6 Most Common Toyota Corolla Hybrid Problems (Explained)

The hybrid version of the Corolla was first introduced as a 2020 model.

It has the same engine and hybrid powertrain as the Prius, but comes in a more attractive and unassuming sedan body style.

The Corolla Hybrid has proven to be very reliable since it was released, but in this article, we’ll take a look at some of the issues owners have faced.

1. Dead Battery Issues

A number of Corolla Hybrid owners have reported that their 12-volt batteries routinely get drained when leaving the car parked and unused for several few weeks.

It usually happens if you don’t use the car for daily commuting or if you’re away for several weeks at a time.

Here is how a couple of owners described their experience:

“I’ve had my ‘21 Corolla hybrid for 3 months. No issues. This morning I get in my car, see the flickering overhead lights and dash. I try and start it and does nothing.”

“I picked up a new 2021 Corolla Hybrid about a month ago. Since then, the 12V battery has died twice. When I try to turn it on, I get a smart key malfunction error and everything kind of flickers. However the issue is the battery dying. The car is driven almost everyday. The first time it happened, it was after 2 days of no driving and this time it was after 1 day of no driving.”

Like other modern vehicles, the Corolla Hybrid always has some electronics running in the background even while it’s parked, such as the keyless entry system, which constantly draws some power from the battery.

The Corolla Hybrid’s 12-volt battery is also smaller than the non-hybrid versions so it has less capacity overall. 

Battery capacity also goes down in cold weather as the chemical reactions inside the battery slow down.

In addition, as the oil inside the engine gets thicker, the starter needs to work harder to turn over the motor which draws more current from the battery.

If the car is only driven for 20 to 30 minutes at a time at slower speeds, the battery doesn’t have much time to get fully charged.

Solution

If you’re not using the car regularly, Toyota recommends turning on the car and putting it into the ‘Ready’ state for around 30 minutes every couple of weeks to charge up the battery.

You can also hook the car up to a battery tender while it’s parked in your garage to make sure it’s always at full capacity.

If the battery keeps getting drained every few days, the battery itself may be defective and needs to be replaced.

Although most 12-volt car batteries typically last 3 to 5 years, there have been instances where new cars get fitted with defective batteries from the factory.

2. Poor Fuel Economy in Cold Weather

Several Corolla Hybrid owners have been disappointed with the car’s fuel economy in cold weather.

In moderate climates, the Corolla Hybrid can exceed 60 MPG if driving mostly through flat terrains and slower than typical highway speeds.

However, when the weather gets colder, the car’s hybrid battery has less battery capacity because the chemical reactions that allow it to produce energy become much slower.

Turning on the heater and other creature comforts also puts additional drain on the battery which causes the car to switch to gas power more frequently.

Here is how one owner described the issue:

“I live in far northern Minnesota and bought a 22 Toyota Corolla hybrid in January. We get really cold here, like minus-30 F on a regular basis, minus-40 when it’s cold.

So far I’ve been disappointed in both the mileage (mid-30s mpg) and the almost total lack of heat when it’s well below zero.”

Some people have even reported their mileage dipping into the 20s during the winter.

Solution

Unfortunately, fuel economy and electric range in any hybrid or EV will always go down the drain in frigid conditions.

If the weather isn’t too bad, you can turn off the heater and open the vents to let warm air in and significantly improve your fuel economy. 

This is where heated seats can really come in handy. Even if the heater is turned off, you can still feel cozy inside the car with just the heated seats and some help from the open vents.

3. Whirring Noise During Braking

A few Corolla Hybrid owners have complained about hearing a strange whirring whenever they use the brakes.

Here is one owner’s account:

“Just brought home a slightly used (11k miles) 2020 Corolla Hybrid. Often (but not always?) when I use the brakes (coming to a stoplight, parking in driveway) I hear a strange whirring/buzzing noise.”.

Hybrids are usually much quieter than regular gas-powered vehicles — especially when they’re running in all-electric mode — so some of the car’s noises are more noticeable.

Solution

The whirring noise is likely coming from the car’s electric brake booster or vacuum pump which pressurizes the brake system to give you better braking performance. 

The sound is completely normal and doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with the vehicle.

Non-hybrid vehicles use a mechanical pump that uses the vacuum from the engine to pressurize the braking system.

Since hybrids can run completely off the battery with the engine turned off, an electric pump is needed to make sure the brakes are always ready to go.

The Corolla Hybrid’s regenerative braking system will also produce sounds that could be considered as ‘whirring’ when the brake pedal is depressed.

The regenerative braking sound is produced when the car’s electric motor runs backward to charge the hybrid battery back up. 

You can check this if the sound comes on at the same time the screen shows that the battery is charging.

For other rattles and noises, you can take it to the dealer for a proper diagnosis. 

4. EV Mode Unavailable

The Corolla Hybrid has an “EV Mode’ button that allows you to run the car purely on battery power.

After pushing the EV Mode button, some owners receive an error on the dash saying that ‘EV Mode Unavailable Hybrid Battery Low’.

This error message can be quite concerning for new owners who might think there’s something wrong with the hybrid battery which is expensive to replace.

Since Electric Vehicles have become mainstream, one might assume that the Corolla Hybrid’s ‘EV Mode’ can be used for short trips. 

Unfortunately, the Corolla Hybrid’s battery is much smaller than a typical EV battery which means its only good for driving at very slow speeds and it can only last less than a mile in most circumstances.

Solution

Getting the ‘EV Mode Unavailable’ error is completely normal for the Corolla Hybrid and shouldn’t be considered an issue.

The Corolla Hybrid only comes with a 1.3 kWh battery and is significantly smaller than a typical EV battery which can go as high as 100 kWh. 

