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More Grip, At a Price: The 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE AWD

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid front 3/4 view

"Everything all at once" is a decent partial title for a movie, but sometimes in cars, it can backfire.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid rear 3/4 view

See, to our American brains, tuned to instant gratification, the idea of a hybrid car in a "sport" trim with all-wheel drive sounds like the best of all possible worlds.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid hood up

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid powerplant

And while the all-wheel drive in the 2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid does what you can reasonably expect all-wheel drive to do in a compact sedan (give you a bit more traction in inclement weather), it also does a number on the number that Toyota Corolla Hybrids sell on---the EPA fuel economy average.

The number that's most impressive in the Corolla Hybrid lineup is the hyper-miling LE's, which, in front-wheel drive form gets an EPA-estimated 52 mpg combined city/highway. Regular readers will recall that I got an indicated 61 over the course of a week in the one I drove last year. If that was a faulty trip computer, nobody at Toyota bothered to let me know. When you move from LE to the next trim level, SE, the laser-focus on economy shifts a bit. The combined average drops to 46 mpg. Add all-wheel drive, and it falls further, to 44. And that's only 7.5 better than a gasoline-powered Corolla.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid trunk

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid rear seat

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid front seats

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid front seat detail

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid instrument panel

Beyond that, well, hey---it's a Toyota Corolla. Essentially the hallmark of compact sedans for 55-ish years. Practical and reliable as the day is long, and that day is the summer solstice.

All-wheel drive also adds to the cost of a Corolla Hybrid. Our tester had a base price of $27,695 (including destination). That's $1,360 more than a front-wheel drive Corolla Hybrid SE and $3,800 more than a FWD Corolla Hybrid LE (the fuel-miser base model).

As is typical for Toyota, you get a decent amount of standard equipment---in the case of the SE AWD, a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels, a "sport" drive mode (which would likely hurt your mileage further), Toyota's comprehensive active safety suite, a sport mesh black front grille, automatic LED headlights, color-keyed rear spoiler, sport rocker trim, a single exhaust with dual chrome tips, an eight-inch touchscreen with a six-speaker audio system including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Audo, sport fabric-trimmed seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid steering wheel and gauge cluster

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid center console

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid touchscreen and HVAC

Our tester also carried a healthy bunch of extra-cost options---the SE Premium Package (blind-spot monitor on color-keyed heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, with rear cross-traffic alert, and a power moonroof) added $1,220, the "Preferred Accessory Package w/AWFL" (beats me, and I tried looking it up), is $631, an upgraded nine-speaker JBL premium audio system with amplifier and subwoofer put another $600 on the tab, a frameless Homelink mirror is $175 and alloy wheels locks contributed $67 to the bottom line of $30,388.

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid front view

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid side view

2023 Toyota Corolla Hybrid rear view

The Toyota Corolla is pretty much unassailable as a smart buy in compact sedans. But attempting to mash-up Hybrid, AWD and "sport" ends up diluting the appeal of this particular model.


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