2020 Toyota Corolla First Review
- Totally redesigned for 2020
- Lineup grows to include first-ever Corolla Hybrid
- New 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers 169 horsepower
- Available Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility
- Pricing starts $19,500 for base L model
- On sale March 2019
Toyota has injected new life into the front-drive Corolla. The all-new compact sedan is based on a longer version of the new Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform that underpins the Corolla Hatchback. The attitude and sportiness of the hatch, which went on sale last year, has been transplanted into the sedan thanks to a new optional engine and trading the rear torsion beam suspension for an independent set-up. As a result, the 2020 Toyota Corolla sedan has a more spirited feel.
Still, Toyota hasn’t lost sight of what people like about the Corolla – Toyota’s 12th-generation compact sedan is designed to be roomy, comfortable and quiet, and infused with the Japanese automaker's legendary reputation for reliability.
Five Trim Levels, Plus a Hybrid
With the 2020 Corolla, Toyota’s goal is to increase both fuel economy and power compared with the current model. The Corolla will come in five trim levels, with a choice of engines: The L, LE and XLE come with a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder mated to a continously variable transmission (CVT). It’s an updated version of the engine that’s in the current Corolla, but for 2020, the engine will have 139 horsepower, compared to the 2019 Corolla's standard 132. The 2020 Corolla also has better fuel economy -- the 2019 model’s combined fuel economy ranges from 30-34 mpg, depending on trim level, transmission and wheel size.
For 2020, the L and LE with the 1.8-liter engine have EPA ratings of 30 city/38 highway/33 combined mpg. The XLE, with more equipment and a bit more weight carries a 29 city/37 highway/32 combined rating.
Sport and Hybrid Fuel Economy
Among the Corolla Sport models, which have a the 2.0-liter direct injection 4-cylinder engine making 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, the SE model with the CVT is rated at 31 city/40 highway/34 combined mpg. The lowest fuel economy rating comes in the SE with the 6-speed manual, which is 26 city/36 highway/32 combined. The XSE ratings are 31 city/38 highway/34 combined mpg.
The fuel economy champ, however, is the new 2020 Corolla Hybrid, which uses a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor to put out a combined 121 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. That drivetrain is capable of delivering 53 city/52 highway/52 combined mpg.
New Look Inside and Out
The new Corolla definitely looks related to the current model, but there are styling changes that give the small sedan more attitude. While it’s on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as before, the front and rear track are wider, the front overhang is shorter and the car sits lower. Up front, there’s different styling depending on trim level, with more aggressive looks for the sportier SE and XSE models. The LED headlights have a narrow profile and the fog light treatment is noticeably different for the 2020 Toyota Corolla. Optional adaptive front lighting moves the light beams toward where you’re turning to improve visibility in corners.
Along the sides, body lines are better defined, and there are new tire options. The LE has 16-inch steel wheels with covers, the XLE comes with new 16-inch alloys with twisted spokes, and SEs and XSEs come standard with 18-inch wheels, a size that’s new to the Corolla inventory list. Rear styling has narrow lights and a long, narrow crease in the trunk lid. All 2020 Corollas use LED lighting, and sportier models use smoked lenses.
Inside, the Corolla XSE is airy and upscale, with a black and ivory color scheme on the doors, dash and seats. With the 2020 Corolla, Toyota moved the driver’s hip point down and back, making the seating position more comfortable. The seats have been redesigned, too, with new headrests and seatback shapes, and the SE and XSE’s seat designs emulate competition bucket seats. Cloth seat material is standard, and SofTex is available.
The Corolla has a lower roofline than in the previous model, but headroom hasn’t been compromised. Keeping with tradition, the Corolla's interior remains roomy. There was a strong emphasis put on a quiet interior, and Toyota made key changes to the powertrain, plus added generous amounts of strategically placed sound-absorbing materials in the cabin.
