What comes to mind when you think of the Toyota Corolla?
Engine: 2.0L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder
Output: 169 hp, 151 lb-ft of torque
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 31 city, 38 hwy, 34 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): Not yet rated
US Estimated Price: $26,380 including $930 for delivery
CAN Estimated Price: $30,000
Adjectives like affordable, efficient and dependable are likely top of mind. Undoubtedly, the automaker probably wishes you’d recall some the exciting performance-tuned models of decades past, but it’s unlikely most drivers associate any sort of pulse-quickening with the venerable Corolla.
In a bid to make its longstanding compact four-door appeal to more folks than ever, the automaker has overhauled it this year, focusing on technology and style like never before.
A Corolla for All
Borrowing design cues from the spicy-looking hatchback model that launched last year, the latest Corolla sedan, now in its 12th generation, is more visually interesting than perhaps it’s ever been, with a large grille, dagger-like headlamps and wheels spanning up to 18-inches. It’s a looker to be sure, though the Kia Forte is arguably a more handsome choice.
Ensuring there’s a version of this Corolla for every buyer and budget, Toyota is once again offering a broad range of models. The series is roughly split in two, with L, LE and XLE variants serving more mainstream customers while SE and XSE variants are sportier, dressed up with a few visual enhancements including special mesh grille inserts and smoked taillight lenses. They also benefit from a sport-tuned suspension.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
In addition to these offerings, a hybrid model will be available to American drivers for the first time. This fuel-sipping variant branches off from the midrange LE trim level, though it’s only estimated to account for about 10 percent of deliveries, at least initially. Leading the sales charge are LE and SE trims, the anticipated volume leaders.
ALSO SEE: 2019 Toyota Prius and Prius AWD Review
Bigger and Better
The new Corolla sedan and the hatchback version that debuted last year are, obviously, related. They share the same TNGA underpinnings, pluswi, similar styling, interiors, powertrains and more. But you might be surprised to learn some of their key dimensions are significantly different.
The four-door’s wheelbase, for instance, is 2.4 inches (61 mm) longer, totaling 106.3 (2,700 mm). This is identical to the outgoing sedan’s. The body is also 12.4 inches (315 mm) longer than the hatch’s, a significant difference. Other dimensions like width and height remain essentially the same.
ALSO SEE: Top 5 Best AWD Hatchbacks: 2019
As for trunk space, the sedan offers 13.2 cubic feet (374 liters), a far cry from the hatch, which has 18 (510 liters) with the seats up.
Thanks to that new architecture, which is shared with larger Toyotas like the Avalon and RAV4, the 2020 Corolla sedan offers big-car refinement. There’s a solidity to it that’s lacking in the outgoing model and that’s no surprise since it has 60 percent greater torsional rigidity. The ride is also free from harshness and its interior well shielded from intruding wind, road and tire noise.
Comfort is another high point. The front buckets are supportive yet plush and there’s plenty of stretch-out room in the aft compartment, however, it can be a little awkward to clamber back there because the rear doors don’t open quite wide enough. If you want maximum backseat legroom and overall interior volume the Volkswagen Jetta trumps this Toyota in each department, trunk space, too.
Like the Corolla hatchback’s interior, the sedan’s cabin is cleanly styled and upscale, with ample amounts of soft plastic and other high-quality materials. Fit and finish, a traditional Toyota strong suit, is predictably peerless.
One minor quibble about this interior is the center console’s paucity of storage space. The under-armrest bin, as well as the forward cubby, are both minuscule, pretty much spoken for by a wallet and sunglass holder. A few more nooks and crannies for stashing stuff would be greatly appreciated. Larger climate controls would be nice as well.
Tech for All
Other big-car features include standard Wi-Fi with high-speed internet offered by Verizon (in the U.S. — it won’t be available in Canada). You’ll find optional Qi wireless charging as well.
All 2020 Corolla sedans, save the entry-level L model, feature a standard eight-inch touchscreen. This display is home to the company’s confounding Entune 3.0 infotainment system, an offering that lags far behind what some competitors offer these days. Rectifying this potentially catastrophic connectivity situation, Apple CarPlay is standard, as is support for Amazon Alexa. Sorry, Google fans, Android Auto is not available, at least not yet. Its integration is a top priority for Toyota and the service will be available at a future date.
