The Toyota Corolla has a decades-long legacy of providing millions of people all over the world with reliable, dependable transport. In 2022, it was beaten to the top spot of top-selling nameplates worldwide only by Toyota's RAV4 crossover, and stateside, it was the most popular compact car, selling over 222,000 units. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Hatchback - we review the sedan separately - returns with several upgrades to keep the sales momentum going, notably sharpened-up styling and upgraded standard equipment. Sadly it loses the manual transmission option and carries over the 2.0-liter inline-four engine with 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Compared to class leaders such as the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 hatchbacks, the Corolla is not very exciting or practical, but Toyota's cast-iron reputation has kept it at the top spot, and this year's changes make it even better value, especially considering its competitive starting price. So what's new, and can the changes tip the scales in its favor if you're in the market for a compact hatch?
Toyota improves the 2023 Corolla Hatchback's safety by upgrading last year's Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 to the new TSS 3.0 suite, which adds Deceleration Assist, Proactive Driving Assist, and Obstable Anticipation Assist. The eight-speaker JBL premium audio system that was part of the XSE Preferred package last year is now standard on the XSE, and the optional package falls away. Styling changes are minor but noticeable and include updates to the grille and bumpers. There are new headlights and taillights, too, poached from the GR Corolla, and both the 16-inch alloys on the SE and 18-inch items on the XSE are redesigned. The SE now also gets the XSE's Smart Key.
This year sees the discontinuation of the six-speed manual transmission, leaving just a CVT automatic. With the demise of last year's Nightshade Edition, there are now only two trims in the range: SE and XSE. The price of the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback starts at just over $23k in the USA.
The price of the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hatchback SE is $23,155 and the XSE will cost you $26,580. Keep in mind that these prices are the Toyota Corolla Hatchback's MSRPs and don't include extras or the $1,095 destination fee.
See trim levels and configurations:
There is nothing wrong with the way the Corolla Hatchback handles, and it will gamely hang on when thrown into a corner, with well-weighted and reasonably precise steering and good grip levels. It is unperturbed by bumps and ruts, and the supple damping soaks up all but the worst of road scars. But the keyword here is adequate, not exciting, and the car does little to delight the senses. The familiar naturally aspirated 169-hp 2.0-liter inline-four engine doesn't help either and offers rather limp acceleration. It gets going when floored, but then it revs coarsely and noisily in a way it's been criticized for in all the cars that use it. At least the novel CVT, with its torque converter and fixed first gear, is unlike most CVTs and mimics a standard automatic very well, mostly managing not to succumb to the dreaded CVT drone. Driven sedately around town, the car is quiet, comfortable, and responsive enough, but out on the highway, the lack of power and the unrefined engine takes its toll.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback is all the car many people need, and when it comes to dependably doing its job, year in and year out on the daily run in and around the city, one can understand why it is so popular. It is comfortable, safe, economical, and affordable, with the reassuring Toyota quality for peace of mind. But it's not the best car in its class, and the Civic and Mazda 3 are both far more powerful and fun to drive, while offering a more premium overall experience than the aging Corolla - at not too much of a price premium. The top-of-the-line GR Corolla is a different animal entirely and an absolute riot to pilot, but this bread-and-butter model delivers a middling performance in this class and a decidedly average drive.
The SE looks a bit skimpy on its small wheels and misses a few nice features, so we'd pass it over for the XSE, which looks the part with its 18-inch wheels and foglights, and this year comes as standard with the premium JBL audio system. Other desirable features that set it apart are blind-spot monitoring, leatherette upholstery, a wireless charger, a digital gauge cluster, and dual-zone climate control. For a premium of less than $3,500 over the SE, it's very good value.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Toyota Corolla Hatchback: