EXPERT REVIEW

2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Review: An Ideal Appliance

toyota corolla hybrid 2024 01 exterior front angle scaled jpg 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry
Photo of Brian Normile
Road Test Editor Brian Normile joined the automotive industry and Cars.com in 2013, and he became part of the Editorial staff in 2014. Brian spent his childhood devouring every car magazine he got his hands on — not literally, eventually — and now reviews and tests vehicles to help consumers make informed choices. Someday, Brian hopes to learn what to do with his hands when he’s reviewing a car on camera. He would daily-drive an Alfa Romeo 4C if he could. Email Brian Normile

The verdict: The 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a perfectly practical, affordable and efficient mode of transportation — especially when equipped with available all-wheel drive. If that’s what you’re looking for in a new car, it’s an ideal appliance.

Versus the competition: Until Honda’s 2025 Civic Hybrid debuts, the Corolla Hybrid sedan’s chief rival is the Hyundai Elantra Hybrid. The Toyota is more affordable and has more variety and available AWD, while the Hyundai is roomier and has nicer technology in its highest trim level.

One of my favorite relics of the Old Internet is a Craigslist for-sale advertisement for a 1999 Toyota Corolla. (Full disclosure: Cars.com is a better way to find your next car than Craigslist. Yes, they pay me and provide me with health insurance, but that doesn’t make that statement any less true.) With a warning that the ad contains adult language, you should go read it. It paints the 1999 Corolla as an incredibly boring but perfectly adequate method of transportation that’s also nigh unto indestructible.

Twenty-five model years later, is the Corolla much different? Toyota added an available hybrid powertrain to the sedan for 2020, and that hybrid got available all-wheel drive for 2023, but the formula for the Corolla remains otherwise unchanged. It’s practical, affordable, efficient (especially the hybrid) and, yes, boring. But is that a bad thing?

I spent time in a 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE with AWD to find out. Including options, its as-tested price was $30,483 (including destination).

Related: What MPG Does the 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Get in Real-World Driving?

No-Nonsense Driving

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Our test vehicle was the technically sportier SE trim level, which has a sport suspension, Sport drive mode, sporty-looking 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips and other go-fast looks. The driving experience, however, is not all that sporty. Ride quality — even with the sport suspension — is comfortable and composed for a compact sedan; bumps are felt in quick succession because of the Corolla’s short wheelbase, which increases harshness compared with larger vehicles, but it also delivers good isolation and body control. The Corolla Hybrid is nimble, but its steering feel is somewhat numb. The compact sedan benchmark for steering feel and handling is the Honda Civic, and the Corolla Hybrid is not as fun as the Honda. That’s in no way damning to the Corolla Hybrid, however, because that’s simply not its mission. Despite its sporty appearance, the Corolla SE’s goal is to get you from point A to point B as painlessly and efficiently as possible, and it does that as well as any car I’ve driven.

Power from the Corolla’s 138-horsepower hybrid powertrain is, again, perfectly adequate. The Corolla Hybrid is quick enough to keep up with traffic around town, and while it’s clear the powertrain is a bit strained doing so, it’s also strong enough to keep up with highway traffic; it responds adequately when extra power is needed for merging and passing. Its continuously variable automatic transmission gets the job done but results in lots of droning engine noise, with a “B” mode that engages engine braking when going downhill, but its effects are negligible without the requisite topography. The SE-specific Sport driving mode has minimal impact on the powertrain’s responsiveness or fuel efficiency. There’s also an EV mode for all-electric driving, but as in other Toyota hybrids, it only works at speeds up to 20 mph. It’s useful for navigating parking lots and stop-and-go traffic — where it engages automatically, so having it as a selectable mode is nearly pointless.

As in most Toyota hybrids, braking feel is something of a weak spot for the Corolla Hybrid; pedal feel is mushy, and it’s difficult to modulate the brakes. The Corolla Hybrid’s relatively light curb weight, however, might work in its favor as it’s less of an issue here than in other, heavier hybrids from Toyota.

Observed fuel efficiency was impressive throughout our time with the vehicle — you can check out our real-world fuel-economy report for more — but the Corolla Hybrid’s EPA ratings are lower than both the new Toyota Prius (up to 57 mpg combined) and the Hyundai Elantra Hybrid (up to 54 mpg). The Corolla Hybrid’s highest EPA rating is 50 mpg combined, but our AWD SE model is rated just 44 mpg combined — the lowest of the car’s various estimates.

Looks Like a Car, Quacks Like a Car

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While the new Prius is a stylish marvel, there are consequences for that style. We’ve found the new Prius harder to get into than its predecessor — and harder to see out of, too. Its low roofline also makes it difficult for taller passengers to fit comfortably in the backseat, and by our measurements, there’s less cargo space: 10.8 cubic feet versus the previous generation’s 13.1 cubic feet.

The Corolla Hybrid, meanwhile, has all the space and functionality of a regular Corolla (with the anonymous looks to boot). The sporty accents on the SE look great to my eye, but it’s still not exactly a showstopper. More importantly, I fit in the backseat of the Corolla Hybrid a hell of a lot better than I do in the Prius. It’s not perfect; at 6-foot, 1-inch tall, I am lacking headroom, but adults should be fine for shorter trips in the backseat. Longer trips with adults, however, may be a bridge too far: Cars.com Editor-in-Chief Jenni Newman packed herself and three other adult-size people in a Corolla Hybrid for a 200-mile road trip over the winter holidays, and there were complaints about headroom from the rear passengers. On the other hand, the trunk did manage to fit luggage for all four occupants and a number of wrapped gifts.

Let’s return to that ’99 Corolla ad for a moment:

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We already mentioned the “fancy” wheels on our test vehicle, but what else does it have?

  • Bluetooth: Yes, as well as USB-C charge ports and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
  • Sunroof: Technically it’s a moonroof, but yes when equipped with the optional Premium Package.
  • Rearview camera: Yes, as required by federal law. The rear window is still transparent, too, and you still probably have a [redacted] neck that can turn. And if you don’t: rearview camera.

The Corolla has come a long way in terms of comfort and convenience, but all of these features are expected in its class these days. Additional advanced safety features are standard as part of Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 suite, and our test vehicle also had optional blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, which came here as part of the same package that adds the moonroof (ranging in price from $1,220-$2,190, depending on trim level).

If we’re being nitpicky, I found the infotainment system’s 8-inch touchscreen a bit on the smaller side, especially compared with the optional 12.3-inch touchscreen available in the Prius, but it’s on par with most competitors. The interface is easy to use, and while we haven’t been overly impressed with the system in other Toyotas, it feels at home in a roughly $30,000 car. The physical climate controls below the screen are also welcome, and they were easy to use even when wearing winter gloves. The interior is heavy on hard plastic, however; I would’ve appreciated more padding or soft-touch materials, but this is an affordable car. That said, a little more styling oomph in the interior would go a long way toward making that plastic seem less cheap. The Honda Civic is, once again, the benchmark in this area.

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Practical Magic

What the Corolla Hybrid gives you for your money is practical and efficient transportation with a comfortable (if basic) interior and modern convenience features. I found its no-frills experience enjoyable even if the actual act of driving never crossed into truly “fun” territory for me. Are there other, similarly priced compact sedans that are fun to drive? The Honda Civic certainly is, and the Mazda3 is also a contender, but neither is currently available as a hybrid, and the variants that are fun to drive are more expensive.

As it stands today, the Toyota Corolla Hybrid sits atop my affordable compact hybrid sedan rankings. The Prius may be more efficient and more stylish, but it’s also pricier, and there are too many interior compromises for me. The Hyundai Elantra Hybrid is also pricier to start, and it’s FWD-only. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming Civic Hybrid performs, but as it’s not available yet, the Corolla Hybrid is still king in my book.

In the immortal (to me) words of the Craigslist ad, “You want a car that gets the job done? You want a car that’s hassle-free? You want a car that literally no one will ever compliment you on? Well, look no further.” The 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and that is a good thing.

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