What Car? says...
So, you don’t want a diesel. The petrol cars you’ve looked at aren’t frugal enough and a pure electric car simply won’t cover the mileage you need. It’s a common conundrum for the modern car buyer. But before you tear your hair out, there could be an answer: a hybrid, like the Toyota Corolla.
Unlike a plug-in hybrid, the Corolla doesn't need to be charged overnight to get the best out of it – you simply treat it like a regular petrol car and let it sort out the electrical business for itself. Toyota has fitted a small electric motor to improve fuel economy or performance as necessary, and a little battery, which is charged by recovering energy from the brakes as you slow.
That's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this Toyota Corolla review. We'll rate it for performance, handling, interior quality, boot space, running costs and more, and let you know whether it's a better choice than those alternatives. If you're interested in an estate car version, we also have a full Toyota Corolla Touring Sports review.
When you're ready to buy a new car, of any make and model, we could also help you save thousands off the list price if you search our free What Car? New Car Buying service. It's a great place to find many of the best Toyota Corolla deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Toyota Corolla's entry-level 1.8 Petrol Hybrid 122 has a modest 120bhp, which means a relatively leisurely 10.9sec from 0-62mph. That's almost a second slower than the Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid 125, but it’s still more than sufficient for everyday driving and getting up to motorway speeds easily. The only time you’ll really wish for a bit more oomph is when you need to overtake dawdling motorists on country roads.
Suspension and ride comfort
Fancy a bit of pampering? Well, forget the spa and buy yourself a Corolla instead because, along with the Volkswagen Golf, it's one of the most comfortable cars in our family car category. It has softer suspension than, say, the Ford Focus, which means it smoothes off the rough edges of road ridges better and fidgets less on patchy sections of motorway.
Noise and vibration
One benefit of hybrid cars is that they're usually hushed when you're pootling around town because the electric motor can manage on its own in stop-start traffic. In the Corolla, progress is virtually silent and, when the petrol engine cuts in to assist, it doesn’t spoil the peace too much.
On faster roads, especially if you're going uphill, the petrol engine begins to whine. The blame for this lies with the Corolla’s CVT automatic gearbox, which causes engine revs to soar abruptly during moderate to hard acceleration and stay peaky until you reach cruising speed. The issue is more pronounced in the 1.8 than the punchier 2.0-litre.
Tyre and wind noise in the 1.8-litre are not suppressed very well, especially with bigger 18in wheels fitted. The 2.0-litre hybrid is better, with 'acoustic' side glass that seals out more noise, but the Focus is quieter at motorway speeds. The Corolla's regenerative brakes are better than in some rivals, allowing you to draw to a halt gently.
- The Toyota Corolla was the seventh best-placed hybrid in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey, with a strong overall score in a competitive car class. The Toyota RAV4 was the only higher-placed car made by the marque. Toyota also came a highly respectable joint fifth (with Mini) out of 30 car makers in our overall rankings for cars up to five years old. That’s well ahead of BMW, Mazda and Volkswagen, but a fraction behind Lexus, Dacia, Hyundai and Suzuki.Read more here
- The Toyota Corolla is only available as a hybrid, with a choice of 1.8 and 2.0-litre engines available with electrical assistance. Toyota was a hybrid pioneer, launching the Toyota Prius in the Nineties, and that tried and tested technology sits at the heart of the Corolla. The Toyota bZ4X is the firm’s first fully electric car.Read more here
- Our pick is the lower-powered 1.8-litre engine combined with the Icon Tech trim level. The engine is relatively modestly powered but adequate for most situations and very economical. Icon Tech is good value for value for money, adding front and rear parking sensors, a self-parking system and sat-nav, part-digital instruments and steering assist to the base Icon trim.Read more here
- Icon Tech is our pick of the range for providing the best balance of must-have kit and price. If you really want to go all-out, top-spec Excel is the one to go for. It sits above Design trim (which in turn sits above Icon Tech) and adds keyless entry, ambient interior lighting, sports seats with part-leather upholstery and 18in wheels to its privacy glass, LED foglights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and rain-sensing wipers. In our view, Excel makes the Corolla too pricey. Other trims are entry-level Icon and the high-spec, sports-oriented GR Sport.Read more here
- The Toyota Corolla’s infotainment system is one of the few weak areas in its make-up. It has a complex menu layout, sluggish responses to prods and a relatively low resolution screen featuring some very basic graphics. Sat-nav is standard from Tech Icon upwards. On a positive note, the 8.9in touchscreen is well positioned on the dashboard, making it easy to see and reach. All Corollas get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard so you can mirror your smartphone on the screen (highly desirable given the system’s drawbacks).Read more here
- If boot space is a priority, beware which engine you choose, because the 2.0-litre engine is larger than the 1.8, requiring its 12-volt battery to be located below the boot floor, eating into its storage capacity. The 1.8’s boot will swallow six carry-on cases, one more than the Volkswagen Golf but less than the Skoda Scala or unusually large Skoda Octavia. If you’re intent on buying a Corolla but need more space, consider the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate.Read more here
|RRP price range||£26,365 - £33,500|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||53.3 - 62.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||5 years / 100000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,255 / £1,863|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,510 / £3,726|