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Car reviews - Toyota - Corolla - hybrid


We like
Impressively efficient engine, easy to operate controls, compact dimensions make it a cinch to park, strong equipment list, excellent value for money
Room for improvement
High-set front seats, cosy rear seat legroom, design is beginning to date, cargo space falls short of the best in class, some tyre thrum at highway speeds

More than 50 million Corollas have been sold since 1968 – and it’s not hard to see why

15 Mar 2024



SOME time back, Toyota introduced its refreshed MY23 Corolla hatch and sedan range to Australia with a new starting price of $28,130 plus on-road costs. The range promised a “raft of upgrades” including Toyota Connected Services functionality, a new multimedia system and its latest fifth-generation petrol-electric powertrain.


Quiet deletion of the manual gearbox option, as well as price rises of between $2425 and $3785 depending on variant, mean it is now $4235 more expensive to get behind the wheel of a new Corolla Ascent Sport, all Corolla variants now arriving with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as standard.


With the introduction of a new hybrid driveline – which teams a 1.8-litre petrol engine with a high-output motor/generator and lighter lithium-ion battery pack – in electrified guise the Corolla now benefits from a 13kW increase in peak power to offer a maximum combined output of 103kW.


The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine remains unchanged with 126kW/202Nm for the hatch and 126kW/203Nm for the sedan.


Additionally, and as premiered in the new Corolla Cross recently, the Corolla hatch and sedan are now offered with Toyota Connected Services technology that enables owners remote functionality to check information including fuel level or driving range, whether the doors are locked or unlocked, and whether the windows are up or down.


Owners may also remotely perform functions such as locking the car, starting the engine, and activating the horn or hazard lights. The system can even locate the car if the driver has forgotten where they parked it.


Importantly, Toyota Connected Services can also provide assistance in the event of an emergency where the airbags are deployed or if a collision is detected, by automatically notifying an emergency call centre and allowing the driver to communicate with the operator.


The system may also be activated via a roof-mounted SOS button and can even assist authorities in tracking a stolen vehicle.


On the safety front, Toyota has endowed the Corolla range with an expanded Toyota Safety Sense active safety suite, which now includes motorcycle detection, intersection collision avoidance support for crossing vehicles at left or right turns, emergency steering assist, and acceleration suppression at low speeds, while improving a range of existing features.


The system features newly improved cameras and radar sensors that Toyota says offers a “wider range for detection of obstacles or vehicles”.


Further, all hatch variants now include a blind spot monitor as standard, while lane trace assist has been expanded to include the emergency driving stop system feature that has been designed to bring the vehicle to a gradual stop if it detects the driver is no longer making vehicle inputs.


The active cruise control system has also been enhanced and now offers four distance settings, the ability to detect other vehicles earlier, and the addition of deceleration assist when changing lanes.


From a connectivity and infotainment standpoint, the Corolla range now adopts Toyota’s latest generation multimedia system featuring an 8.0-inch touchscreen display on all variants. The system includes new shortcut buttons, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, DAB+ digital radio reception and a USB-C port as standard.


The Ascent Sport hatch gains a 7.0-inch multi-information display (MID) in the instrument cluster and rear seat reminder function, while ZR variants gain a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel.


For the Ascent Sport sedan, native satellite navigation is standard on the hybrid, along with front sun visors that include illuminated vanity mirrors.


Exterior changes include new 16-inch wheels for Ascent Sport and SX grades, and a new-look grille.


Both hatch and sedan Ascent Sport variants are now available with an optional Convenience Park ($1000) that adds rear cross-traffic alert and front/rear parking sensors for the hatch, or rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring for sedan.


Stepping up to the SX gets rain-sensing wipers and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror for both body styles, while the hatch further adds remote climate control pre-conditioning, as well as parking sensors front and rear.


Finally, as part of the MY23 upgrade, Toyota has also revised the colour palette, with Sunstone Orange and Lunar Blue replacing the existing Peacock Black and Eclectic Blue, and joining Glacier White, Frosted White, Silver Pearl, Graphite, Eclipse Black and Jasper Red on hatch variants.


If customers opt for the flagship ZR Hatch, Frosted White, Graphite, Jasper Red, Silver Pearl and Lunar Blue can also be optioned with a two-tone black roof.


For Corolla sedan variants, Dark Grey and Eclipse Black replace Ink and Lunar Blue, bringing the total number of options to eight along with Glacier White, Frosted White, Silver Pearl, Celestite Grey, Atomic Rush and Saturn Blue.


