2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD First Drive Review: All-Weather Fuel Miser

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 1.8L I4 w/ electric motor
Output: 134 hp, 156 lb-ft
Transmission: CVT, E-AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 47/41/44
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 4.6/5.4/4.9
Starting Price (USD): $25,295 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $26,475 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $29,310 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $29,310 (inc. dest.)

It’s not often the new version of a car is priced lower than its predecessor.

Yet that’s just what’s happened with the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid. The LE trim has seen a roughly five-percent reduction, to an entirely sensible $23,895 ($29,310 CAD), including destination.

Not the one I’m driving, though. Along with a model-wide refresh, the 2023 Corolla has gained an AWD option for its fuel-sipping Hybrid model. What Toyota has created here is an honest, utterly sensible confluence of no-frills daily transport and a dash of extra poor-weather capability. Not under the spell of the SUV, and tired of seeing the local gas station employees more than some of your family? Your chariot awaits.

Get a Quote on a New 2023 Toyota Corolla

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD: What’s new?

Toyota has been using a light touch for its recent refreshes, and the 2023 Corolla lineup is no different. Squint at the headlights and, well, they squint back, but there’s some tweaks to their inner elements. Meanwhile, the taillights on both the hatchbacks and the sedan/hybrid are darker. Bumpers at both ends see styling changes, with SE and XSE models featuring gloss black mesh lower grilles and a tidied up rear diffuser area. For whatever reason, the sedan version of these trims keeps its mail-slot grille and the Toyota badge mounted above it, unlike the rest of the lineup. There’s a great new orange (“Inferno”) available on the hatch now, too.

Like the refreshed 2023 Highlander I’m also in Nashville to drive, the Corolla has seen changes under the hood. Gas-only models all now sport the larger 2.0-liter engine, good for 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet. Toyota has removed the manual transmission from the equation, which means if you want a row-your-own ‘Rolla, it’s the wild GR Corolla or nothing.

SEE ALSO: 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Review First Drive: Sporty Toyota International

The Corolla Hybrid sees the lion’s share of updates. Toyota has debuted the fifth generation of its hybrid drivetrain in the humble sedan. Redesigned magnets in the electric motor contribute to a 13-horsepower bump, now 134 hp. Torque is up too, from 146 to 156 lb-ft. Toyota has also made the switch to a lithium-ion battery pack for Corolla Hybrid. Newly available AWD adds a second 30 kW motor on the rear axle, providing additional grip when the front wheels slip.

Economy king

Despite all the cutting-edge tech on board, there’s something very pleasantly old-school about how the Corolla Hybrid AWD drives. It’s still relatively lightweight at 2,850 pounds (1,293 kilograms), and the LE grade tester I’m in runs narrow, sensible 16-inch wheels. The result is a soft, pillowy ride as the Corolla Hybrid glides over cracked, wrinkled tarmac. The steering is light yet accurate and consistent. There’s an immediacy to the Corolla’s responses that just isn’t possible in vehicles weighing an additional 1,500 lb.

I’d by lying if I told you the AWD system is noticeable in anything beyond the most extreme instances. The mercury is hitting 77 °F (25 °C) by the time I’m behind the wheel, so those 134 horses won’t be threatening the limits of traction. The closest the Corolla gets is a slight chirp from a hard launch turning left out of an intersection. The rear motor quickly kicks in to provide additional grip, and then fades into the background.

SEE ALSO: Honda Civic vs Kia Forte Comparison: Compact Sedan Face-Off

Officially, the EPA rates the 2023 Corolla Hybrid AWD at 47 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, and 44 mpg combined. (Canadian figures are 4.6/5.4/4.9 L/100 km). It appears very easy to beat those figures, however. When I drop into the car the MFT is already displaying 47 mpg. Once I’m done the short drive loop, I’ve nudged that to a miserly 57.5 mpg (4.1 L/100 km).

Front-drive models are even better, scoring 50/43/47 mpg (4.4/5.1/4.7 L/100 km). Eagle-eyed readers will note that’s worse than the 2022 model, though the LE now runs 16-inch alloys instead of the previous 15s. Larger wheels typically have a negative impact on fuel economy.

Tech upgrades

Toyota Audio Multimedia has arrived in the Corolla, shifting its infotainment experience from near the back of the compact car class to right at the front. All models make use of an 8.0-inch central touchscreen, with bright graphics and speedy responses. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as well, though there’s also four USB-C ports dotting the interior should you need a charge. (A wireless charge pad is optional.) TAM is easy to learn with its simple left-side menu, and the “Hey Toyota” audio assistant consistently and accurately responds to navigation demands.

While there’s no all-digital instrument panel a la Civic (or GR Corolla), the Hybrid’s no-nonsense dials are a cinch to read. Same goes for the central MFT, though Toyota’s overly optimistic live fuel economy display feels pointless. Its mid-point is 75 mpg, so progress is all contained within the bottom half of the bar. C’mon Toyota: it’s efficient, but not that efficient.

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is one of the most comprehensive safety suites in the class, and it’s standard on every 2023 Corolla. In addition to the usual full-speed-range dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert, lane trace assist, road sign recognition, and auto high beams, the automated emergency braking now includes low-light pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection. Toyota’s Proactive Driving Assist is also included. It’s something of a mixed bag: the system can help keep a safe distance from other cars on surface streets, but occasionally gets tripped up with phantom braking.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE Review: Hooked on a Feeling

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD: No-nonsense interior

Infotainment screen aside, little else has changed within the Corolla interior. It’s a minimalist space, almost too much, with the large plastic dashboard drawing undue attention. On the flip side, all of the physical controls are centralized for easy access. The low-profile center console doesn’t offer much storage, and those with larger phones might find the cubby ahead of the shifter too tight.

The two-tone fabric seats of this tester are reasonably comfortable, with a good level of squidge without feeling too soft. No sunroof means great headroom, too. The backseat is on the small side in this class, but it remains a perfectly functional space for three adults.

Overall, however, the Corolla interior still lacks the impressive classiness found in the Honda Civic, Mazda3, or even Volkswagen Jetta. This just isn’t that type of car.

Dollars and sense

Pricing for the 2023 Corolla family sticks to a narrow sub-$30k band in America, GR excluded. The L model is gone, which makes the gas LE sedan the entry point of the lineup, ringing in at $22,645 including destination. The Corolla Hybrid LE is just $1,250 more, and the Hybrid AWD LE just $1,400 above that. SE is the only trim available across gas ($25,045), hybrid ($26,295), hybrid AWD ($27,695) and hatchback ($24,060). XLE is now exclusive to the front-drive hybrid model, at the same price as the AWD SE.

Why no Corolla Hybrid AWD XSE or XLE? According to a Toyota US rep, the reason is price, as the company finds $30,000 a tough barrier for shoppers. Once they’re at that level, Toyota expects buyers to look at the Corolla Cross SUV instead.

In traditionally sedan-friendlier Canada, the Corolla Hybrid lineup features four trims: LE ($27,810 CAD), LE AWD ($29,310 CAD), SE AWD ($31,610 CAD), and XSE AWD ($36,010 CAD).

Final Thoughts: 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD First Drive Review

The 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD is an exceedingly pragmatic car. In a world of SUVs, the available all-paw grip is reassuring for those who may want to stick with an actual car, but worry about winter. It’s dummy easy to drive, and exceeds its already excellent fuel economy estimates without much effort. The Hybrid LE AWD in particular is a banging good deal, as one of the most affordable AWD models on the market, and one of the most fuel-efficient.

Sometimes you just need reliable transportation, and with the choice upgrades to its drivetrain, tech, and safety suite, the electrified Corolla should be a popular choice for commuters.


How much does the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD cost?

The new model starts from $25,295 ($29,310 CAD), including destination.

When can you buy the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD?

Dealerships began stocking the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid AWD mid-October.

Is the Corolla Hybrid available as a hatchback?

No, the hybrid model is sedan-only.

Become an AutoGuide insider. Get the latest from the automotive world first by subscribing to our newsletter here.


  • So dang efficient
  • So dang affordable
  • Excellent standard safety suite


  • Interior needs an update
  • Worse fuel economy than '22
  • Not as flashy as competitors
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

More by Kyle Patrick

Join the conversation
2 of 4 comments
  • Jordan Jordan on Dec 13, 2022

    Don't even waste your time trying to buy one. Toyota has an allocation system, you can't "build one to order" like other manufacturers, making it difficult to get a hold of the Hybrid LE AWD. The FWD models are slightly easier to find, and even those have on average, $3,500 added to the MSRP due to Dealer "Market Adjustment". You'd need to drive 60K miles at today's gas prices to even "break even" given the Hybrid price (plus market adjustment) over the cheaper and easier to get a hold of gas models.

  • Mark walton Mark walton on Jan 03, 2023

    if you are paying $3,500 over MSRP you are dealing with the wrong dealer. many sell at list price.