The humble station wagon seems to be an endangered species, with lots of manufacturers discontinuing them in favour of crossovers and SUVs. But what if you don’t want an SUV? What if you’re a fleet buyer and still want a car park full of station wagons?

Well, Toyota has your back, they’re still producing the Corolla wagon. The range is limited, in New Zealand at least, with only the base GX trim level available, plus the wagon is sold out until mid-2024 so you’ll need to get on the waiting list. But we secured one to test out for a week.

What We Like and Dislike About The 2023 Toyota Corolla GX

What we likeWhat we don’t like
All the car you need
Well priced
Solid and well built
Ride and handling
A bit plasticky inside
Cruise corner speed
Rev counter

What’s In The 2023 Toyota Corolla Range?

Ignoring the Corolla Cross and GR because they’re different things, in base-level GX trim you have two Corolla options: hatch or wagon. Both feature the same 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid motor making 72kW of power and 142Nm of torque on petrol alone or a combined 103kW of power. Both cost $36,990

Somehow the wagon uses less fuel than the hatch with quoted figures of 3.8l/100km for the wagon compared to 4.4l/100km for the hatch. Otherwise they are very similar, with a few small differences in spec.

If you want choice in your Corolla you need the hatch, there are four trim levels and lots more colours. It really feels like the wagon is aimed at fleet buyers who want a base spec in a base colour.

2023 Toyota Corolla Standard Equipment Highlights

  • Pre-Collision System with Autonomous Emergency Braking
  • Pedestrian, Cyclist and Motorcycle Detection
  • Intersection Turn Assist
  • Emergency Steering Assist
  • All-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Reduction, Indicator-Linked Control and Road Sign Assist
  • Automatic High Beam
  • Lane Tracing Assist
  • Road Sign Assist
  • Active Cornering Assist
  • ABS
  • Brake Assist
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution
  • Hill-start Assist Control
  • Traction Control
  • Vehicle Stability Control
  • 6 airbags
  • 2 ISOFix with tether anchors
  • Reversing camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Triple LED Parabola Headlights
  • Door mirrors with Power Adjustments. Power Folding.
  • Smart Entry and Push Button Start
  • Single Zone Climate Control Automatic Air Conditioning
  • Electronic Parking Brake. Brake Hold
  • Wireless Apple Carplay
  • Android Auto
  • 8” touch screen
  • 4-speaker audio

Colours available are:

  • Glacier White
  • Frosted White
  • Silver Pearl
  • Eclipse (black)

How exciting!

For a full list of specs and options available for the Toyota Corolla GX head on over to the Toyota New Zealand’s website.

How Does The 2023 Toyota Corolla GX Compare To Its Competition?

There really aren’t any other wagons in this price bracket apart from the Skoda Scala, which isn’t a hybrid but is still really good on fuel with its 3-cylinder motor.

All prices below exclude the refund or additional cost of the New Zealand Clean Car Programme.

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
(excl CCP)
Toyota Corolla GX1.8-litre 4-cylinder petrol/electric hybrid103/14253.8598$36,990
Skoda Scala Ambition 1.0-litre 3-cylinder petrol turbo85/20055.7467$36,990

First Impressions Of The 2023 Toyota Corolla GX

The Corolla Wagon has quite a funky, modern design to its face, with scowly-looking slimline LED headlights, a narrow upper grille and a big wide lower grille. The 16” wheels give you a good-sized tyre profile for more comfort, and the side view looks, well, modern but dull. Similarly at the rear, it has some sharp lines in the rear lights, but the overall effect is pretty bland.

It’s what you imagine would be driven by the engineer who just arrived to service your office printer.

Something thing that caught my eye several times when walking around our review car was the panel gaps. The bonnet alignment didn’t look quite right to me and the boot definitely had a slightly wider gap on its left side. This is really unusual, particularly on a Japanese-built car.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2023 Toyota Corolla GX?

The interior feel of the Corolla wagon can be summed up as “basic”. The seats are neat, in dark grey cloth, with a little bit of side bolster, but you’re not going to be carving corners in this thing. They are really comfortable to sit in and would be great on a long trip.

It’s solid and well-built and feels like it will be durable, but there’s quite a bit of hard plastic around. There’s some piano black trim and silver edging that definitely lifts the cabin feel a bit, but the touch points are quite cheap-feeling. It has been a while since I held a polyurethane steering wheel!

What does stand out is the new 8” centre touch-screen, which is a huge improvement over Toyota’s previous system as seen in the GR 86 [link]. The resolution is much-improved, response is better, and it includes wireless Apple Carplay. Bluetooth pairing was seamless and it reconnected quickly, and back to Bluetooth every time. There’s a manual volume knob too, which we always appreciate. Despite having only four speakers, the stereo sounds really good, with good bass and clarity.

Under the screen are physical buttons and knobs for the aircon and demister controls. With more manufacturers moving towards touch controls, actual buttons are a good thing in my opinion. So much easier to use when driving.

