Thursday, December 1, 2022
First Reviews 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD First Drive Review: The Sipping Corolla Gets...

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD First Drive Review: The Sipping Corolla Gets AWD

Corolla Hybrid gets AWD for the first time, giving more traction

  • Corolla Hybrid adds AWD for first time

  • AWD standard on most trim levels

  • 40 hp rear motor adds foul-weather confidence


Want the bad-weather traction of all-wheel drive and the fuel economy of a hybrid without the added bulk and size of a crossover? Toyota has what might be the only option for you in the new for 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD. More power and more traction for an iconic sedan make this a very appealing choice.

Both the front-drive Corolla, which will only be offered in LE-guise this year, and the AWD model (LE, SE, XSE) make 134 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque. Both have a 1.8L four-cylinder engine, as well. It’s how power is apportioned that changes the behaviour of the car completely.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD | Photo: Evan Williams

All-wheel drive comes via an electric motor mounted to the rear axle, much like the all-wheel drive Prius Toyota already makes. But while that car had just seven horsepower from its rear motor, the Corolla Hybrid AWD has 40. Enough to break those rear tires loose if you have all of the electronic aids turned off, it’s raining, and you’re on some fallen leaves.

Wet-weather powerslides aren’t what Corolla buyers (outside of the GR) are looking for, but they are a useful indication of how the car will do in mud and snow. We think it will handle those conditions quite well because 40 horses give the AWD system a much greater ability to affect the dynamics of the vehicle than just seven. And a lot more traction at the rear tires if the fronts are spinning. Tl;dr, it should get through snowbanks much better than before, especially if you fit winter tires.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD | Photo: Evan Williams

More electric power helps the Corolla’s noise levels, too. This isn’t a quiet car, even by segment standards and the 1.8’s drone is aggravated by the CVT. The AWD Corolla can stay in EV mode more of the time, which means less noise.

We just wish it was more total power, because the Corolla Hybrid is slow. It’s a feeling compounded by the CVT’s constant high rpm, but even without that, the Corolla has leisurely acceleration. We don’t expect sports car performance, but the Hyundai Elantra hybrid at least attempts to feel snappy when you hit the gas.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD | Photo: Evan Williams

Steering is just as quick and responsive as in the gas model. Toyota has gone with fun on the Corolla’s chassis tuning, and it shows. Less than 20 years ago, a 134 hp AWD Corolla would have been considered a sport compact, and the XSE trim’s handling feels every part of it.

The ride is mostly unchanged, but there is less understeer when you’re really pushing it. That’s another benefit of all-wheel drive, shuffling power around to make improvements to the car’s handling. Our XSE tester had a bit of a rough ride thanks to the 18-inch wheels and tiny sidewalls that accompany it. If you’d rather have more ride comfort than the extra style and bit of grip, the LE trim might be more your speed.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD | Photo: Evan Williams

Fuel economy suffers slightly from the front-drive model, with an LE AWD estimated at 4.6 L/100 km city and 5.4 highway against the 4.4/5.1 the front-driver manages. Pick an SE or XSE and the 18-inch wheels and tires (up from 15 on LE) hurt economy a bit more. Still, though, the rating is an impressive 5.0/5.7 city/highway. A RAV4 hybrid, for comparison, gets 5.8/6.3. The Corolla Cross Hybrid somehow manages just 6.4 L/100 km combined, which is worse than either.

Toyota hasn’t changed the cabin compared with the non-hybrid or FWD cars, so it gets the one big change those models get for 2023. The 8.0-inch center screen is upgraded with Toyota’s latest multimedia system. It’s the first time I’ve used this system on such a small display (it debuted with a whopper on the Tundra) and it holds up with less real estate. The system runs quickly and smoothly, and has much improved “Hey Toyota” natural speech recognition control. It also gets the wireless versions of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD | Photo: Evan Williams

Toyota goes hard on the driver assistance features too. Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard on all Corollas, including radar cruise, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, road sign assistance, and lane tracing. Blind spot monitoring is also part of the Corolla hybrid package.

Outside of features, the cabin is still on the smaller side of the segment. Space in the front and rear seats is limited, and the trunk measures just 371L. Though that is the same as the non-hybrid car, which is some impressive packaging on Toyota’s part.

Toyota has created a Corolla that delivers exceptional fuel economy and a very useful all-wheel drive system. Add that to the existing impressive level of safety and comfort kit the Corolla offers and you have a very desirable package that even enthusiast drivers can enjoy. With a bit more poke, this would be an excellent all-rounder. As it is, it’s still pretty good.

 

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