The 2023 Toyota Corolla Hatchback received a few updates including refreshed front and rear styling, additional driver-assist safety features, and a new infotainment system.
Two new exterior colours include Blue Crush and my tester’s Inferno, along with the XSE trim’s newly available 18-inch black-finish wheels. Built in Japan, the Corolla Hatchback starts in SE trim at $25,250, including a non-negotiable delivery fee of $1,760. The SE Plus is $27,150; the SE Upgrade is $28,790; and my tester, the XSE, rings in at $31,650 before taxes.
The updates for 2023 are a gentle and handsome restyling, including redesigned headlights, fog light surrounds, and new brightwork on the back bumper. The base SE comes with 15-inch steel wheels, while the SE Plus adds 16-inch alloy, and the Upgrade and XSE take them to 18-inch alloys. A two-tone paint scheme with a black roof can be added for an extra $540 or $795, depending on the body colour.
The interior is plain but good-looking, with an eight-inch touchscreen in the Plus and up, a stitched dash pad, and in my tester, two-tone seat upholstery.
The Corolla Hatchback gets the highest five-star crash-test rating from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It also gets a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That non-profit organization has updated its side-impact test to better simulate being struck by a larger SUV, and the Corolla Hatchback earns “Acceptable,” one down from the top “Good.”
All trims include full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-departure assist, lane tracing assist, road sign assist, emergency front braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and automatic high-beam headlights, along with the back-up camera that’s mandatory on all new vehicles.
The pre-collision system now gently brakes to slow down if you’re coasting but closing in too quickly on a vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist in front. All but the base SE also have blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The entry SE trim is fairly basic, but does include push-button start, LED headlights, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic air conditioning, heated mirrors, and 15-inch steel wheels. The SE Plus adds an eight-inch centre touchscreen, heated seats, wheel-mounted shift paddles, and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Upgrade gets a heated steering wheel, as well as 18-inch wheels and a wireless charger.
My top-line XSE tester then added an eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker audio system, seven-inch instrument cluster display, fabric and faux-leather seats, and fog lights. The Corolla Hatchback’s new-for-2023 multimedia system comes with subscription services, either for a trial period or available to add. These include safety and service notifications, mobile apps including for remote locking and finding the car, and navigation services.
Rear-seat entry and exit would be easier if those back doors opened wider, but otherwise the Corolla Hatchback is simple and easy to use. Cabin temperature is handled by dials; fan speed and vent modes by buttons; there’s a volume dial for the stereo; the shift lever is a regular P-R-N-D-L rather than an electronic knob or dial; the two-level seat heaters are buttons; and the controls on the steering wheel are intuitive and easy to use.
The centre screen’s icons are equally easy to figure out, and if you’ve opted for the drive connection subscription, saying, “Hey, Toyota” will awaken the virtual assistant, which can handle most climate and audio functions, as well as navigation requests.
The Corolla Hatchback is about mid-pack for headroom among some of its closest rivals. Front-seat legroom is good, and within a few millimetres of competitors such as the Honda Civic Hatchback, Kia Forte5, and Mazda3 Sport. All of those beat it easily for rear-seat legroom, where the Corolla isn’t really made for people. If you’re putting adults back there, they’ll want you to move the front seats ahead and hope it’s a short ride.
The trade-off is 660 L of cargo space – between the Honda with more, and the Kia and Mazda with less. But while the Toyota’s rear seats fold flat, they’re higher than the cargo floor. You must angle longer items in, rather than just slide them forward.
The front seats are supportive and comfortable, even on a longer trip; and legroom aside, the rear seats have more sculpting than the flat panels in many entry models – at least for those in the outer seats, as the poor soul in the middle perches on the ridge between them. The ride is on the firm side but still comfortable, and while there is more road noise than in some competitors, it’s not unbearable. All but the base SE have heated front seats, and the Upgrade and XSE include a heated steering wheel.
All trims use a 2.0L four-cylinder engine that makes 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, mated to an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and with front-wheel drive (FWD). The Corolla sedan offers a hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive, but neither are available with the hatchback body style.
It’s a peppy little engine and a good fit to this small car, smooth on acceleration and strong enough for highway passing. Some of its rivals offer more than one engine, including stronger turbocharged units, but when comparing the similar 2.0L engines in the Honda Civic, Kia Forte5, and Mazda3, the Corolla Hatchback tops all three for output.
Driving Feel: 9/10
It’s not quite a hot hatch – you’ll want the GR Corolla for that – but the Corolla Hatchback is a great little driver. The steering is quick and responsive, but light enough that it’s easy to manoeuvre in crowded parking lots. It’s sharp around curves, tucking in with a bare minimum of body roll.
That perky engine isn’t hampered by its CVT; these gearless units can sometimes feel a bit out of sync with the engine, known as a “rubber-band” feel, but this one feels more like a conventional transmission. There are paddle shifters on the steering wheel, which let you sequentially “shift” between simulated gears on the transmission – more a novelty than anything, but fun if you’re out on a winding road. A manual transmission isn’t available any longer, which isn’t surprising given their very low take-rate in this segment; for that, you must move up to the GR Corolla.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The Corolla Hatchback is rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 7.5 L/100 km in the city, 5.9 on the highway, and 6.8 in combined driving. In my week with it, I averaged 7.5 L/100 km. It takes regular-grade gasoline.
That 6.8 L/100 km combined is within range of close rivals with their 2.0L engines and automatic transmissions, but still holds the edge. The Honda Civic Hatchback is 7.2 L/100 km; and the Kia Forte5 and Mazda3 are both 7.7 L/100 km.
The Corolla Hatchback starts at $25,250, but most shoppers will likely move up to get more features. The SE Plus at $27,150 is likely the sweet spot, adding the larger centre screen, heated seats, and blind-spot monitoring. The four-trim lineup tops out with my XSE tester at $31,650.
The price is comparable to rivals, where the Mazda3 starts lower at $25,155; and the others are above with the Kia Forte5 at $25,290, and the Honda Civic is $31,960 (all prices with destination). But the base Mazda and Kia models have more features than the entry-trim Toyota for a difference of less than $100, including blind-spot monitoring and at least an eight-inch screen. At the upper limits, the Forte5 goes to $33,890; the Mazda3 to $38,355; and the Civic to $39,460, far higher than the Toyota, but all with their more-powerful engine choices.
The 2023 Toyota Corolla Hatchback isn’t perfect, but it has a lot going for it. It’s fun to drive without veering too far away from an everyday commuter; it scores well for safety; and it’s a sharp-styled little machine. If you prefer a hatch to a trunk, give this one a look.
|Peak Horsepower||169 hp @ 6,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||151 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||7.5 / 5.9 / 6.8 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||660 L|
|Model Tested||2023 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE|
|Price as Tested||$31,750|