2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE AWD Sedan – Review by David Colman
Makes lots of sense while saving you lots of cents
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Toyota offers a bewildering array of Corolla models. You can select a sedan or a hatchback, and equip it with front wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Further refinement is available with trim levels LE, SE, XLE and XSE. If performance is your game, the GR Corolla will knock your socks off. If you’re more inclined to nudge the slower end of the speed spectrum, you’ll love the Corolla Hybrid SE we spent a week testing. Our handsome Dark Grey sedan was without doubt the slowest car we’ve tested in years. Given its combined gas/electric Hybrid output of just 134hp, and its curb weight of 3,218 pounds, each one of the SE’s horses is saddled with toting 24 pounds. That’s about 4 pounds past adequate, and 8 pounds short of quick. The performance numbers spell out the shortfall: 0 to 60mph takes 9 seconds, and the SE manages the standing start quarter mile in 16.9 seconds at just 80mph. Top speed is eventually reached at 107mph.
While it may have felt distressingly slow at times, I loved the Hybrid Corolla for all its other virtues. Topping that list was its phenomenal mileage, with an overall economy rating of 44MPG. Unlike some of the gas sucking rocket sleds I’ve been testing recently, the Corolla went about its business in a perfunctory but nonetheless lively way. What made me admire it the most was the fact that the gas gauge hardly ever fell below full, while the “Range to Empty” reading always seemed stuck above 200 miles.
Toyota equips the SE with a set of 18-inch graphite colored alloy rims, giving this chassis far better handling characteristics than lesser Corollas which are shod with standard 16-inch steel wheels. Our test car optimized the footprint of those fat alloys with a set of 225/40R18 Yokohama Avid GT radials. The bikini sidewall of this wheel/tire combo enhanced the sleek lines of the Corolla, dropping the sedan close to the ground, but providing plenty of grip when needed. While the Hybrid might lack poke in a straight line, it shows its mettle when the road gets twisty. Toyota also fits the SE with sport suspension underpinnings, and back up the boast with a “Sport” driving mode which is available at the punch of a center console button.
In addition to the wheel/tire upgrade, we were quite taken with the other stylistic tricks Toyota designers employed to transform an economy car into one capable of snaring trophies at a rod and custom show. For example, we admired the bevy of trim enhancements that distinguish the Hybrid SE AWD from all other Corollas: sport mesh black front grill, sport black rocker panel trim, color keyed grey rear deck spoiler, and a stylish black rear diffuser capped off with dual chrome tail pipes. The package works well visually, complementing the understated beauty of the sheet metal. In fact, this Corolla looks a lot more expensive than its very modest $30,388 final price tag would lead you to believe.
Inside the cabin, the grey/charcoal/red cloth GT seats proved surprisingly well bolstered and supportive. Though they lack heating elements and positional memory, their comfort, support and good looks more than compensate for the omissions. The SE model presents you with a dash central 8.0-inch monitor which proved a breeze to program. Once we locked in our favorite five stations on SiriusXM (3-month free trial subscription), we enjoyed non-stop tunes on the $600 optional JBL 9-speaker system which maximizes output with a 10-inch subwoofer and amplifier. The beauty of owning a sedan versus a hatchback Corolla lies in the fact that your 13 cubic foot trunk compartment lies hidden from view instead of exposed to prying eyes. The SE’s remote fob included a button for popping the trunk lid open from a distance. Toyota equipped the floor of this storage area with a heavy-duty ribbed rubber mat that provided useful non-slip storage. We also enjoyed the full aft view afforded by the rimless rear-view mirror, a $175 option that is well worth its extra cost. In fact, rear visibility in this Corolla was excellent, and the large interior mirror and well configured side mirrors just made the good sight lines that much better.
If you can subvert your need for speed, the Corolla Hybrid SE AWD sedan presents a great ownership opportunity. For starters, its out-the-door price is roughly $15,000 less than the current going purchase price for a new vehicle in the USA. Compound that bonus with the $3,000 fuel saving the EPA predicts you’ll bankroll over 5 years of ownership, and you’ve got a pretty attractive proposition here. So the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Sedan is not only visually attractive but financially inviting as well.
2023 TOYOTA COROLLA HYBRID SE AWD SEDAN
ENGINE: 1.8 liter inline-4, DOHC, 16-valve, plus 3 AC Motors
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 47MPG City/41MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $30,388
HYPES: Seductive Looks, Solid Practicality
GRIPES: Slow to Go, Raucous Safety Belt Beeper
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman