New Car Review: 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

  • April 23, 2024

The typical EV costs about 40 percent more than an otherwise comparable vehicle with an engine. Plus, it costs a lot more (about $50,000 on average) regardless. So it’s hard to make an economic case for an EV.

Or a practical one – given that the typical EV can only travel about 250 miles before it runs out of charge – and requires you to stop and wait for at least 20-30 minutes to recover a partial charge.

But it’s much easier to make a case for the hybrid Corolla. It only costs about $1,450 more than an otherwise identical (just non-hybrid) Corolla and it doesn’t cost much, regardless – just $23,500 to start or about half the cost of a typical new EV.

You also get a lot for the not-much-extra you pay.

How’s about 20 miles-per-gallon better gas mileage than you get with the non-hybrid Corolla sound?

Pretty good, right?

What It Is

The Corolla is Toyota’s entry level sedan and one of the best selling cars ever made. Probably in part because even though it’s a compact-sized car on the outside, it’s spacious enough inside to work as a small family car and not just a commuter car. It also has a long-established track record for reliability and durability.

The hybrid version adds 53 miles-per-gallon (in city driving) to the mix, for only about $1,500 more to start for the base LE trim ($23,500) than you’d pay for the essentially-the-same non-hybrid version of the Corolla ($22,050).


The $25,940 hybrid Corolla SE also only costs $1,450 more than the otherwise-the-same non-hybrid SE ($24,490).

Same goes for the Nightshade trim. There’s only a $1,450 difference in price between the hybrid version ($26,940) and the non-hybrid version ($25,490).

And there’s almost no difference between the price of the top-of-the-line XLE hybrid ($27,250) and the non-hybrid version of the same thing ($27,150).

What’s New For 2024

The Nightshade trim returns for the new model year; this version of the Corolla hybrid gets unique black body cladding and rear spoiler, along with a special bronze-anodized 18 inch wheel package specific to this trim.

What’s Good

Twice the range (almost 600 miles in city driving) of most EVs for less than half the cost of the typical EV.

Fill up the tank in less than five minutes – as opposed to waiting 20-30 minutes to get a partial charge.

Roomy enough to be feasible as a primary family car.

What’s Not So Good

There’s no spare tire (not even a temporary use “mini” spare). Instead, you get an inflator kit that can repair punctures in the tread – but not damage to the sidewall.

Top-of-the-line XLE is front-drive only.

Under The Hood

The hybrid Corolla has a smaller (1.8 liter) four cylinder engine relative to the larger (2.0) liter engine that’s standard in the non-hybrid Corolla. The latter’s engine makes 169 horsepower and does all the work of propelling the non-hybrid Corolla, which is why the mileage of the latter (32 city, 41 highway) while very good isn’t as spectacular as the 53 city, 46 highway touted by the hybrid.

And the reason it’s so spectacular isn’t due primarily to the fact that the 1.8 liter engine is smaller or that it makes less power (136 horsepower) but rather because it only has to do some of the work of propelling the hybrid Corolla. Much of the rest is done by the hybrid’s electric motors, which are powered by a battery pack that is kept charged up by the engine (when it’s running) and by recovering some of the kinetic energy of the moving Corolla during deceleration and braking.

And that’s why the hybrid goes 20-plus miles farther down the road on a gallon of gasoline in city driving – which is where the hybrid system is most efficient. There’s also a 5 MPG gain on the highway, which isn’t insignificant, especially when considered in the context of the hybrid’s only slightly higher base price vs. the non-hybrid Corolla. And unless you do all – or most – of your driving on the highway, your overall MPG gain will likely be much higher – which will quickly amortize the slightly higher MSRP of the hybrid.

There’s another gain to consider, too.

The hybrid Corolla can go just shy of 600 miles on a tank, which is twice as far as the typical EV can go before it runs out of charge and obliges you to wait while it recharges. Since the Corolla hybrid recharges itself, your wait is the two or three minutes it takes to pump 11 gallons into the tank.

And unlike the typical EV’s advertised range – which very often turns out to be 20 percent less-than-advertised – the Corolla hybrid really does go as far as advertised. In part because it is much less negatively affected by how cold it is outside – because its engine produces heat to warm the cabin, which has zero effect on range.

Something else that’s different about the hybrid Corolla is that it’s available with all-wheel-drive. The non-hybrid is front-drive-only. There is a slight MPG penalty to be paid – the AWD hybrid’s mileage dips to 51 city, 44 highway – due to the additional weight of the additional motor that is used to power the rear wheels and the power that’s burned turning the rear wheels.

Both iterations of the Corolla – the hybrid and the non-hybrid – come standard with a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission to drive their front wheels.

On The Road

One of the best things about driving the Corolla hybrid is not having to think about how far you can’t drive it. And how soon – and long – you’ll need to wait to be able to drive it again.

