From £30,505
Mid-life update brings better drivability and tech for entry-level hybrid

While other brands have scrambled to devise and introduce novel hybrid concepts to meet emissions targets, Toyota has been sitting comfortably. It has gradually refined its hybrid system – which is still fundamentally a development of the planetary CVT concept introduced on the original Toyota Prius in 1997 – and made it suitable for more and more models.

The latest refinement benefits the Toyota Corolla, particularly the 1.8 Hybrid. With 120bhp and an 11.1sec 0-62mph time in Touring Sports estate form, its performance has always been on the leisurely side of adequate. So for 2023, it’s getting an 18bhp 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 (the previous entry-level 1.2-litre petrol was offered for only a short time) a fast car, but more to improve drivability. In other words, reduce the typical CVT behaviour of indirect throttle response and soaring revs.

The Corolla 2.0-litre hybrid model has had a few tweaks, too. It has gained 6bhp, cutting its 0-62mph time to 7.5sec and reducing its CO2 output by 3g/km to 107g/km. It also swaps its older-style nickel-metal-hydride drive battery for a lithium ion one, like the 1.8.

8 Toyota corolla touring sports proto 2023 fd dashboard

Toyota let us drive the current version and a late prototype of the updated 1.8 hybrid back to back. There was no opportunity to try the 2.0-litre, but then important changes are to the 1.8 anyway.

Initial impressions of the revised 1.8 are that the drivetrain doesn’t feel markedly different. However, Toyota has also recalibrated the drive modes. Where Eco mode used to feel quite sluggish, in the updated car it makes better use of the increased potency of the electric motor and waits for longer before it has the engine working hard. That makes the car feel more relaxed without noticeably compromising performance.

When you ask for more performance, it’s unmistakably still a CVT, but a pretty good one. 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.

What might be just as valuable in daily usage as the increased performance are the improvements to the brakes. On the outgoing car, it was almost impossible to come to a stop perfectly smoothly, but the pedal is now more progressive and allows clean limo-drive stops.

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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. Such systems can sometimes be unpredictable, but this one proved particularly intuitive.

As well as the mechanical changes, all versions gain subtly altered light clusters, new wheel designs, some updates to the active safety suite and a long-awaited revamp of the infotainment system and digital gauge cluster.

The gauge cluster looks crisp and clear, and you can customise it to show the information you want, although the process of doing so is a touch clunky. The infotainment, however, remains a demon that haunts Toyota. The screen is a good size with a decent resolution and responds relatively quickly, but it loses all shortcut buttons except for the media volume. That also makes switching between smartphone mirroring and the native interface very involved. It's a surprising omission, since there is a physical button to do exactly that in the new Toyota Aygo X, which has effectively the same system.

Otherwise, the Corolla is as before: quiet, comfortable, roomy in estate form and accomplished although not exactly exciting in the corners.

We’ll have to wait for a while before these changes are introduced: they’re only due for the first quarter of next year, with pricing to be announced nearer to that time.

Because of that, and because the car we drove was a late prototype, we’ll refrain from giving it a star rating, but so long as Toyota can manage not to increase the price too much, this is a successful update of an already well-rounded family car.

15 Toyota corolla touring sports proto 2023 fd rear track alt

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Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

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And so what actually 4 July 2022

i think the CO2 you have for the 2.0 is incorrect

gavsmit 30 June 2022

I see the 'FROM' price at the top of every Autocar item is still thousands off the mark.

The 'FROM' price of £20,354 is actually £27,635 for the current model - not this refreshed model.

So, as all mild refreshes provide a perfect excuse for car makers to push up the price of their cars by thousands these days, expect Autocar's 'FROM' price to be at least £10,000 short of the real price when this model hits the showrooms.


xxxx 30 June 2022

For an estate that boot doesn't look much bigger than an average hatchback, which is surely the main reason for buying one

superstevie 30 June 2022

The picture is deceiving. Ots around 600 litres, similar to my Mk7 Golf estate

MikePWood 30 June 2022

Looked at one of these but the boot was too small. Bought a Focus Estate which has a boot that's 200mm wider, longer and I've just got 60+mpg out of a car that's actually interesting to drive....