(Editor’s note: Automotive authority and East Haddam, CT resident Steven Rossi joins RIDE-CT today providing reviews of new cars.)
EAST HADDAM, CT – Toyota’s Corolla is one of the automotive industry’s longest-running nameplates. Since 1966, more than 50 million such sensible sedans have been sold, which makes the 2023 edition a bit of a surprise. That’s something I discovered recently while driving a demo model for a week.
Traditional, staid styling has been superseded by what is now a more dynamic presence. With its sharply raked windshield and sculptured front and rear fascias, the Corolla (which means “little crown”) does indeed project some jewel-like design distinction.
It’s svelte, aerodynamic image sparkles, particularly in its optional Ruby Flare pearlescent paint scheme, but not to the extent of being gaudy or overdone. A delicate, color-keyed rear spoiler and black sport rocker trim is also included.
But the sportiness doesn’t stop there.
Toyota has been working hard to reposition itself as a fun-to-drive car company, and the Corolla demonstrates such newfound commitment. A low center of gravity is combined with a sport-tuned, multi-link rear suspension, firmer-feel electronic rack and pinion steering and available 18-inch wheels with low, 40-series cross-section tires.
That translates into a responsive and confidence-inspiring driving experience along the twisty two lanes.
On the open road, the “super-rigid” (according to Toyota) body structure means that the accommodating Corolla is both spacious and quiet. The steep windshield does take a little getting used to, though. While it’s not extraordinary, it is a bit out of the ordinary.
Inside, the Toyota delivers comfort and convenience, and unfortunately, some compromise.
The cabin is quite accommodating. Particular attention has been paid to sound deadening and premium feel. Soft touch, matte interior elements have been paired with a bit of gloss trim and silver accents to convey what is a rich, warm environment. A small, eight-inch touchscreen is a bit on the skimpy side while the instrument cluster’s 4.2-inch Multi-Information Display is shrouded and thus a bit dark, with diminutive digits.
The Corolla SE Hybrid that I drove included on-demand all-wheel drive. It has a dedicated electric motor to automatically supply power to the rear wheels. Under the hood, a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder with 138-horsepower was mated to an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). There are three driving modes – sport, normal and eco. And there’s a special, engine braking “B” gear shift position.
With Toyota serving as the Prius (the industry’s Hybrid leader) parent company, the Corolla Hybrid was seamless in operation. It delivers 47 city/41 highway mpg. The tachometer drops to zero and an Eco light comes on when driving on electric power.
The SE was also loaded with safety systems that come under the umbrella of “Safety Sense 3.0.” There’s a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Proactive Driving Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist and more.
Long story short, it’s a bundle of active safety features that takes a bit of the decision making out of your brain and into a computer, which is a bit too much for my liking. It not quite in keeping with Toyota’s “Let’s Go Places” sporting intention.
The 10 air bags, back-up camera, whiplash-injury-lessening seats, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and stability control are more practical passive safety enhancements.
Toyota sells some 250,000 Corollas annually in the U.S., with most coming from its Blue Springs, MS plant. Hybrids are assembled in Aichi, Japan.
While pricing starts at $21,700, my SE AWD Hybrid stickered at $30,404. With JBL premium audio, power moonroof and next-gen multimedia included, this 2023 Toyota Corolla redefines the routine, indeed…
(Photos of Toyota Corolla in white are courtesy of Toyota)