The Corolla is among the longest running automotive nameplates in history, dating back to its introduction in 1966. It's currently in its twelfth generation which debuted in 2018. Over the course of all these years, the Corolla has seen many iterations including sedans, coupes, hatchbacks, wagons and even a new crossover in 2022 called the Corolla Cross. For 2023, The Corolla received refreshed front and rear styling, a new standard 8" multimedia screen, a revised hybrid system, new trim levels and more. The current lineup includes both a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback. The sedan comes in four trim levels known as LE, SE, Nightshade, and XSE. The hatchback comes in three trims known as the SE, Nightshade, and XSE. Under the hood are three powertrain options. Standard on the L, LE, and XLE is a 1.8L 4-cylinder mated to a CVT that generates 139 horsepower. The rest of the lineup gets a 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to a dynamic shift CVT that delivers 169 horsepower. Also available is the hybrid model that pairs a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine with two motor-generators through a planetary-type continuously variable transmission to deliver 138 horsepower.
The Corolla Hybrid rolls into 2024 with the same great performance and power with up to 50 MG combined. All grades come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 and the latest Toyota Audio Multimedia system with wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The Nightshade Special Edition will also make its return, bringing back the bold style with blacked-out badging and black accents.
Competition includes other compact cars such as the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Mazda 3, and Volkswagen Jetta. Corolla Hybrid prices start around $23,500 for an LE and top off in the $28,000 range for a Hybrid XLE. With an expansive lineup and affordable prices, it's no wonder that Toyota has sold over 50 million Corollas to date making it the best-selling car of all time. I spent a week in a 2024 Corolla SE Hybrid AWD and here's what stands out...It looks more expensive than it is (+)
My test vehicle had an MSRP of $30,483 (with delivery) but everyone I asked to guess the price offered up higher price tags closer to the mid-30s for a hybrid. I start with this because first impressions are important, and it was refreshing to be behind the wheel of a good-looking car that surprised people by costing less than expected. The refreshed styling in 2023 keeps its fresh all around and stylish wheel designs add to its overall exterior appeal.Nightshade Edition (+)
Not every vehicle can pull off the blacked out look, but as noted above the Corolla does it well. Nightshade was introduced for 2021 but took 2023 off. It returns for 2024 with bronze-finished 18" alloy wheels, black accented bumpers, grille, mirror caps, side rockers, door handles, rear spoiler, shark fin antenna and badging. Based on the SE grade and available on the Corolla Sedan, Hybrid, and Hatchback, the Nightshade edition brings an extra touch of character to this feature-packed lineup. It's only available in three of the Corolla colors including Midnight Black Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, and Ice Cap. The package is exclusively aesthetic with no upgrades under the hood and is available on both the front wheel drive and electronic on-demand all-wheel drive models. All Corolla Hybrid Nightshade models will be powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve 138-hp engine paired to two electric motor generators that have a 47 MPG combined manufacturer estimated fuel economy rating.LED Lighting (+)
Another aspect that gives the Corolla a more premium feel is the implementation of LED lighting. Up front LEDs are available on all trims and high-grade versions with additional accent lights are upgraded on all except for the base L and LE models. The headlights wrap around to the fenders with a slim black trim piece in between. A series of three thin J-shaped LED strips in each headlight casing pair with lower fascia accents to give it a very futuristic autobot feel. Around back LEDs are also standard across the lineup with SE, XSE, Nightshade and Apex models getting a smoked trim treatment.Wheels (+)
The wheels on a car can really make or break an overall design. Thankfully Toyota offers a variety of wheel designs and sizes to go with various models. Everything above the L and LE get attractive alloy wheel designs while those base models come with 15 and 16-inch steel wheels paired with decent-looking wheel covers. I'm particularly fond of the variations of the 18-inch SE and XSE wheels that come in finishes such as a machined /dark gray combo or painted black. These details are what give the Corolla a more sophisticated look.Powertrain (+/-)
Hybrid models come standard with a 1.8L four-cylinder engine, two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack to deliver a combined 138 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. Front wheel drive is standard, but all wheel drive is available. Acceleration is leisurely with a 0-60 time of around 9 seconds. It has enough pep for around town driving, but when getting on the highway it feels sluggish. When trying to pass other cars, it's less powerful than you'd likely want, but will get the job done with some significant engine noise. It does seamlessly shift between gas and electric power.
