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Toyota Corolla hybrid review 2023: ZR hatch


The ZR hybrid is the current flagship of the Corolla hatch range, so is it worth its higher asking price?

Good points

  • Great to drive
  • Fuel efficient powertrain
  • Supportive and comfortable seats
  • Crystal clear 12.3-inch instrument cluster
  • Engaging chassis
  • Arguably the prettiest Toyota hybrid

Needs work

  • No spare wheel
  • No wireless Android Auto
  • Limited rear seat room
  • It’s an expensive hatchback
  • Powertrain could use a little more oomph
  • Large 18s sharpens ride

The Toyota Corolla has somewhat of a rock star status here in Australia. Ask anyone what they know about the Japanese brand and it’s likely they will mention the humble Corolla.

It’s been on sale in Australia since 1966, beginning with the KE10 with its front-mounted side mirrors and tiny 1.1-litre petrol engine.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 rear 3/4

Twelve generations on, the Toyota Corolla has become, at times, the world’s best-selling vehicle, even at one point surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle. It’s seriously popular, then, and things haven’t changed in Australia, either.

In 2022, Toyota sold a grand total of 25,284 Corollas, with 69.5 percent of all available hatchback and sedan versions sold being hybrid variants.

The Corolla nameplate continues to be a mainstay in the Australian automotive industry, so there is no better time than now to find out what makes this model so popular locally.

So that brings me to the current 2023 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid, here in hatch form though it’s also available as a sedan. And in five-door guise, the ZR Hybrid formula certainly exudes a style that I consider to be the best lookers of the current Toyota hybrid lineup.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 front 3/4 close

On paper, it certainly also seems to offer the sort of goodness that stacks up against its key rivals.

But it will need to shine in the experience given that the ZR grade appears a pricey proposition given that buyers can climb into more affordable Corolla variants with a similar powertrain, or migrate to a roomier and more practical mid-grade Corolla Cross for similar money.

What are the Corolla ZR Hybrid’s features and options for the price?

Toyota’s flagship Corolla hatch, the ZR Hybrid, is priced from $38,970 before on-road costs for the two-tone version we have here on test. Version with single-tone paintwork list for $37,620.

Currently, this very vehicle is priced at $43,482 driveaway (NSW, as an indicative price only), making it one of the most expensive (non-performance) hatchbacks on sale in Australia. But what do you get for your money?

Starting inside the cabin, the ZR Hybrid includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, an eight-speaker JBL sound system, a wireless phone charger and a head-up display.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 interior

Two USB-C ports, sports bucket seats trimmed with red leather, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and heated front seats are also included, along with dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation.

The Corolla ZR hybrid also has Toyota’s newest infotainment software, replacing the ageing format that was used for many years.

This same software can be found in the new Corolla Cross small SUV and is being rolled out across Toyota’s wider passenger car stable.

While the Corolla ZR Hybrid is pretty well equipped for the price, it misses out on features such as an electrically-adjustable front passenger seat as well as rear USB-C ports for the kids.

How does the Corolla ZR Hybrid drive?

Setting off in the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid it’s not hard to see why this variant is so popular with Australian buyers.

Although this flagship of the regular lineup is far from a fully-blown GR performance version, the red-leather trimmed sports bucket seats make you feel like you are sitting in something with sporting intent.

Out on the road, the Corolla ZR Hybrid feels very comfortable to drive, with well-tuned suspension and a nicely balanced chassis.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 driving rear

While competitors such as the Mazda 3 opt for a torsion beam rear suspension setup, the Corolla’s independent rear end, and the wheel control advantage it promises, does seem to pay positive dividends on the road.

Across some of the worst roads you might find in suburban Sydney, the Corolla ZR Hybrid handles the bumps and road irregularities with ease.

Even out of traffic, where the speed increased up to 110km/h, the Corolla felt surprisingly supple for a hatchback. It’s not quite as pliant as lower-grade variants sat on 16-inch rubber, but it’s good nonetheless.

At our Chasing Cars road testing and filming facility, the Corolla handled the twists and turns of the circuit really well. I am almost certain this amply capable chassis could handle much more output and driver enthusiasm – I certainly look forward to sampling the harder-core GR Corolla some time soon.

Toyota Corolla ZR 2023 close

In terms of powertrain, the Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is powered by a recently updated (late 2022) fifth-generation 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid system – with a 13kW bump over its forebear – that now produces total system outputs of 103kW/142Nm.

While it’s not stated on Toyota’s website, the 2ZR-FXE hybrid powertrain uses a front-mounted electric motor that produces around 53kW of power and is linked to a small 1.3kWh battery pack.

While you certainly won’t be able to drive long distances in electric-only mode, the battery pack helps with start up and low-throttle applications and aids in the smoothness of the hybrid system’s character and delivery.

The powertrain is remarkably quiet regardless of motor/engine activation and the Corolla happily whirs away without much fuss at all. The CVT transmission mated to the Corolla ZR Hybrid’s powertrain works well, too, and doesn’t make a lot of noise.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 driving rear 2

When you do need to put your foot down, performance isn’t the Corolla ZR Hybrid’s main forte.

During our own private testing, the best the hatch could muster was a 9.29sec 0-100km/h pass – as a sobering comparison, we’d clocked a time nine-tenths quicker in the far less fancy Yaris hybrid (8.39sec) in the same conditions.

That said, driveability is good and once on the boil the ZR Corolla does get up to speed easily..

I love how the hybrid system works in the Corolla ZR Hybrid, with the transition between electric and petrol power so seamless. It’s also great being able to watch what the system is doing on the 12.3-inch instrument cluster.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 driving rear 3

I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to learning about electrical systems, so Toyota’s constantly updating hybrid diagram is a neat little feature that adds to the ownership experience.