Driving Impressions


LATE in 2022, Toyota Australia launched its updated Corolla hatch and sedan range with very little fanfare. With the spotlight on its incoming Corolla GR Sport – and perhaps a more important SUV range – the humble Corolla said a quiet thank you and got on with the job of selling its socks off.


Fast forward to March 2024 and we found ourselves at the wheel of what’s perhaps one of the most underrated Corolla variants, the SX Hybrid hatch. Unassuming, competent, efficient, and frankly just damn good motoring, the unassuming little five-door is a terrific example of why the simple things are often the best.


Sure, it mightn’t be the latest and greatest small segment competitor, and it is admittedly getting long in the tooth (excusing its modest update, the twelfth generation Corolla has now been on sale since 2018). But there is an honesty to the Corolla offering that is well exemplified in the SX Hybrid grade, proving that you don’t need to break the bank to get into a reliable, frugal, and enjoyable all-rounder.


It may sound like we’re heaping a great deal of praise on a very modest little car. But straight from the shoulder I can tell you it’s deserved. Excusing the Corolla’s awkwardly high-set seating position and tighter rear leg wells, there is very little to criticise in living with the model on a daily basis.


From the moment you jump in and hit the starter there’s a feeling that the Corolla is on your side. The layout is obvious, friendly even, and the interface between the switches and screens straightforward. There’s plenty of tech here for those that seek it, but none so daunting that you’re not prepared to use it – even the driver assistance technology is well-metered and welcoming.


Toyota’s hybridised and direct injected 1.8-litre ‘four’ offers respectable performance (103kW/142Nm) without too much fuss, presenting only a moderate CVT din when pushed. Fuel economy is marvellous in mixed conditions with an average of 4.2 litres per 100km of 91RON unleaded used across our loan.


The hybridised Corolla is quite capable of keeping with the cut and thrust of city traffic without setting records. It’s an ample performer that focuses more on squeezing mileage from its tank that it does on winning the traffic light Olympics. But as a ‘hybrid’ offering, that is kind of the point.


It is also the point that highway cruising comes with few of the shortfalls of other hybrid engine types, or indeed electric offerings. Fuel use here is as meagre as it is in town, the Corolla SX Hybrid content to sit at 110km/h for hours on end, sharing only a little tyre noise from the rear as a sign of its second-from-the-bottom position in the range.


Riding on 16-inch wheels and sensible sidewalls, the Corolla SX Hybrid is comfortable and compliant, yet still provides reassuring grip when nipping through the bends. The MacPherson strut front and trailing arm wishbone rear suspension arrangement does little wrong, sorting out well worn backroads as effortlessly as far more complicated setups.


And still the Corolla is a pretty enjoyable thing to drive. The steering is light and true, and blissfully easy at car park speeds. Corolla’s all-disc braking is likewise balanced and cooperates well with the transmission braking mode to provide smooth and gradual stopping when required – or simple ‘stop now!’ action when needed.


Like most Toyota models, the Corolla SX Hybrid offers a user-friendly, almost simple infotainment array, courtesy of an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen. For the most part we used the system in conjunction with wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity and had no issues connecting and reconnecting to the platform each time we jumped in the hot seat.


Having native sat nav is a bonus when you’re far away from the phone towers, while the digital radio is a nice-to-have in town. The six-speaker audio package is decent, without being brilliant, the ZR grade’s eight-speaker JBL system likely a better alternative for those with an ear for sound.


And just before we sign off on this review, we had to mention again how wonderful it is to jump in a car that understands a hot, Australian summer. Living with the car during a week of near 40-degree temperatures it was refreshing to find a climate control system up to the task of keeping the cabin cool – of only there were ventilation outlets in the second row, Toyota.


Being able to get behind the ‘wheel of a small segment car that doesn’t make you miserable and that is impressively efficient (even when you’re not trying) for less than $40K drive-away is something that’s becoming harder to realise. Again, it isn’t the most aspirational or exciting vehicle in its class, and it isn’t without fault. But the Corolla SX Hybrid is a car I would be very happy to own, especially given the reputation that comes with it.


It's also nice to know exactly what you’ll pay for servicing and, assuming you drive much the same route each week, to fill the tank. With the cost of everything going through the roof, cars like the Corolla SX Hybrid appeal in a way they mightn’t have a few short years ago. And it’s for that reason we would still recommend having Corolla on your shopping list, even when there are others to consider.


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