Now there really is no reason to buy a Prius.
The Toyota Corolla Hybrid arrives for the 2023 Model year with some new tricks up its sleeves, the most important being an upgrade to its hybrid system and the addition of all-wheel drive to the hybrid lineup. A car that's excelled for decades on the idea that simplicity and reliability win the day, and Toyota seems to be taking a stab at energizing its image. The Corolla lineup has expanded substantially in its current 12-generation, now including the Corolla Cross and sporty GR Corolla. But it's the hybrid that stands to gain the most from its 2023 round of updates.
Up until now, front-wheel drive has been the only drivetrain option for Toyota's longtime best-selling vehicle. Underpinned by the company's modular TNGA-C platform, the fitment of AWD expands the Corolla Hybrid's appeal and leaves us questioning now more than ever whether the Prius needs to exist.
The "Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive" system uses an electric motor in the rear of the vehicle that seamlessly powers the rear wheels whenever it detects slippage at the front axle. It will also power the rear wheels to enhance cornering stability and mitigate understeer. It works in tandem with the hybrid system and is effectively the same twin-motor powertrain that has lived in the Prius since 2019.
Whereas the hybrid powertrain was previously identical to the Prius's, for 2023, Toyota has upgraded it to produce more power and torque. The 2ZR-FXE 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine works with two motor generators through a CVT. By adding two additional magnets to the drive motor for the transaxle/motor, Toyota was able to increase the system's output to 134 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque, up from 121 hp and 146 lb-ft previously.
These gains in power lead to a slight decrease in fuel economy. In FWD guise, this means an EPA-rated 47 mpg combined for 2023 as opposed to 52 mpg for 2022. In AWD guise, this leads to a 44 mpg combined rating. This isn't much of a tradeoff and one most people will hardly notice in real-world driving, but Toyota has also compensated for this by reducing the Corolla Hybrid's base price by $1,250; the range now starts at $22,800 for the Hybrid LE, $25,200 for the SE, and $26,200 for the XLE. AWD adds $1,400 to the LE's and SE's price.
The hybrid lineup now consists of five trims: LE, LE AWD, SE, SE AWD, and XLE - which is now only available with the hybrid powertrain for 2023. The new hybrid models also share the upgraded looks from their ICE siblings, which vary by trim, while the SE now gets 18-inch graphite-colored wheels and the LE trims upgrade to 16-inch wheels. The SE models also benefit from the stiffer suspension setup of their ICE counterparts and sport-tuned steering with heavier weighting.
For the new year, Toyota introduces the SE Infrared Edition as an available box to tick on the SE trim. Offered on both FWD and AWD models, it equips red accents inside and out. These contrast with the Infrared-specific color palette, a three-strong selection of either Ice Cap (white), Midnight Black Metallic, and Underground - a new color for 2023. Inside, the red accents include stitching on the shift lever, red door trim, and red-trimmed floor mats.
To round out the updates on the 2023 Corolla models, an eight-inch touchscreen is now standard with Toyota's new Multimedia System featuring over-the-air update capability, a virtual assistant, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity options, and more. All hybrid models also come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, which is a safety package that includes pre-collision warning, pedestrian detection, Lane departure warning, radar cruise control, Toyota Rear Seat Reminder, and intelligent auto high beams.