines a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor, which together send a combined 103kW and 142Nm to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.
For those comparing the hybrid with the non-hybrid Corolla, it’s worth noting the hybrid offers less power and torque than the full-petrol Corolla with its larger 2.0-litre engine capable of 126kW and 203Nm.
|Key details||2023 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid|
|Price||$34,280 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Sunstone Orange|
|Options||Metallic paint – $575|
|Price as tested||$34,855 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||$36,650 (Melbourne)|
|Rivals||Kia Cerato | Hyundai i30 | Mazda 3|
How much space does the Toyota Corolla Hybrid have inside?
The cabin of the Corolla isn’t luxurious, but all the touchpoints feel great, like the ‘premium’ steering wheel and gearstick, which are wrapped in a smooth synthetic leather.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the front seats. I found they lacked support, and it was tricky to get comfortable with the rudimentary manual adjustment available.
Meanwhile, the angular dash is modern and quite visually striking, with the dual-zone climate control managed out of a neat strip of buttons below the touchscreen.
There’s a wireless smartphone charger too – although it’s a fairly shallow tray without much depth, resulting in my phone going flying on a couple of occasions.
Finally, there’s a serviceable amount of front seat storage that’s just enough for the essentials, but not much else.
Two cupholders will accommodate your morning coffees, door bins will take a drink bottle and perhaps a wallet, and a small centre console can fit your keys and other loose ends, plus it contains a 12-volt outlet and USB-C port.
In the back seat, things are tight.
My Britax Brava child seat was almost too tall to even fit through the door, and my toddler was able to easily open the doorhandles from his seating position, so I had to give the child lock a proper workout (I don’t usually often have this problem in SUVs).
Child seats can be installed on either of the outboard seats using the ISOFIX tether points, while top-tether attachments are available over the back of all three seats.
To be fair, this isn’t really designed for families. If you’re just accommodating adults, you’ll find rear seat passengers will have to squeeze and stoop to get in, given the doors don’t open particularly wide and the roof line is low.
Once inside, I found the leg room and head room acceptable (I’m 178cm tall), but taller adults will definitely struggle.
There are also not many amenities for back seat passengers, with no air vents or USB ports. For storage, a drop-down armrest houses two cupholders, while each door houses a cupholder and tiny storage tray.
The Corolla’s boot has 217L of storage on offer. That’s fairly tiny, even for the small car segment. For comparison, the Kia Cerato hatch has almost double that with 428L, while the Mazda 3 hatch offers 295L.
I was able to fit my folding pram and a couple of shopping bags and not much else.
There’s a temporary spare wheel under the boot floor (the major bonus of the base petrol variant is that it gets a full-size spare) and a hard, removable cargo cover.
A clever inclusion is a hook on the boot floor that connects to an orange latch on the cargo cover, giving you easy access to the spare wheel should you need it.
For extra storage, there are deep side compartments either side of the boot floor for storing loose items.
|2023 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid|
Does the Toyota Corolla Hybrid have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
The Corolla SX’s infotainment system is managed out of an 8.0-inch touchscreen that features satellite navigation, digital radio, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android audio and a six-speaker sound system.
As part of the late 2022 update, this system is now compared to earlier Corollas. Still, the screen isn’t large, the graphics aren’t inspiring and the menu options are basic, but it’s straightforward to use and sometimes function trumps form.
While wireless CarPlay can be hit-or-miss depending on the manufacturer, Toyota’s system maintains a seamless connection.
A digital multi-information display replaces the traditional instrument cluster and provides updates on the trip computer, drive modes, driver assistance technology and speed limit information.
Corolla buyers also receive one year of complimentary access to Toyota Connected Services, which allows you to call emergency services from your car, remotely check your car’s location and fuel levels, and keep up with its service history and schedule via the My Toyota app.
Is the Toyota Corolla Hybrid a safe car?
The Corolla received five stars from ANCAP when it was tested in 2018, which was before a few major changes to testing criteria took effect. That rating expires at the end of next year.
When tested, the Corolla range received a 96 per cent rating for adult occupant protection capabilities, an 83 per cent score for its child occupant protection capabilities, an 86 per cent score for its vulnerable road user protection capabilities, and a 76 per cent score for the safety assist technologies available.
Seven airbags are standard on all Corolla variants.
What safety technology does the Toyota Corolla Hybrid have?
All Corolla grades get a reverse camera, active cruise control with lane trace assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure alerts, auto high-beam functionality and speed-sign recognition.
The SX grade adds blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear cross-traffic alert.
I’d argue blind-spot monitoring is now an essential safety feature – particularly on a car with limited visibility – and should probably be offered as standard from the base grade.
In terms of real-world functionality, I found the active cruise control was effective in its execution of distance control, with a measured response that saw it slow efficiently but gently when another car pulled in front.
Meanwhile, the parking sensors seemed to escalate from calm to hyperactive in an instant, resulting in an abundance of caution when parking.
The reverse camera also offers plenty of room for improvement, with a grainy resolution that can prove unhelpful at night or in wet weather.
How much does the Toyota Corolla Hybrid cost to maintain?
Toyota offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, but you’ll get an extra two years of coverage for the hybrid system and driveline if you keep your car maintained according to the warranty and service book.
Servicing your car won’t cost you too much either, with Toyota capping the cost at $245 per visit for five years, or $1225 in total.
By comparison, Kia charges $2022 over five years to service the Cerato.
In fact, servicing your Corolla for five years will likely cost you less than insuring it for one year.
According to a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW, the Corolla will cost $1379.57 to insure annually. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
Based on Toyota’s fuel consumption claims for both the hybrid and non-hybrid Corolla, the hybrid could save you roughly four tanks of fuel per 10,000km you drive – meaning you’ll eventually make back the $2500 difference in purchase price in fuel savings.
|At a glance||2023 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$735 (3 years)
$1225 (5 years)
Is the Toyota Corolla Hybrid fuel-efficient?
Toyota claims fuel consumption in the Corolla SX Hybrid is 4.0L/100km on a combined driving cycle.
Over the course of a week, my real-world fuel consumption settled at 5.0L/100km for a blend of city and freeway driving.
While my reading was higher than the quoted figure, it’s still an impressive number and will ensure your visits to the petrol station are infrequent.
The Corolla hybrid has a 43L fuel tank and requires unleaded petrol with a minimum octane rating of 91.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||4.0L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||5.0L/100km|
|Fuel type||91-octane regular unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||43L|
What is the Toyota Corolla Hybrid like to drive?
At its core, the Toyota Corolla is a city car, so its best performance is at city speeds. This is particularly true of the hybrid variant.
What it lacks in peak power and torque, the Corolla Hybrid makes up for with polish and peacefulness.
The car uses predominantly electric power below speeds of 40km/h or with light to moderate pedal input, meaning it feels quick, quiet and sleek for the bulk of commuting.
A handy dial on the driver display will let you know whether you’re using electric or petrol power, providing added incentive to adjust your driving style to remain as economical as possible.
As in other hybrid Toyota models, there’s an ‘EV’ drive mode to keep this electric-only approach going for longer, but if you hit the pedal too hard or go above 40km/h, it will tap out and the petrol engine will kick in.
This engine noise can prove bothersome when it does appear, but just because it’s such a departure from the serenity.
While the Corolla’s performance stats (103kW/142Nm) might look a little underwhelming on paper, the Corolla actually feels suitably plucky for its size.
Selecting the ‘Power’ drive mode actually elicits a clear and detectable change in the accelerator response, sharpening it in a manner that sees the hatchback leap forward with renewed vigour.
The ride is also surprisingly supple for a small car, remaining composed and level over bigger hits and comfortable on rougher roads.
I found visibility in the Corolla challenging, in part because I’m now so used to SUVs. The roof line felt low and the pillars felt closer together, resulting in substantial blind spots on either side at the rear of the car.
For that reason, I appreciated the inclusion of blind-spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors on the SX grade. The grainy reverse camera was useful to a point, but it’s still one of Toyota’s weak points when compared to the high-resolution, 360-degree units from rival manufacturers.
The driver display also felt small and I struggled to locate key information, like the live speed-limit updates or the set cruise-control speed.
An 11m turning circle wasn’t quite as small as I’d hoped, but the Corolla’s pint-sized footprint and light steering feel are perfect companions for city driving.
In summary, the sleek ride, mostly silent powertrain, small footprint and nimble handling lend some welcome sleekness to city driving, while still offering sufficient oomph for freeway driving.
|Key details||2023 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid|
|Engine||1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with electric motor|
|Power||72kW @ 5200rpm petrol
|Torque||142Nm @ 3600rpm petrol
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Continuously variable transmission (CVT automatic)|
|Spare tyre type||Temporary|
Should I buy a Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid?
For shoppers looking for a reliable, affordable and efficient city car, I’d struggle to recommend anything other than a 2023 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid.
But be warned – it’s a proper compact car without much boot or back seat space.
Additionally, while the infotainment and driver assist technologies have been updated, they’re still not best in class, and technology remains one of Toyota’s weaker points.
I’d also love to see more safety equipment included as standard from the base grade.
The brand’s tried-and-tested hybrid system and ludicrously affordable ownership costs, however, are difficult to beat.