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In-depth reviews

Toyota Corolla review - Engines, performance and drive

The Toyota Corolla has an impressive chassis, but its hybrid powertrain isn’t the most exciting

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.0 out of 5

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We might not be getting the full-fat GR Corolla in the UK, but despite its ‘self-charging’ hybrid powertrain and CVT automatic gearbox, the Toyota Corolla is a sportier car than you might think, and updated model rides and handles as well as Toyota’s family hatchback ever has in its standard guises.

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The TNGA underpinnings feel sophisticated, as it allows for a great balance between ride comfort and body control. The steering is precise and well weighted, with the Toyota turning into corners well and providing reassuring grip.

The updated Corolla feels more refined, too. There’s not as much of the droning you used to get from older CVTs, and although it hasn’t been completely eradicated, the benefit is quieter cruising. Toyota has also made some tweaks so the throttle response is much more direct now. Acceleration on the whole is brisk enough.

At low speed, silent EV mode makes for relaxing progress – refinement is such that when the petrol engine does kick in, it’s fairly unobtrusive when trundling around town. If you spend the majority of your time on congested streets, the Corolla will prove very easy to live with. 

The electric side of the Corolla’s powertrain was reworked as part of the car’s update in 2023, with the old battery replaced by a redesigned, lighter lithium-ion unit that’s more energy dense, meaning it weighs 14 per cent less yet delivers 14 per cent more power. It supplies an electric motor that offers more torque, thus creating the fifth-generation of Toyota’s hybrid technology.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

The total power from the 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain is 138bhp; enough for 0-62mph time in 9.1 seconds. If you go for the 2.0-litre hybrid, total power output rises to 193bhp, which shaves half a second from the Corolla’s 0-62mph time, cutting it down to 7.4 seconds. 

When the engine is worked really hard, it’s still accompanied by a loud drone, because the CVT transmission causes the revs to rise at a rate that doesn’t match the road speed. However, the extra electrical energy that came with the facelift means that happens less frequently than before. Plus once you're done accelerating and up to speed, some software tweaks allow the engine to run at lower revs at a cruise, making the updated Corolla a quieter long-distance companion than pre-update models. 

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News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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