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Toyota Corolla 2023 review: ZR Hatch


Daily driver score

4.1/5

Urban score

4.1/5

Football, meat pies, kangaroos and… it used to be ‘Holden cars’, but these days maybe the old ad jingle could include the Toyota Corolla.

The Japanese small car has been a favourite amongst Australian car buyers for decades, and despite a slow start as people questioned what was then a relatively new brand down under, the Corolla has become as popular and as ingrained in our culture as eating a pie at the footy.

The Corolla has outlasted plenty of challengers, big and small, over the years and in an age of booming ute and SUV sales the hatch and sedan remains one of our best-selling models; finishing in sixth place on the 2022 sales chart.

To ensure it stays there, Toyota has given the Corolla a range of subtle but significant upgrades for the 2023 model year version and we’ve put it to the test.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The key change for this 2023 model is a new hybrid system (which we’ll detail later) and improvements to the multimedia and safety systems. But other than that, the Corolla range will be familiar to anyone who has owned one in recent years.

Toyota has used a simple formula to offer a wide array of options - 12 variants - while keeping it easy to understand if you’re looking to buy. There are two body styles, a hatch or sedan; two powertrain options, hybrid or petrol engine; and three trim lines - Ascent Sport, SX and ZR.

Whichever combination of those elements you want can be had, making it easy for customers to get what they want.

The Corolla range will be familiar to anyone who has owned one in recent years. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Corolla range will be familiar to anyone who has owned one in recent years. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Prices stretch from $28,130 (all prices mentioned exclude on-road costs) for the Ascent Sport petrol hatch or sedan up to $39,120 for the ZR hybrid sedan.

Not surprisingly given the events of recent years, the current price has crept up since the hatch first arrived in 2018 and the sedan in 2020.

When the respective models went on sale the entry-level Ascent Sport hatch started at $24,370 and the sedan was $24,835, so that means the cost-of-entry to the Corolla has risen more than $3000.

Key changes include a new hybrid system and improvements to the multimedia and safety systems. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Key changes include a new hybrid system and improvements to the multimedia and safety systems. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

Toyota has only made a few minor tweaks to the design for 2023, centred around a new look grille and some fresh alloy wheel designs for the Ascent Sport and SX variants.

Which is all Toyota needed to do to keep it fresh, because despite being on sale since 2018 the Corolla remains a sharp-looking small car in hatch and sedan forms.

There are two new colours, though, with 'Sunstone Orange' and 'Lunar Blue' replacing 'Peacock Black' and 'Eclectic Blue', to add some fresh colour to the range.

  • The Corolla remains a sharp-looking small hatchback. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Corolla remains a sharp-looking small hatchback. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • Toyota has only made a few minor tweaks to the design for 2023 including a new look grille. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Toyota has only made a few minor tweaks to the design for 2023 including a new look grille. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • The ZR Hybrid wears sporty 18-inch alloy wheels. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The ZR Hybrid wears sporty 18-inch alloy wheels. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

One of the key strengths to the Corolla’s long-running success is its practical cabin and user-friendly interior design.

This has been improved for this 2023 update, with the overhauled multimedia system and the integration of 'Toyota Connected Services', bringing the Corolla into the ‘connected car’ world. 

For starters, the new multimedia system runs through an 8.0-inch touchscreen with new button layout plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. But it’s the Toyota Connected Services that’s an ever bigger change.

When paired with the 'myToyota Connect' smartphone app the system allows owners to remotely check a variety of information about their car.

  • The Corolla offers up a very practical front seating space. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Corolla offers up a very practical front seating space. (Image: Sam Rawlings)
  • One area where the Corolla could improve is the rear space. (Image: Sam Rawlings) One area where the Corolla could improve is the rear space. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

You can look up how much fuel is left in the tank, whether the doors are locked or even if the windows are closed properly, all via your phone.

The app even allows you to remotely start the car or if you can’t find your car in a busy car park the app allows you to flash the hazard lights or honk the horn so you can find it. 

While all this is impressive and the Corolla offers up a very practical front seating space, with adequate small item storage and comfortable seats, one area where the Corolla could improve is the rear space. 

Even by small car standards the rear of the Corolla is tight, with very limited room for adults to sit comfortably thanks to the lack of knee and foot space. 

The Corolla ZR Hybrid has 333-litres of boot capacity. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Corolla ZR Hybrid has 333-litres of boot capacity. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

This is another area of noticeable change for this latest version of the Corolla, with Toyota introducing its fifth-generation of its popular hybrid powertrain.

This latest iteration takes the existing 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and pairs it with a new electric motor and redesigned hybrid transaxle and new lithium-ion battery (replacing the previous nickel metal hydride version).

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the rest of the range is largely unchanged. (Image: Dean McCartney) The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the rest of the range is largely unchanged. (Image: Dean McCartney)

The result of these changes is a lighter hybrid system and more power, with 103kW now available; that’s a 13kW improvement over the 2022 Corolla.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the rest of the range is largely unchanged but does get a very minor tweak, with a 1.0kW power increase to 126kW.

One noticeable absence from the 2023 line-up is the manual gearbox, which was previously only available on the entry-level model but has been dropped due to a lack of demand.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

A big reason for the success of the Corolla in general, but the hybrid specifically, is its frugal nature.

Officially, Toyota claims the Corolla Hybrid uses just 4.0-litres per 100km, which is a very impressive return for this size of car. However, that is a backwards step from the previous system, which used a claimed 3.5L/100km. 

A good return on paper is one thing, but achieving it in the real world is something else. Thankfully for Toyota, the Corolla Hybrid we tested proved almost as frugal as advertised with the trip computer telling us we were using 4.9L/100km during our week-long test.

A big reason for the success of the Hybrid Corolla is its frugal nature. A big reason for the success of the Hybrid Corolla is its frugal nature.

In our experience, though, based on longer testing periods, the Corolla is very capable of hitting the claimed figure.

The car’s trip computer told us that fully fuelled we could manage nearly 700km, which is impressive, but (in theory) the 43-litre fuel tank provides the potential for up to 1075km of driving.

Even the 2.0-litre model is efficient, with claimed economy of 6.0L/100km, so either option is good for those looking to save at the pump.

The petrol model gets a larger 50-litre fuel tank, which gives it a theoretical driving range of approximately 833km. So, whichever Corolla you choose you can probably stretch your visits to the petrol pump pretty far.

Officially, Toyota claims the Corolla Hybrid uses just 4.0-litres per 100km. (Image: Sam Rawlings) Officially, Toyota claims the Corolla Hybrid uses just 4.0-litres per 100km. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The addition of Toyota Connected Services isn’t just a convenience item, it brings with it some major safety enhancements.

In addition to the earlier mentioned features, the addition of this new technology also allows the car to provide assistance in an emergency.

Specifically, if it detects an impact where the airbags deployed, the system can automatically contact emergency services for help.

Or, if you find yourself in trouble and in need of emergency assistance there’s an ‘SOS’ button mounted on the roof (near the map lights) that can guide help to you.

The new Toyota Corolla brings with it some major safety enhancements. The new Toyota Corolla brings with it some major safety enhancements.

Another bonus feature of this connectivity is the ability for the authorities to remotely locate your car if it’s stolen, so there’s an added layer of peace-of-mind.

Toyota has upgraded its 'Safety Sense' package, too, with the pre-collision warning system now able to detect motorcycles, while there’s also emergency steering assistance, intersection collision avoidance support and acceleration suppression at low speeds.

Toyota also says it has improved the cameras and radar sensors for better functionality.

The hatch line-up also gets blind-spot monitoring across the range. While active cruise control has been improved to offer four distance settings and earlier detection of other vehicles.

The Corolla ZR has an ‘SOS’ button mounted on the roof that can guide help to you. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Corolla ZR has an ‘SOS’ button mounted on the roof that can guide help to you. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

This is one area that Toyota hasn’t changed for 2023, with the Corolla still covered by its five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and five-year capped price servicing plan.

Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first) and each visit will cost you $245 - regardless of whether it’s a hatch or sedan, or the hybrid or 2.0-litre petrol powertrain.

The Corolla is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Corolla is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Driving - What's it like to drive?

Our drive of the updated Corolla range was in the ZR specification hatchback with the new hybrid powertrain, so our driving impression will be focused on that variant. 

Despite the enhancements, there’s no arguing this is the most state-of-the-art electrified powertrain on sale today, certainly when compared to the many all-electric and plug-in hybrids available in 2023. But what it is, is the most popular hybrid in the market.

To be blunt, while it has a new motor and battery this remains an evolution of what Toyota has offered in the Prius for more than 20 years, but that’s arguably its greatest strength.

The Corolla ZR is the most popular hybrid in the market. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The Corolla ZR is the most popular hybrid in the market. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

Customers are familiar with it and after more than two decades in production Toyota knows how to make it work.

The brilliance of Toyota’s hybrid system is that it’s incredibly user-friendly. It doesn’t require any major changes - no plugging in or worrying about how far you can go - you just drive the Corolla like you would any small car and unless you’ve got a real lead foot, you should save money by stretching your visits to the petrol bowser.

The car handles regenerative braking to boost the battery, so it’s a really well integrated technology these days.

The ZR has nicely weighted and direct steering that makes it easy to drive around town. (Image: Sam Rawlings) The ZR has nicely weighted and direct steering that makes it easy to drive around town. (Image: Sam Rawlings)

You can track when it’s charging or discharging energy from the battery via a graphic display on the screen, but even after a few days you get comfortable with its performance and just leave it alone and drive normally.

Everything else about the Corolla is a solid small car effort. Toyota has made several major leaps forward in terms of driving dynamics in the last decade or so, and while I can’t say this is the class-leader in terms of ride and handling, it’s certainly near the top of the list.

It has nicely weighted and direct steering that makes it easy to drive around town and parking is drama-free. The ride is a little crashy at times so Toyota could tune in some more compliance, but it does handle quite sharply for a small hatch.

While in isolation these changes for the 2023 version of the Corolla seem relatively minor, they add up to a fairly significant improvement to the car. The new hybrid system offers a performance boost, while the changes to the multimedia and safety systems - particularly the connected services - ensure the Corolla remains contemporary.

But more than just what they mean for this particular model, these changes demonstrate why the Corolla remains such a popular vehicle amongst Australian buyers. These sort of constant improvements are what’s required to maintain success in such a competitive market and Toyota is clearly determined to keep the Corolla at the head of the small car pack.

$27,490 - $50,000

Based on 254 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.1/5

Urban score

4.1/5
Price Guide

$27,490 - $50,000

Based on 254 car listings in the last 6 months

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.