Everybody seems to have a Toyota Corolla experience or memory. With more than 40 million Corollas sold globally in its lifetime, it’s one of the best selling cars in the world—this ubiquitous compact car has been a mainstay on roads everywhere and for a very long time.
New for 2021: The Corolla sedan gets a new Apex Edition this year, a sporty-looking, limited-production model with a unique bodykit, bronze exterior accents, and lighter 18-inch wheels. The engine remains the same 2.0-liter, 169-horsepower four cylinder, however. Toyota will produce just 6,000 of these sporty little sedans. Rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring are now standard on XSE and XLE models, and optional on every other trim except the base L.
Long a poster child for affordable and reliable transportation, the Corolla has now added style and luxury-car features to its repertoire, so it’s no longer the no-frills car you might remember. The popular car is now in its 12th generation and the first Corolla came out in 1966. The Corolla used to have the unfortunate reputation of being a boring car, but that’s just not true these days: It has a unique new style, an actual personality, and a ton of great features. A whole lot has changed during the Corolla’s lifetime, but one thing remains: The compact car is still the go-to vehicle for millions of people.
Currently available as a sedan and hatchback (and even a wagon in some markets), the Corolla Sedan is also available as a hybrid for the first time.
For the North American market, the Toyota Corolla is manufactured in Blue Springs, Mississippi, USA, and in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Pros/ New aggressive design / Standard safety tech and driver assistance features / Available body styles and hybrid
Cons/ Infotainment system feels dated and not user-friendly / Coarse base engine / Lacks interior storage cubbies
Bottom Line/ The Toyota Corolla continues to be a solid pick for drivers seeking reliable and affordable transportation. Its new style and tech really help seal the deal.
Table of contents
Toyota Corolla Powertrain
The current Toyota Corolla comes with three potential engine options, depending on the body style you pick. You’ve got three setups for the sedan, and just one for the hatchback.
Lower sedan trims start with a 1.8-liter inline-four engine. This engine is largely a carryover from the previous generation, and it produces 139 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque here. The sole transmission option is a CVT.
Mid-level sedan trims and every Corolla hatchback uses a larger, more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Power is up to 169 hp in the sedan, and 168 hp in the sedan; both produce the same 151 lb-ft of torque, however. With two liters, you’ve got two transmission choices: a six-speed manual, or a CVT. The CVT in 2.0-liter models features a physical first gear however, providing smoother starts.
Lastly, there’s the Corolla hybrid, available only in the sedan shape. This uses a smaller 1.8-liter, Atkinson-cycle inline-four. Efficiency is up, yet power is down, to 121 hp and 105 lb-ft of twist. Paired to a 53-kW electric motor however, this setup has a surprising amount of low-down torque. The Corolla Hybrid uses a CVT as well, for maximum fuel efficiency.
Toyota Corolla Features and Pricing
The big news for the new Corolla is that it comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), the automaker’s suite of driver assistance and safety technology. It includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, full speed adaptive cruise control, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. Other standard features include Apple CarPlay, an 8-inch touchscreen, Amazon Alexa compatibility, LED exterior lighting, and more. There is no Android Auto support yet.
Other available features include blind spot monitoring, remote connect (that works with an Apple Watches or a smartphone app), adaptive front lighting, a six-speed manual transmission with automatic rev matching, a sport mode, 18-inch wheels, wireless phone charging, 2.0 USB ports, a JBL nine-speaker audio system, and more.
The Toyota Corolla Sedan starts at $20,820 for the L trim. Going up from there, the LE starts at $21,270, the Hybrid LE at $24,395, the SE CVT at $23,270, the SE 6MT at $23,970, the XLE at $25,220, and the top-line XSE at $26,720.
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback has a simplified pricing structure, as there are only two trims available. The SE starts at $22,385 and the XSE starts at $25,335. The Hatchback is not available as a hybrid.
These prices include the $995 delivery and processing fee.