The driver’s instruments are the traditional two dials; revs on one side and speedo on the other. In the centre is a 4.2” multi-function display for trip computer, digital speedo etc.

The steering wheel and the buttons feel quite plasticky, but are functional and well-laid out. Cruise control is set using buttons on the wheel spokes, which I much prefer to the extra stalk that many cars use.

At the front of the centre console there’s a good-sized cubby for your wallet and phone. There are two USB-C ports, and two cup holders in the centre console and there’s fair-sized centre cubby with a power socket inside, which has a padded lid to rest your elbow on. The glove box is a goos size too – we’ve seen a lot of cars recently with half-size glove boxes so it’s good to see Toyota giving you plenty of space for the things you need to carry around.

The driver’s seat has 6-Way manual adjustments and the passenger side has 4-Way manual adjustment.

The rear seats are just as basic looking, but comfortable with good leg room. Rear passengers get cup holders in the doors and centre armrest, and a small storage cubby, but no vents or USB ports. The seat back is 60/40 split foldable to give a massive load space of 1546 litres.

The boot is pretty big at 598 litres and has a low and wide opening for easy loading. There are side cubbies and metal loops to tie down your load if needed. One nice feature is there are handles in the sides of the boot to drop the rear seats, as well as on the seats themselves, so you don’t need to lean into the boot or open the side doors to drop the seats and get that long load in.

What’s The 2023 Toyota Corolla GX Like To Drive?

The Corolla has keyless entry and start, so just hop in and push the start button, and everything comes to life. Being a hybrid, the default setting is to use battery power, meaning a silent and smooth cruise out of your parking space. EV mode is limited to short distances by the 1.3kWh capacity of the lithium-ion battery under the back seat. When the engine does fire up it’s very smooth and quiet, and the transition is almost seamless. In fact when you’re driving along a faster road, the only way you can tell what’s powering you is the rev counter. 

This is one of my minor annoyances about the system. Going to battery power drops the revs needle to zero, then the engine kicks in and the rev counter flicks around to the right, then it drops to zero. It dances about like a mad thing and is distracting and, let’s face it, pointless. On a CVT-driven hybrid does anyone ever need to know the engine revs?

In traffic, the Corolla Wagon is effortless. It’s quiet and comfortable, the steering is light. If you end up sitting in a queue, the radar cruise control is your friend as it will come to a complete stop when needed, just needing a dab of the go-pedal or resume button to set off again. The cruise control system works really well. It slows down a little more on corners than it needs to, which I found a little frustrating, but if you just set-and-forget, and let it do its thing it will work flawlessly and make your long journey less stressful. It has some steering assistance, which works much more subtly than previous Toyota systems and is definitely more helpful than irritating – as some systems can be.

On the highway the Corolla seems stable and solid, handling well and giving you confidence that it’s safe. No doubt the battery in the rear helps with weight distribution. We’re not usually very complimentary of CVTs here at DriveLife as they can be noisy on acceleration and don’t gel with an enthusiast driver. But the Corolla wagon’s CVT never made itself known to me. Granted this isn’t a car you’ll take for a thrash on a country road, but in the week I drove the Corolla I just didn’t notice the transmission at all. It just worked, and that’s high praise.

There’s lots of safety systems on the Corolla Wagon, including blind spot awareness, which is great in traffic. Overall visibility is very good but it never hurts to have one more safety check.

It was mid-winter when I had the Corolla, and the heater seemed to struggle. I found that I had to crank up the heater to 23+ to feel comfortable. I did have the heather set to eco heat/cool so maybe that was the issue. There were a couple of really cold mornings where I wished it had heated seats.

Toyota quotes fuel consumption of 3.8l/100km for the Corolla. In a combination of town and highway driving I averaged 4.6l/100km. Still a very good figure for a medium-sized wagon.

2023 Toyota Corolla GX – Specifications

Vehicle TypeWagon
Starting Price$36,990
Price as Tested$36,990
Engine1.8-litre 4 Cylinder, In-line, 16 Valve Double Overhead Cam with Toyota Hybrid System
Power, Torque
72/142 petrol only
103kW hybrid combined
TransmissionElectronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission
Spare WheelSpace Saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1365-1400
Length x Width x Height
4495 x 1745 x 1460
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
(seats up/seats down)
Fuel tank capacity,
Fuel Economy,
Advertised Spec – Combined – 3.8
Real-World Test – Combined – 4.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
Not rated
Turning circle
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty3 year/100,000km
Safety informationANCAP Rating – not tested – 5 stars PMQ31

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Rob Clubley
I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!
2023-toyota-corolla-gx-hybrid-car-reviewThe likelihood is high that if you’re driving the 2023 Corolla GX wagon that your company provided it to you - and you’re going to be completely happy with it. It’s comfortable, has lots of safety features, a good stereo, and enough driver assistance features to make your journeys less tiring. If you bought it yourself, you’ll still be happy with it, it’s great value, has lots of space, and will be durable and reliable. It won’t set your hair on fire, but it will drive well, handle well, and be safe. Definitely a great choice for a basic entry-level station wagon.


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