Giving the Corolla a leg up on rivals, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard equipment across the board. It bundles myriad useful driver-assistance aids into one package, including things like adaptive cruise control with lane centering, automatic high beams, road-sign recognition and more. Blind-spot monitoring is standard on certain models, optional on others.
Letting you rock out to your favorite tunes is an available 800-watt JBL sound system. In addition to its nine speakers, this arrangement is augmented by Clari-Fi, a music-restoration technology that can make highly compressed digital audio files sound much better.
Nuts, Bolts and Greasy Bits
The 2020 Corolla sedan’s base powerplant is a carryover 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. It will see duty in L, LE and XLE models. Mildly retuned, it cranks out 139 horses and 126 pound-feet of torque.
Available in SE and XLE trim levels is an enticing 2.0-liter engine. With port and direct fuel injection, a 13-to-1 compression ratio and variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust sides it delivers an impressive 169 horsepower with 151 pound-feet.
A continuously variable automatic transmission is essentially standard in the 2020 Corolla sedan, though SE models can be had with a slick six-speed manual gearbox. Augmented by automatic rev-matching it should provide more miles AND smiles per gallon than the CVT.
The fuel-sipping hybrid model is motivated by a version of the base 1.8-liter engine that’s paired with two motor-generators to form a continuously variable transaxle. A nickel-metal-hydride battery captures electrons as required and enables the car to drive solely on electrical power for very short distances, up to about half a mile. Total system output is 121 horses.
ALSO SEE: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review
Thanks to its new multilink rear suspension, the 2020 Corolla feels much more sophisticated than its predecessor, which featured an old-fashioned torsion beam. This advancement provides a smooth, well-controlled ride without any side-to-side jostling over larger bumps.
Acceleration with the base 1.8-liter engine quicker than you might expect but there’s no joy with this powertrain. Under heavy throttle, it sounds sick enough for intensive care and buzzes like a back massager.
On the other hand, Toyota’s new 2.0-liter engine is a delight. Smooth, potent and even husky sounding, it helps the Corolla feel light on its feet. The base engine is adequate but if you can afford it, the 2.0 is the one to get.
The Corolla’s CVT makes the most of both engines’ output while minimizing fuel burn. Fitted with a physical first gear, it’s supposed to provide a more direct feel when taking off from a stop, although this is debatable. Once the vehicle is moving, a multi-plate wet clutch hands torque shuffling duties over from those gears to the transmission’s belt and pulleys. Usually, this changeover is seamless, though occasionally a small judder is can be felt.
It may be better than ever, but this Toyota still trails the Honda Civic in driving dynamics and interior design.
Pricing and Fuel Economy
Keeping costs in check, the base price for an entry-level Corolla L is $20,430 including $930 in delivery fees. If you fancy parking a hybrid variant in your garage, plan on spending $23,880. The top-shelf XLE model goes for right around $26,380. Canadian pricing hasn’t been announced yet.
As you might expect, this car is supremely efficient, with most models delivering slightly different fuel-economy figures. Rather than laboriously spelling everything out, here’s a handy chart.
|Trim Level||MPG, City/Highway/Combined|
The Verdict: 2020 Toyota Corolla Review
The 2020 Toyota Corolla sedan breaks no ground in the compact-car world. Even with its swanky new interior and exuberant styling, this four-door is still a classically conservative effort from Toyota, one prioritizing comfort, efficiency and anvil-like reliability over more ephemeral attributes. Simply put, the automaker is playing to its base. In today’s world of hyper-partisan politics that sounds like a bad thing, but here it’s an asset because smoothness and dependability will never go out of style.
No, the Corolla is still not the most exciting thing on four wheels, but this car will have no trouble appealing to legions of drivers around the world, just as it has for the last 11 generations and five-plus decades. Look for the 2020 Corolla sedan at dealerships in just a few short days.
Discuss this story on our Toyota Forum