The Corolla nameplate has been around, seemingly forever, with the current generation dating from the 2020 model year. Updates for 2023 include a minor styling refresh, the Toyota Safety System 3.0, the Toyota Multimedia infotainment system and standardization of the 2L four and CVT transmission.
In addition to the sedan tested, Toyota offers a five-door hatchback model as well as the CorollaCross crossover.
|Vehicle tested||2023 Corolla LE with Upgrade Package|
|Body style||Four-door sedan|
|Engine||2L-4 (169 horsepower)|
|MSRP spread||$22,690 – $34,290|
|Price as tested||$25,740|
|NRCan combined fuel economy||6.7L/100 km|
|Observed fuel economy||7.69L/100 km|
The front of the Corolla sedan features a slim grille that flows into headlights that bulk up the width extremities of the car. The small grille is supplemented with a gigantic lower air intake. The side profile of the Corolla sedan is plain and inoffensive but hardly visually compelling. The rear of the car is a neat styling job./
Inside, the driver faces a conventional gauge package with a speedometer, tachometer and fuel and coolant temperature displays. The gauges have white markings painted on a black background and while they are easy to read, they look cheap. A configurable digital readout sector resides between the two main gauges. The top centre of the dash is dominated by a large infotainment screen that has a physical knob for on-off-volume, and a touch screen sector with four “theme” choices on the left. The graphics on the new infotainment system are much improved over last year but deleting the physical buttons that used to make Toyota’s system so easy to use has rendered an interface designed to frustrate users. Even simple tasks like setting a preset for a radio station or adjusting the tone parameters of the system are a nightmare. Consulting the owner’s manual provides little information to demystify the new infotainment system and it must, therefore, be considered a failure. The climate control panel, featuring a selection of pushbuttons and knobs, is elegant and straightforward to use. Other controls are where you expect them to be. The slim line centre console takes up little space. Its forward end houses the cordless cellphone charging pad and the buttons for the heated front seats. The gear selector is a very conventional-looking device that operates in a straightforward manner. There are two cupholders in the console but little additional storage besides the under-armrest storage bin. The dashboard is luxuriously padded, but the doors are clad in a hard, but matt-finished, plastic shell, except for the most vulnerable-to-wear door armrests, that are swathed in fabric.
The front seats are substantial and very comfortable. Oddly, the centre bolsters of the front seat backs are covered in a soft diamond-patterned fabric which is not duplicated on the bottom cushion of the front seats or any part of the rear seat. Bizarre. There is plenty of room upfront and a feeling of spaciousness due to the large windows. The rear seat has sufficient space for larger adults, who repose on a comfortable seat. That said, cabin space is not as good as it is in the Subaru Impreza, Honda Civic or Kia Forte. The small rear door aperture and the restricted rear door opening angle make getting into the back seat a bit of a struggle. Rear seat riders have access to a generously-sized centre armrest that contains two cupholders, and there are two USB-C charging ports housed in the rear end of the centre console. Trunk space is good for a car of this size.
Linked to a CVT, the 2L four drones unpleasantly even when only modest acceleration is requested. When maximum speed is called for, a coarse cacophony erupts from under the hood. Whether the mechanical noise emanates from poor exhaust tuning or mounts, insufficient sound proofing or some other cause, it is disappointing. That said, acceleration is strong and the car cruises quietly. Observed fuel economy of 7.69L/100 km is good for a car of this size and performance. Wind and road noises are nicely suppressed. While the steering is lifeless in feel and the effort needed to twirl the wheel is light for some drivers, it holds its line well enough on the highway. Handling is steady, with a touch of lean which is quite acceptable considering the very comfortable ride. Braking could have more initial bite but there is no lost motion in the system and pedal feel is solid. Outward vision is very good. The air conditioning kept occupants cool during sweltering weather. Despite the frustrations of using the infotainment system, sound quality is very pleasing, especially for a modestly-priced car.
Toyota offers two streams of Corolla, the L(uxury) and S(port). With air-conditioning, power windows, the Toyota Safety System 3.0 and wireless iOS/Android cellphone hookup, the base trim is well equipped for the price. Moving up to the LE includes blind spot and rear cross traffic monitors, automatic air conditioning, heated front seats and a windshield de-icer, and is good value. The LE Upgrade package adds a leather-clad heated steering wheel, alloy wheels, a sunroof, wireless cellphone charging and Keyless Go, at a bargain price. The base S(port) model, the SE, is equipped similarly to the LE but adds alloy wheels at a slightly higher price that reflects the value of the wheels themselves. The SE Upgrade includes a sunroof, a heated steering wheel and wireless cellphone charging, but is overpriced. The XSE, with heated rear seats, a power driver’s seat and a JBL-branded audio system, is priced beyond the value of its content.
The Corolla has traditionally been a very popular choice for car buyers in Canada and it actually dethroned the Honda Civic last year as the best-selling car in Canada. While not class-leading in any way in terms of styling, performance, refinement or cabin space, it is a good all-rounder and is a car that holds the promise of excellent long-term durability in an era when some cars from other brands can barely make it past their powertrain warranties without a catastrophic major mechanical failure. So, while the Corolla won’t get your heart racing because of its design or performance, it also won’t get you excited when a major component fails prematurely.