The ‘EV Mode’ is really only meant to be used for certain situations like if you’re trying to find a parking spot or if you’re stuck in stop and go traffic during rush hour.

Otherwise, it’s better to stick to ‘Eco Mode’ so that the electric motor and gas engine can work together to provide good mileage and preserve the battery’s capacity.

5. Electrical Wiring Damage

A lot of the Corolla Hybrid’s electrical wiring uses soy-based insulation which attracts rodents like rats and squirrels.

These small animals can easily chew through the car’s wiring and cause all kinds of havoc on the electrical system. 

This issue occurs in cars from lots of other brands as well. It’s not really a new problem since older cars also suffered from wiring damage caused by rodents even if they used rubber or plastic insulation.

But since soy-based insulation is biodegradable and edible, they’re much more prone to damage than before.

Solution

Parking the vehicle inside a garage reduces the chances of rodents and pests getting into your car’s engine bay and its other nooks and crannies.

It’s also a good idea to keep food, such as pet food and bird seed, away from the car so that rodents aren’t tempted to take up residence inside the engine bay.

You can also use traps and other deterrents to keep the rodent and pest population around your parking area to a minimum.

Related: How Long Do Toyota Corolla Hybrids Last? (12 Important Facts)

6. Won’t Start After Running Out of Fuel 

If the car runs out of gas and you keep on trying to start it back up, it will eventually go into ‘Safe Mode’ to keep the hybrid battery from completely discharging.

Even if you fill it up with gas, the engine won’t start once it has gone into ‘Safe Mode’. Even if it goes into ‘Ready’ mode, the dash will immediately throw an error message.

This is not really an issue, but a fail safe that’s built into all of Toyota’s hybrid vehicles.

Solution

To get the engine to fire back up once the ECU has entered ‘Safe Mode’, you’ll have to hook it up to a scanner and clear out all the codes. 

If the car still refuses to run, disconnecting the 12-volt battery might be able to reset some of the computers. Otherwise, you’ll have to get it towed to the dealer for further diagnosis. 

Toyota Corolla Hybrid Pros and Cons

If you’re considering a Toyota Corolla Hybrid as your next car you might be wondering what its strengths and weaknesses are…

Pros

  • Modern exterior and interior design
  • Decent amount of safety tech and features
  • Amazing fuel economy
  • Outstanding reliability

Cons

  • Prius gets slightly better mileage
  • Not particularly quick
  • Infotainment leaves a lot to be desired
  • No plug-in hybrid variant

Toyota Corolla Hybrid Reliability Compared to Similar Cars

Consumer Reports rankings detailed below is based on the model’s newest three years, the Toyota Corolla sits near the top, with a relatively good score of 75/100.

Make & ModelConsumer ReportsReliability Score
Subaru Impreza77
Toyota Corolla75
Honda Civic55
Hyundai Elantra55
Nissan Sentra54
Volkswagen Jetta47
Mazda346
Nissan Kicks45
Mini Cooper37
Toyota Corolla Hatchback27
Kia Soul23
Kia Forte7

Source: Consumer Reports

Toyota Corolla Hybrid Used Value

We’ve taken a look on Car Gurus to gauge the resale value of a Toyota Corolla Hybrid, below are typical asking prices for each model year.

According to Car Edge, a Toyota Corolla Hybrid will depreciate 21% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $19,177.

Note: Used model prices will vary depending on trim level.

Model YearMileage (miles)Resale Price 
20229,887$28,999
20215,062$25,971
202053,181$22,495

Source: Car Gurus

What Do Owners Like and Dislike About the Toyota Corolla Hybrid?

Based on owner feedback from the Kelley Blue Book site here are what real-life owners love and hate about the Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

Likes

  1. Fuel economy
  2. Quiet
  3. Comfortable
  4. Affordable
  5. Fun to drive

Dislikes

  1. Size
  2. Underpowered
  3. Hard to get in and out
  4. Slow acceleration
  5. Basic interior

Owners Reviews

“I would’ve never thought that a small hybrid, let alone any small car, would be this much a joy to own and drive…”

Source: Kelley Blue Book

“This car has great overall performance. It has all the safety features that are essentially required and it’s easy to drive.”

Source: Kelley Blue Book

“The car [2022 Corolla Hybird] is great, traded my 2021 Corolla Hybrid for it. My previous car was getting 64.3 MPG AVG for over 26,000 miles. Toyota needs to make a lot of commercials about the Hybrids they build. Better than all-electric cars by far.”

Source: Edmunds

How Reliable Are Toyota Cars?

According to a recent report from Consumer Reports, Toyota are ranked the 3rd most reliable car manufacturer out of 28 brands, with a score of 71/100.

RankingBrandScore
1Lexus76
2Mazda75
3Toyota71
4Infiniti69
5Buick66
6Honda66
7Subaru66
8Acura64
9Nissan63
10Mini60
11Hyundai56
12Chrysler54
13Porsche52
14Chevy48
15Audi47
16Cadillac47
17BMW45
18Ford44
19Kia43
20Volvo42
21Ram40
22GMC37
23Mercedes-Benz34
24Volkswagen31
25Genesis30
26Jeep26
27Tesla25
28Lincoln18

Source: Consumer Reports

Related: Toyota Corolla Hybrid Alarm Going? Off (12 Main Causes)

Sources

https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/toyota/corolla/

https://www.carcomplaints.com/Toyota/Corolla/

https://www.carproblemzoo.com/toyota/corolla/

https://www.kbb.com/toyota/corolla-hybrid/

https://www.edmunds.com/toyota/corolla-hybrid/

https://caredge.com/toyota/corolla/depreciation

https://www.cargurus.com/Cars/l-Used-Toyota-Corolla-Hybrid-d2840

Author:

  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

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