Could this Corolla be the best driving Toyota Hybrid of the lot? The positives are certainly stacking up.

What is the Corolla ZR Hybrid’s interior and tech like?

Inside the Corolla ZR Hybrid, what immediately comes to my mind is just how premium this hatchback feels for the cost. Yes, at over $40,000 driveaway, you would half expect a decent place to spend time in, but the Corolla ZR Hybrid immediately feels like a pleasant to sit in, and that comes down to a few key factors.

Unlike other Corolla hatchbacks, the ZR Hybrid is fitted with sports bucket seats that are finished, in this case, with red-trimmed leather.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 steering wheel

They are brilliant, even for someone with a bigger frame like me. They have the perfect amount of side bolstering and are really comfortable for longer journeys. They also look the goods, too.

Other interior highlights include the lovely leather-wrapped steering wheel, soft-touch door cards and a soft central armrest. This is certainly the most premium Corolla I have ever been in, but I guess it should be for its outlay.

Technology-wise, there are two screens at play here: a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and an 8.0-inch central touchscreen. The instrument cluster is really clear and easy to read and is well laid out.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 front seat

As mentioned earlier, it’s always good to see the hybrid system working in a helpful diagram, all of which you can see in this very instrument cluster.

The 8.0-inch centre touchscreen, meanwhile, uses Toyota’s newest infotainment software. And let me tell you, it’s a big improvement over the old system.

It’s much easier to use, quicker to react and far less outdated-looking, though I did feel that the 8.0-inch screen was a little on the smaller side, especially considering the Corolla Cross is available with a larger 12.0-inch touchscreen on some grades.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 touchscreen

Connectivity to the touchscreen is available wirelessly for Apple CarPlay though you’ll need a cord for Android Auto. Connection seemed fast and relatively easy to set up, however as I’m an Android Auto user, it’s a little annoying not being able to connect your phone if you don’t always carry a cord with you.

Jumping on to interior space, the Corolla ZR Hybrid is arguably more of a two-seater than a five seater when it comes to adult roominess.

There’s plenty of room up front for two adults comfortably, however with the front seats in their regular positions it’s a very cramped affair in row two. There is some toe room, though knee room and headroom are both on the tight side.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 back seat

Make no mistake, the back seats of the Toyota Corolla would be fine for kids or teenagers, but not for adults on longer journeys. There are rear air vents for the back seat passengers, however there isn’t any USB connectivity back there to keep the kids entertained.

Opening up the boot, the ZR Hybrid hatch has the biggest boot of any Corolla thanks to the removal of any form of spare tyre.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 boot

Instead, you get a tyre repair kit, however this won’t be very helpful in the event that you actually get a flat. Still, 333 litres is a big improvement on the rest of the Corolla range’s measly 217 litres of boot space.

All in all, the Corolla ZR Hybrid does a lot right with its interior, however I wonder whether a small SUV might be the better way to go. It all depends on your lifestyle, with the Corolla ZR Hybrid an ideal choice for singles or couples.

Is the Corolla ZR Hybrid a safe car?

Back in 2018, the current Toyota Corolla hatch was awarded a five star ANCAP safety rating that applies to all petrol and hybrid variants.

The Corolla scored an impressive 96 percent rating for adult occupant protection, along with a 83 percent rating for child occupant protection.

Toyota Corolla ZR 2023 crash test

The Corolla ZR Hybrid is really well equipped in terms of standard safety features, and includes the following:

  • Seven airbags 
  • Lane trace assist 
  • Lane departure alert 
  • Pre-collision safety system with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Road sign assist 
  • Auto high beam
  • Adaptive cruise control 
  • Blind-spot monitoring with safe exit assist 
  • Rear cross-traffic alert 
  • Reversing camera 
  • Hill start assist 
  • Active cornering assist 

What are the Corolla ZR Hybrid’s ownership costs?

The Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is offered with a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing for this model is priced at $245 per year, or $1225 over five years. Service intervals for the model are every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.

In terms of fuel economy, Toyota claims that the Corolla ZR Hybrid can achieve as low as 4.0L/100km, however we didn’t get quite that close during testing.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 taillight

During a fuel economy run, we managed to get the Corolla down to 4.6L/100km with a 50/50 mix of highway and urban driving. However, more realistic driving throughout busy Sydney during my week with the car, it returned around 5.6L/100km.

That’s certainly not bad by any means, but it’s definitely thirstier than the frugal three-cylinder hybrid setup found in the Yaris and Yaris Cross. I did expect to see better figures considering the hybrid nature of the vehicle.

The honest verdict on the Corolla ZR Hybrid

The Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is a sporty hatch that is both great to drive and good to look at. Toyota’s hatchback is also a very solid choice if you’re after a dependable, efficient, quiet and refined small car.

It does so much well, like being a comfortable and frankly stylish daily driver, as well as one of Toyota’s best drivers’ cars.

Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid 2023 front 3/4 thumbnail

But there is always a but, and for me it comes down to price. The Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is an expensive hatchback, especially when you consider the cost of some of its core rivals, like the Hyundai i30 and the Mazda 3.

It’s also got limited cargo space and a cramped backseat which makes me want to lean more towards the small SUV segment where the likes of the Corolla Cross can be had for a similar outlay.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

1798 cc
72kW at 6000rpm
142Nm at 3600rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
43 litres
4L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
1075km (claimed)
Front Wheel Drive
Single gear
4375 mm
1790 mm
1460 mm
Unoccupied weight
1370 kg

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