2020 Toyota Corolla

By April 3, 2020

The 2020 Toyota Corolla comes in either sedan or hatchback form. The hatchback was new in 2019; the new sedan emerged for this model year.

Dimensions have changed only modestly, but the new 2020 Corolla sedan is wider and longer, and all Corollas come with extensive safety technology.

Sedans come in L, LE, SE, XLE, and XSE trim levels, along with the new LE Hybrid. Hatchbacks come in SE and XSE guise. Sportier SE and XSE sedans are fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, a chin spoiler, and aero stabilizing fins.

Three distinct powertrains are now available. All Corolla hatchbacks are powered by the 2.0-liter inline-4, which makes 169 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque. Either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) may be installed. The CVT incorporates a “launch” ratio for quicker take-offs. SE and XSE sedans also get the 2.0-liter engine.

L, LE, and XLE sedans carry over the 139-hp, 1.8-liter inline-4. Manual shift is offered only in the base model, and the 1.8-liter’s CVT lacks the “launch” ratio.

The familiar Prius drivetrain powers the new Corolla Hybrid. A 1.8-liter inline-4 teams with electric motors and an electronically-controlled CVT. The nickel metal-hydride battery pack squeezes beneath the back seat. Output totals 121 hp and 105 pound-feet. The LE Hybrid needs almost 10 seconds to reach 60 mph, but otherwise compares to gas-engine Corollas. Power and Eco modes are included.

Hybrid fuel economy reaches 52 mpg combined, according to EPA estimates, but electric-only driving range is only half a mile. A soft ride is ensured by 15-inch tires.

Crash-test scores are top-notch. The 2020 Corolla earned a Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS, which gave “Good” ratings for each test conducted. Frontal crash prevention was deemed “Superior,” and ease of child-seat use got the top rating. Both the sedan and hatchback earned five-star ratings overall, and for frontal and side impacts from the NHTSA.

All Corollas come with safety technology that dwarfs many competitors’ standard equipment. Every Corolla includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and active lane control. Blind-spot monitors can be added to some Corollas, and are standard on XLE and XSE sedans.

Model Lineup

Prices include $955 destination charge.

Corolla Sedans:

The Corolla L ($20,555), the base sedan, comes with the 1.8 -liter engine and CVT, as well as LED headlights, a fold-down rear seat, tilt/telescoping steering column, 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility, and 15-inch steel wheels.The LE version ($21,045) moves up to 16-inch steel wheels and an 8.0-inch touchscreen.

The sportier SE ($23,705 with manual, $23,005 with CVT) substitutes a 2.0-liter engine and adds cloth upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips, six-speaker audio with Bluetooth, and six-way manual cloth sport seats.

The XLE ($24,960) includes the 1.8-liter engine and CVT, adding a sunroof, synthetic leather upholstery, 16-inch alloy wheels, and eight-way power driver’s seat. The XSE ($26,505) upgrades to the 2.0-liter engine with CVT, including a sunroof, HD radio, and navigation.

The Hybrid LE ($24,055) includes gas/electric powertrain with CVT. Except for 15-inch alloy wheels, equipment is similar to gas-engine LE.

Corolla Hatchbacks:

The LE ($21,245 with manual, $22,345 with CVT) comes with the 1.8-liter engine and is equipped similar to the LE sedan.

The XSE ($24,195 with manual, $25,295 with CVT) has the 2.0-liter engine with manual shift and includes 18-inch wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, heated power front seats, and blind-spot monitors.

Exterior

The latest Corolla’s styling looks sharp on the sedan, but more forceful on hatchback bodies. Slim, J-shaped LED headlights wrap into the fender of both body styles, conveying a more upscale appearance. Body sides look more interesting. Steeper glass helps make both the front and rear ends more expressive. So do the flared taillights and bolder grille.

Despite its still-conventional overall shape, the 2020 Corolla sedan exudes greater dramatic appeal than any recent predecessors. Nothing is excessive; but nothing is plain or drab, either. Models with the larger engine ride on alloy wheels and include dual exhaust tips.

Interior

With its low console and shortage of seams, the 2020 Corolla steps away from the sweeping curves inside other Toyotas.

Fit and finish are good, and the seats are better than expected. Base seats are upholstered in relatively high-grade cloth, providing good support. Synthetic leather seat upholstery offers especially good grip. So do the sporty buckets in SE trim.

The front seats in the Corolla SE hatchback feature durable cloth, providing good bolstering and support. Padding on XSE seats can feel a tad thin. Hybrid seats have softer cloth but thinner cushioning. All seats are a bit short on lumbar padding.

Four adults fit readily into the 2020 Corolla. Front occupants enjoy ample space, though the dashboard protrudes, limiting forward seat travel. Even 6-foot drivers should have sufficient head clearance, but pushing the seat rearward cuts deeply into back-seat leg space.

Rear seats can feel cramped, though three medium-size riders should fit. The Corolla’s low roofline translates to restricted rear head room, even without the available sunroof. Six-footers might not feel welcome. Hatchback rear doors open wide, to ease access.

The Corolla’s dash design has moved upscale. Most models get a stitched panel with leather-like, textured material. The standard 7.0-inch touchscreen sits atop the dashboard. Apple CarPlay compatibility is included with the well-executed infotainment system.

Storage space behind the hatchback’s fold-down rear seats totals an adequate 18 cubic feet, with a low, wide cargo floor. Sedan trunks measure a more modest 13.1 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

Corolla drivers can expect greater flair than previous models offered, courtesy of the more powerful new engine. Smartly balanced road manners improve the experience, as does availability of a manual gearbox.

The 169-horsepower 2.0-liter engine isn’t the most refined, but performs energetically, yielding acceleration to 60 mph in less than eight seconds. Power builds up progressively, but not dramatically. Though not coarse or loud, the engine does seem to be always-present.

Toyota’s CVT behaves smoothly, while the 6-speed manual performs with a greater degree of slickness. Flicking a switch introduces rev-matching mode, for smoother downshifts.

Unobtrusively competent is the best description for the 1.8-liter engine, which is quieter and less vigorous. Acceleration still ranks around average, due to the Corolla’s low weight. Hybrid performance is fuss-free, comparable to the larger Prius, with predictably moderate acceleration.

With the CVT powertrain, a direct “low gear” launches the Corolla, then shifts to regular CVT operation. Unlike some CVTs, Toyota’s version doesn’t feel particularly lazy, though paddle shifters can stimulate the action.

Because the latest Corolla benefits from a much more rigid body, ride quality is comfortable and controlled. Even sportier versions feel attentive, but not stiff. Steering precision also has improved substantially. New electric power steering lets the Corolla track well and steer easily, with modest effort.

Gas mileage is great with the new hybrid model, but gas-engine Corollas also are thrifty. With manual shift, the hatchback is EPA-rated at 28 mpg city, 37 highway, 31 combined. Estimates rise to 32/41/35 mpg with the CVT, but XSE trim manages only 30/38/33 mpg.

The hybrid sedan earns an EPA rating of 52/53/52 mpg. With the 1.8-liter gas engine, a manual-shift Corolla L is EPA-rated at 29 mpg city, 39 highway, 33 mpg. CVT versions differ slightly: 30/38/33 mpg. XLE sedans are rated at 29/37/32 mpg.

With the 2.0-liter engine, a manual-shift Corolla is EPA rated at 29 mpg city, 36 highway, 32 combined; the CVT is thriftier, at 31/40/34 mpg, while the XSE manages 31/38/34 mpg.

Final Word

While it remains among the milder family compact sedans, the 2020 Toyota Corolla can no longer be branded as bland. In any trim level, it’s an excellent smaller-car value, with an eager 2.0-liter engine choice, plenty of safety technology, and softly compliant ride. Considering what’s included for its price, the XLE sedan is especially appealing. So is the ultra-thrifty new Hybrid sedan.

 

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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