Expert Reviews

2023 Toyota Corolla Review

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

A perpetual bestseller for its brand, the 2023 Toyota Corolla has undergone some under-the-hood upgrades.

Gone is the 1.8L engine of old, with all gas-powered sedans getting the same 2.0L four-cylinder that was previously reserved for pricier trims. The Corolla also gets some new styling cues and a new infotainment system with subscription-based services, and upgrades to its driver-assist safety technology.

The 2023 Toyota Corolla L starts at $24,450, including a non-negotiable delivery fee of $1,760. Tested here is the LE that starts at $25,450, while its $2,050 upgrade package brings it to $27,500 before taxes. Then there’s the SE that’s $27,050, while the lineup tops out with the XSE at $32,150. Meanwhile, a hybrid version of the Corolla is also offered, and it’s now available with all-wheel drive.

Styling: 8/10

The Corolla’s mild refresh includes reworked front and rear styling, and all trims now have LED daytime running lights. The small upper grille and larger lower one bear resemblance to other Toyota vehicles, such as the Venza and Sienna.

It looks a bit heavy on this smaller model, but the profile is smooth and the rear end looks tidy, with horizontal body lines tying the taillights together. Inside, the cabin design is unchanged from last year, and it’s simple but handsome with the standard eight-inch centre touchscreen rising from the dash.

Safety: 9/10

The Corolla earns the top five-star crash safety rating from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It also earns a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It misses the top higher Top Safety Pick+ award due to earning “Acceptable” instead of the highest “Good” for the updated side and moderate front overlap tests, which now better simulate being struck by a large SUV.

All trims receive updated driver-assist safety technologies, including emergency front braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-tracing assist, road sign recognition, and automatic high-beam headlights. The second-from-base LE includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert along with 10 airbags and the back-up camera that’s mandatory on all new vehicles sold in Canada.

Features: 8/10

The entry L trim is fairly basic, coming with the aforementioned safety features plus manual air conditioning, 15-inch steel wheels, and the eight-inch multimedia touchscreen, which now includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (they were wired before), satellite radio, and a connected services trial including an emergency assistance button and stolen vehicle locator. The LE adds heated front seats, automatic climate control, 16-inch steel wheels, an electric parking brake, and a wiper de-icer. The optional LE Upgrade package ($2,050) further tacks on alloy wheels with locking nuts, push-button start, a heated steering wheel, wireless charger, and power sunroof.

User-Friendliness: 8/10

The Corolla’s controls are refreshingly simple, with buttons and dials for the climate system, a stereo volume dial, and intuitive icons on the centre screen. The steering wheel controls are equally easy to figure out, including the button-within-a-wheel on either side – a long-lived design that originally mimicked the iPod that was the must-have device at the time.

Visibility is excellent, with clear lines of sight including for shoulder checks. If I had one wish, it would be that the rear doors opened a bit wider to make it even easier to get in and out.

Practicality: 7/10

The Corolla’s 371-L trunk is easy to load, and it easily managed an oversized grocery haul. The rear seats fold 60/40 to handle long items, but the opening doesn’t span the full width of the trunk. Small-item storage up front is adequate but not spectacular; there’s an open cubby in front of the gear selector, which is where the optional wireless charger goes.

Comfort: 7.5/10

The Corolla’s front seats are supportive and stayed comfortable during a two-hour trek. I would have preferred a power driver’s seat, but that comes only in the top-level XSE. It’s tougher for those in the rear seats, where legroom is tight and the seat cushions are flat. The suspension tends to be noisy over bumps, but surprisingly, the ride remains relatively smooth and composed over all but the nastiest road imperfections.

Power: 8/10

Prior to this year, this LE tester would have had a 1.8L four-cylinder engine that made 139 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. Now it gets the same 2.0L four-cylinder as SE and XSE trims, making 169 hpand 151 lb-ft of torque. It’s a welcome upgrade, giving this little sedan better acceleration and more passing power on the highway. It’s still not a sports car, and the engine can be growly, but it’s fine for everyday driving.

The engine drives the front wheels through an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT). This one, dubbed a direct-shift, includes a first gear that engages when you first take off; it then goes to the more fuel-efficient gearless CVT pulley system. This gives the car a snappier and more conventional feel when taking off from a stop.

Driving Feel: 8/10

The Corolla doesn’t offer much in the way of steering feel, but it’s responsive and feels well-planted. It stays composed around turns, with far less body roll than you get with taller SUVs. The brakes stop it confidently and with good pedal feel. It’s pretty much what you’d expect in a mainstream compact car, and that’s a compliment.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The Corolla LE, with its new 2.0L engine, is rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 7.4 L/100 km in the city, 5.7 on the highway, and 6.7 in combined driving. In my week with it, I averaged 7.1 L/100 km; it takes 87-octane gasoline.

Its rivals are fairly close, with the Hyundai Elantra rated at 6.7 L/100 km combined; the Honda Civic is 6.9; and the Mazda3 is 7.6; and all of them with 2.0L engines also.

Value: 8/10

The gas-only Corolla lineup starts at $24,450 and runs to $32,150, which puts it about midrange with competitors. The Hyundai Elantra is the least expensive, at $22,224 to $31,674; while the Mazda3 starts slightly lower than the Corolla at $24,260 but tops it at the highest trim at $34,460; and the Honda Civic runs between $28,115 and $35,180, all prices including destination.

At $27,500, the Corolla LE with its optional Upgrade pack might be the sweet spot for many buyers for its price and features list. The next-step-up SE adds such items as upgraded seat fabric, premium headlights, fog lights and a sportier suspension, but to get my tester’s sunroof, heated steering wheel, and wireless charger, along with 18-inch wheels, you must add the SE Upgrade package. Once you do, you’ve moved up $2,300 above my tester.

The Verdict

The Corolla is perpetually at or near the top for Canadian car sales, and for good reason: it delivers good fuel economy, it traditionally scores high for reliability, and it performs well – especially with the stronger engine now standard in all trims. Before you automatically head to a small SUV, take this compact car for a test-drive, too.

Engine Displacement 2.0L
Engine Cylinders I4
Peak Horsepower 169 hp @ 6,600 rpm
Peak Torque 151 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Fuel Economy 7.4 / 5.7 / 6.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 371 L
Model Tested 2023 Toyota Corolla LE Upgrade
Base Price $23,690
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,760
Price as Tested $27,600
Optional Equipment
$2,050 – Upgrade Package, $2,050