Toyota Corolla Recommended Trim
We’d skip the underpowered 1.8-liter models and recommend the Corolla SE. It’s a solid Goldilocks option within the range, with comfy seats and the stylish 18-inch wheels on the sedan: you’ll need to upgrade to the XSE for the hatchback for those. Both also offer a choice of transmissions, which is becoming increasingly rare even in this class.
If you’re focused on fuel mileage, the only option is the Corolla Hybrid. It’s a Prius without the strange looks.
Toyota Corolla Fuel Economy
All Toyota Corollas can run on regular, unleaded gas.
If you want maximum fuel economy, the Toyota Corolla Hybrid is the way to go, as it offers similar fuel economy as the famous Prius. The Toyota Corolla Hybrid is officially rated to get 53 mpg in the city, 52 on the highway, and 52 combined.
The Toyota Corolla Sedan with the base 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and the CVT is rated at 30 mpg city, 38 highway, and 33 combined.
With the upgraded 2.0-liter engine and a CVT, the Toyota Corolla Sedan is rated at 31 mpg, city, 40 highway, and 34 combined. You can also get this engine with the six-speed manual transmission, which drops the fuel economy down to 29 mpg city, 36 highway, and 32 combined.
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback with the 2.0-liter engine and a CVT is rated at 32 mpg city, 42 highway, and 36 combined. With the six-speed manual, fuel economy drops to 28 mpg city, 37 highway, and 31 combined.
Toyota Corolla Safety Rating
The Toyota Corolla has a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS in both Sedan and Hatchback forms. With standard forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, the hatchback even secured a Superior rating in the front crash prevention category of scoring. Besides that, it ranked Good across the board in the crash test categories and Acceptable for its headlights, though it got extra credit for having high beam assist.
Toyota Corolla Competitors
The Toyota Corolla competes with other compact cars like the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, Volkswagen Golf/Jetta, Subaru Impreza, and more. Most of these cars come in both hatchback and sedan body styles and are priced very similarly. The Corolla is the only one of the bunch that’s available as a hybrid, although the Honda Insight is positioned kind of like a Honda Civic Hybrid.
Future Toyota Corolla Plans
In the near future, we are expecting Toyota to come out with a performance-oriented hot hatch TRD version with 200+ horsepower to compete with the Honda Civic Si. We also wouldn’t be surprised if an AWD version of the Corolla came out to better compete with the new Mazda3 and the Subaru Impreza, which both have AWD.
2020 Toyota Corolla Review
By Craig Cole
What comes to mind when you think of the Toyota Corolla?
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.
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.
Bigger and Better
The new Corolla sedan and the hatchback version that debuted last year are, obviously, related. They share the same TNGA underpinnings, plus 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.
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.
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.
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.
L 30/38/33 (city/highway/combined)
LE 30/38/33 (city/highway/combined)
LE Hybrid 52/52/52 (city/highway/combined)
XLE 29/37/32 (city/highway/combined)
SE 6MT 29/36/32 (city/highway/combined)
SE CVT 31/40/34 (city/highway/combined)
XSE 3/38/34 (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.
|Engine /||1.8L 4-cylinder / 2.0L 4-cylinder|
|Horsepower /||139 / 169|
|Torque /||126 lb-ft / 151 lb-ft|
|Drivetrain /||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission /||CVT or 6-speed manual|
|Seating Capacity /||5|
|Cargo Capacity /||13 cubic feet|
Our Final Verdict
The Toyota Corolla offers drivers many options for body styles and powertrains and even goes a step beyond its competitors by offering a hybrid model. A reliable, efficient, comfortable, and practical car, the Corolla is much more luxurious, stylish, and fun-to-drive than you might remember and now offers a lot of excellent technology that was once reserved for more expensive models. While the Toyota Corolla isn’t the absolute best car in its segment, we can easily recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable and reliable car but doesn’t want to sacrifice tech and style.3.7
|Space and Comfort||8.0|