The new Dynamic-Shift CVT combines the smooth, fuel-efficient performance of a CVT with the more direct driving feel of a traditional geared automatic. It utilizes a physical first gear for start-off acceleration, before handing off to the CVT's pulley system to help give more oomph. The CVT has a simulated 10-speed sequential shiftmatic along with a sport mode. Sport mode gives the Corolla a bit more pep and higher revs, but it sounds labored as you hit the gas and get into higher speeds. There is a sport mode that increases the throttle response for a little more driving thrill. Handling (+)
As an affordable, entry-level car I was impressed with the Corolla's ride. Around town it felt lively zipping around corners and through traffic. The car feels solid and grounded to the pavement rather than light and all over the road. Steering is precise and easily controlled, which makes this a very comfortable car to drive. The suspension is appropriate and provides a smooth ride with minimal body lean. The suspension absorbs road imperfections, and the available AWD is a nice bonus for anyone needing to battle inclement weather or uneven terrains. The eAWD system uses a dedicated electric drive motor to automatically supply power to the rear wheels for instant improvement in traction.Fuel Economy (+)
When the Corolla arrived with a full 11.4-gallon fuel tank it offered a range of over 500 miles. EPA estimates are 47/41/44 MPG city/highway/combined and after a week of routine suburban driving, I averaged 45 MPG. Ratings are good for the class but there are other hybrids that do better.Simple Interior (+)
The layout is simple, modern, and well-built. The materials are better than average and it's an easy car to get acclimated to. Standard is a traditional analog twin-dial cluster with a digital information screen to the right. Now available is a 7" digital gauge cluster that provides safety alerts, vehicle health information, and more. At the center of the dash is a standard 8" touch screen that wirelessly integrates with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The infotainment system is basic, but also both responsive and intuitive. The touchscreen is flanked by ancillary buttons and knobs to navigate the screen and make adjustments to both audio and climate controls. Upgraded features include wireless device charging, JBL premium audio, moonroof, USB-C ports, and automatic climate control.Seating (+ / -)
The Corolla seats five with sufficient head and legroom for the class. Two adults would be most comfortable in the back seats, three would feel tight. Rear seat headroom is even more limited in the hatchback. Standard seats come with durable cloth upholstery and require manual adjustments. Synthetic leather, heated seats, and power-adjustable seats are all available options. The seats offer class-appropriate comfort and the driver's positioning is comfortable with good visibility all around.
The front seats of the SE and XSE grades feature a unique shape with a headrest that nestles into the shoulder area as well as broader shoulder supports, while the LE and XLE grades offer a seatback with a new U-shaped pattern. This change from a conventional square seatback design gives it a sportier appeal and hints of a bucket seat versus basic economy car.Cargo / Storage (-)
There's limited storage inside with only a smallish center console compartment and two cup holders up front. The sedan's trunk offers just 13.1 cu.ft. of storage and the hinges on the trunk further limit what will fit in the back. As I'm often hauling kids around, I found this trunk to fill up quickly with backpacks and gear. The rear seats do fold down, but not flat, which is really only beneficial for slimmer items. Opt for the hatchback if you're looking for better cargo flexibility as it has both a wider hatch opening and accommodates 17.8 cu.ft behind the seats.
Standard Safety Features (+)
All models are equipped with Toyota's Safety Sense 3.0 which includes:
* Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
* Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
* Daytime Bicyclist Detection
* Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
* Lane Tracing Assist
* Automatic High Beams
* Road Sign Assist
* Proactive Driving Assist
Proactive Driving Assist is the latest technology added. When system operating conditions are met, using the vehicle's camera and radar, this system provides gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and/or steering to help support driving tasks such as distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist. Proactive Driving Assist is not a substitute for the Pre-Collision System and operates in different circumstances.
Blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is also available on some models. This system will detect vehicles approaching from either side and provide a warning if one is detected. Also available is brake hold which is a convenient technology that helps reduce driver workload while waiting at a traffic light or while driving in traffic. When the driver depresses the accelerator pedal, Brake Hold releases. Other safety features include ten airbags and the Star Safety System.Final Statement:
The Corolla is a well-known nameplate for a reason and its no-nonsense approach works well. This car wraps all your basic needs in a sporty looking package. The hybrid model is even more efficient and powerful than it has been in the past. Prices continue to be reasonable while offering a lengthy list of safety features and a long history of value and reliability. The car itself is built to last with quality materials and good craftsmanship. It may not be the most powerful member of the class, but it has enough spirit to be enjoyable.Pros:
Price, reliability, available AWD, standard safety featuresCons:
Limited cargo space, uninspiring power
First Impression Summary:Test Vehicle: 2024 Toyota Corolla
SE AWD HybridPowertrain:
1.8L 4-cylinder Dual VVT-i, HybridExterior Color:
Ruby Flare PearlInterior Color:
Gray ClothOptional Equipment:
Special Color ($425), SE Premium Package ($1,295), Mudguards ($150), Rear Bumper Protector ($89)MSRP as tested:
$30,483 (With Delivery/Destination)