As opposed to what it’s like to drive an EV – which forces you to think about it obsessively, continuously. Chiefly because of the wait – to recharge – which can make a mess of your plans, if you didn’t plan to drive farther than you expected to need to drive – and now you’ll need to plan around how far the EV can go before it can’t go any farther.

That can really upset your plans. As well as your life.

The Corolla hybrid just goes – along with your plans and generally. Six hundred miles of city driving range (and more than 500 miles of highway driving range) equate to not having to plan around how far you can’t go. This Toyota does everything an EV doesn’t – and for about half the price.

Except for going very quickly – the one thing you relentlessly hear EVs do adeptly. And that’s true – about EVs being quick when it comes to acceleration. But you pay dearly if you use that capability much, because it takes power to accelerate quickly and – in an EV – that power is the charge stored in the battery, which is quickly depleted by acceleration because it burns a lot of energy to move a heavy EV from a dead stop to 60 in three or four seconds.

So you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Besides, the hybrid Corolla is quicker than a Prius used to be (the recently updated Prius is now quicker than some V8 muscle cars used to be). The FWD version can get to 60 in about 9.6 seconds – which is about a second quicker than the last-generation Prius – and it’s only slow in a pedal-to-the-metal stoplight drag race. Most cars – including “ludicrous speed” electric cars – accelerate tepidly when the light turns green. Odds are you’ll beat the EV next to you to the next red light – if you want to do that.

If, on the other hand, you just want to have enough power available to get from A to B with the flow of traffic – without feeling as though the car is always struggling to catch up – then you’ll find the hybrid Corolla is quick enough.

It is also more than pleasant enough.

The Corolla – hybrid or not – is an easygoing, no-hassles car that makes driving it . . . pleasant. Part of this flows from its controls, which are not overteched for the sake of being overteched. There’s a grab-handle gear selector; you move it forward and back – fromPark to Drive – and that’s all there is to it. There’s an analog speedometer and tach and nothing much to distract from that. There is a secondary LCD touchscreen, but there are also redundant knob-and-button controls to make adjust the temperature, fan speed and volume control for the stereo.

There’s a reason why this car is the best-selling car ever made, by any car company. Get behind the wheel and see for yourself.

At The Curb

By the numbers, the Corolla (hybrid and not) is a compact-sized sedan. It is 182.5 inches long. But don’t go by the numbers.

At least, don’t go by that number.

The numbers that matter more are inside.

The driver and front seat passenger have 42 inches of legroom, which is almost exactly as much front seat legroom as the mid-sized (192.1 inches, end to end) Camry sedan, which 42.1 inches of front seat legroom. The Camry does have more backseat legroom (38 inches) but the Corolla has enough backseat legroom (34.8 inches) to accommodate adult passengers and more-than-enough to accommodate kids and teens. This makes the Corolla – which is several thousand dollars less expensive than a Camry – a viable, more affordable family car.

Even the trunk is only slightly less roomy than the Camry’s – 13.1 cubic feet vs. 15 for its mid-sized sibling.

There is also the Corolla’s unassuming looks to consider. Toyota has always taken care to style this car conservatively, so that it ages gracefully. This year’s Corolla doesn’t look that much different from a ten-year-old Corolla and that helps retain value, as people tend to not want to drive a car that looks old quickly – due to frequent and radical restyling.

Something else to consider is the built-in sensibility that has long defined the Corolla. Fo example, the car still comes standard with steel wheels. Aluminum wheels have their virtues – including lightness and including that aluminum can be cast in an almost limitless variety of designs. But aluminum is also more easily damaged; and aluminum wheels cost a lot more to replace than steel wheels.

Here’s another: The Corolla has manual-adjust (rather than power adjust) seats. These adjust the seat – forward and back as well as up and down – just as quickly as electric/push-button adjust and are much less likely to ever need repair, being mechanical rather than electro-mechanical mechanisms.

One more: The dash isn’t digital and so won’t “glitch.” It just works. Like the rest of this car.

The Rest

Finding anything to nitpick about this car is not easy to do. You have to really look. And pop the trunk.

What you won’t find there is a spare tire. Not even a “mini” spare – one of those temporary-use-only things that will at least let you limp on down the road to a tire shop. Instead, Toyota provides an inflator/repair kit. This takes up much less space under the trunk floor than a spare and jacking equipment – and it will get you back on the road again without getting your hands (and clothes) dirty if you get a flat because you ran over a nail or something like that.

The provided goop will seal the puncture and the mini air compressor (which plugs into the cigarette lighter) will re-inflate the tire. But if the sidewall got punctured, the kit is useless – and you will have to call for a tow/roadside assistance.

The Bottom Line

The Corolla hybrid begs the question more people ought to be answering, which is why would anyone want to drive an EV when they could drive something like this, instead?

. . .

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