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In-depth reviews

Toyota Corolla hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

With good handling and improved performance, the Corolla should satisfy most drivers

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Corolla is amongst the very best hybrids we've driven, with a surprisingly good chassis that offers plenty of agility and grip, and is a far cry from the old Toyota Auris in this regard. On the whole, refinement is pretty good – partly helped by the frequency of its electric-only running around town. The GR Sport, with its larger wheels, does have a firmer ride quality than lesser Corolla models, but it's never too unruly.

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As always, the hybrid powertrain and CVT automatic gearbox don't really go hand-in-hand with enthusiastic driving, due to the 'rubber-band' feel as you accelerate and the car picks up speed, but it works especially well in town. Here the Corolla is smooth and you can use its electric propulsion at low speeds to get around using hardly any petrol.

Opt for the GR Sport version with either powertrain and there aren’t all that many mechanical changes under the skin. However, the car’s chassis is already pretty adept, so larger wheels and high-performance tyres mean there’s lots of grip and body lean is minimal. While the steering is fairly light, it’s precise and also feels reassuringly natural if you drive spiritedly along a B-road. It’s just a shame that we don’t get access to the fire-breathing 300bhp, all-wheel-drive GR Corolla hot hatch here in the UK to make full use of the car’s sweetly-tuned chassis.

Hybrid engines

The Corolla shares its entry-level 1.8-litre petrol engine with the Toyota C-HR SUV; however, it has been updated for 2023 to produce 138bhp (up from 120bhp). This has brought the time it takes to reach 62mph from a standstill down from around 11 seconds to a nippy 9.2 seconds. Those are respectable figures, and while almost any Golf is faster in a straight line on paper, the lack of gear changes in the Corolla means it's easy to zip away from the lights. Once at the motorway speed limit, the 1.8-litre feels quite relaxed, with just over 2,000rpm showing on the rev counter.

Now with 193bhp (up from 178bhp), the 2.0-litre hybrid Corolla has more than enough power to rival 2.0-litre diesel versions of the Volkswagen Golf and the 1.5-litre EcoBoost Ford Focus. It gets from 0-62mph in a brisk 7.5 seconds (down from 7.9 seconds), fitted with the same CVT gearbox. Tweaks for 2023 mean the latter feels snappier to respond, however, it’s still not as sharp as the equivalent manual or dual-clutch automatic, and the revs can shoot up when accelerating hard.

Regardless, the 2.0-litre’s main advantage over the smaller engine is that it feels more effortless and refined. This is particularly the case on the motorway, where the engine isn't working as hard and is almost silent as a result.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

1.8 Hybrid

138bhp

9.2s

111mph

2.0 Hybrid

193bhp

7.5s

111mph

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