Toyota Corolla hatchback review
“The Toyota Corolla hatchback is great for low running costs, comfort and reliability”
- Diesel-beating efficiency
- Stylish new design
- Hassle-free motoring
- Middling interior space
- CVT automatic isn't for everyone
- Limited towing ability
Verdict - Is the Toyota Corolla a good car?
It’s not as practical as some rival models from other car makers, but the Toyota Corolla is still one of the best family cars around if you can live with a little less boot space and rear legroom. It’s great to drive, impressively economical, cheap to tax, will be very reliable and it’s quiet and comfy inside. It even got a big update in 2023 that brought the interior and infotainment up to date, so it feels modern despite the fact the Corolla is an older design now.
Toyota Corolla models, specs and alternatives
The Toyota Corolla is a well-established name and the current model is a rival for family hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus, Peugeot 308 and Volkswagen Golf. The current one is the best ever, and it’s even made in Britain at a factory in Burnston, near Derby. It’s also available as a more practical Touring Sports estate, though this review will focus on the hatchback model.
The only engines available in the Corolla are petrol hybrids – there are no pure combustion or electric options at all. Your only options here are a 1.8-litre and a 2.0-litre hybrid, but since both return over 60mpg according to WLTP test figures, and have low CO2 emissions from 98 to 111g/km (keeping Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) low) both versions are really cheap to run. In a recent real-world test against the Honda Civic hybrid and Kia Ceed mild hybrid, the Corolla proved to be the most economical model and at 55mpg, it was over 10mpg more efficient than the Ceed.
A 2023 update improved the engines with a bit more power and also improved the Corolla’s interior and infotainment. The 1.8-litre hybrid model is a bit lighter now, and has 138bhp (up from 120bhp), so it can go from 0-62mph in a useful 9.2 seconds. The 2.0-litre hybrid model now has 193bhp (up from 178bhp) and does the same sprint in 7.5 seconds – matching that of the plug-in hybrid Vauxhall Astra GSe.
Every Corolla is front-wheel drive and comes equipped with a surprisingly smooth CVT automatic gearbox. With precise steering and a sophisticated multi-link suspension setup, all versions of the Corolla are good to drive, however keen drivers are likely better off opting for the more-powerful 2.0-litre model, or even choosing something like a Ford Focus instead which, unlike the Toyota, is offered with a manual gearbox.
Once you’ve selected an engine, there are four trim levels to choose from: Icon, Design, GR Sport and Excel. Even the base Icon model comes well-equipped with a 10.5-inch touchscreen, digital dials, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging and a full suite of driver aids including a reversing camera.
If you care at all for style, we’d recommend stepping up to the Design model which gets 17-inch alloy wheels and a more sophisticated set of LED headlights, with a sleek-looking daytime-running light design. GR Sport trim sets itself apart with a racier bodykit, figure-hugging sports seats, and model-specific alloy wheels and badging. Finally, there’s the range-topping Excel which boasts a two-tone roof, larger 18-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights and a head-up display. Sadly, we in the UK miss out on the 300bhp 1.6-litre engine and four-wheel drive of the rally-inspired GR Corolla hot hatch that’s sold in North America, instead getting its smaller sibling, the Toyota GR Yaris.
The Corolla’s well-built, if a tad uninspiring interior also got a boost for 2023 in the form of a new 10.5-inch touchscreen taken from the Toyota bZ4X electric SUV. This is much slicker than the old system and incredibly easy to use, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility coming as standard. There’s also a set of digital dials that aren’t quite as configurable as rivals, although they’re still a welcome step up over the past-digital dials of the outgoing car.
Practicality is decent without tearing up the rule book, offering plenty of space and seat adjustment in the front, but only middling room for back seat passengers. Pick the 1.8-litre hybrid and there's a 361-litre boot, but this shrinks to 313 litres in the 2.0-litre, a figure that's bettered by even a Volkswagen Polo supermini. If the Corolla ticks a lot of boxes but you’d like it to be a bit bigger, you’ll be well served by the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate, or by the Toyota RAV4 SUV.
Corolla owners are likely to be looking for hassle-free motoring and here the Toyota scores again, with its new 'Relax' warranty. This can last for up to 10 years/100,000 miles, but with Toyota's reliability record – especially for hybrid models – they probably won't need it. Plenty of standard safety kit has helped the car score five stars in Euro NCAP safety tests.
Toyota Corolla alternatives
Hybrid family cars
Petrol family cars
Electric family cars