New Tech, Connectivity, Safety
There are plenty of appealing tech and convenience choices: The driver gets a 4.2-inch multi-information display (MID), and an optional 7-inch MID allows you to switch between an analog and a digital speedometer. At the top of the center stack of controls is an 8-inch multimedia touch screen with the Entune 3.0 multimedia system. (Entune includes apps that can use the vehicle’s GPS location to provide emergency assistance in the event of an accident; can remotely lock, unlock and start your car; and can connect as many as five devices though the 2020 Toyota Corolla’s in-car 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot.)
This pair is standard on every model except the L, which uses a 7-inch touch screen. The center display also serves as the information and control hub for such features as audio, vehicle settings and navigation. Sitting in a slim horizontal strip below the touch screen are knobs and buttons to control temperature settings. Except for air vents, the rest of the dash is essentially simple and clean. There are two USB ports, as well as Bluetooth, Amazon Alexa, and Siri Eyes Free. Entune 3.0 Audio Plus, standard on XSE and XLE (and optional with the SE models that have the CVT), adds several features including HD Radio, Sirius XM with cache, and Entune 3.0 Connected Services. Another option: a 9-speaker, 800-watt JBL audio system.
The 2020 Toyota Corolla also comes with an impressive array of standard safety equipment. The list starts with eight airbags and a backup camera, and continues with Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes vehicle stability control, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, and smart stop technology. Also standard: Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, road sign assist, a pre-collision system, lane-departure alert with steer assist and lane tracing assist. Blind-spot monitoring and brake hold are options.
Driving the 2020 Corolla
Even with its longer overall length, the Corolla sedan has the same spirited feel as the shorter Hatchback. The nimble dynamics of the Corolla is attributed to a number of factors including the fully indpendent suspension as well as the active cornering assist, which applies some braking force to the inside front wheel when cornering to sharpen turn-in.
For drivers wanting the best response, the XSE is the ticket to ride. In addition to the more powerful 2.0-liter engine, the CVT is equipped with a traditional first gear to give the car a snappier response on initial acceleration. Once the car is moving the transmission chores are handed off the the CVT belt and pulley system. This transmission also has 10 steps that can be sequentially selected through paddle shifters as well as a sport mode that holds specific ratios longer.
6-Speed Manual Available on Sport
The Sport models also benefit from a larger footprint that comes with the standard 18-inch alloy wheels. And it's one of the few compact sedans that has a 6-speed manual available for those wanting to wring out even more performance. The steering is direct, nicely weighted with good on-center feel. Overall, the Corolla has solid handling and stiff structure that's also well-damped and insulated from outside noise.
Although the standard models ride on smaller 15- and 16-inch wheels (the former for the L, the latter on the LE and XLE), the handling retains its crispness. However, there is less horsepower, and the CVT in these lower-priced models dispenses with the conventional first gear setup.
The Hybrid, which is the least powerful of the model line, uses its electric motor to help with initial acceleration. That instant torque helps improve overall driveability while at the same time delivering eye-popping fuel economy. If you want Prius fuel economy in a more conventional package, this model is for you.
The Hybrid also has the smallest wheels available, a 15-inch package that is designed to reduce rolling resistance and bump up fuel economy. As a result, hyper-miling and not handling is the Corolla Hybrid's strong suit.
I did have an opportunity to check out Toyota's smart cruise control and lane tracking capabilities in the Hybrid. The cruise control does an admirable job in taking the vehicle down from highway speeds to stop-and-go traffic, though it is a bit lazy on the acceleration side when speeds pick up. Still, it's a great way to reduce the stress of commuting. The lane tracing assist function, much like Nissan's ProPilot Assist system, will keep the vehicle centered in the lane. Its corrections are very subtle, so you don't have the sensation of battling with the car as you seek to maintain lane discipline.
With the engine upgrades and additional standard equipment Toyota says the price increases for comparably equipped models are quite modest, as little as $815 on LE models and $1,300 on the SE.
The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder base L model starts at $19,500. The LE is priced from $19,950 and adds larger 16-inch wheels among other features. The top of this range is the XLE which has an MSRP of $23,950. The 2.0-liter Sport models include the SE CVT at $21,950, the SE with the 6-speed manual at $22,650 and the XSE at $25,450. All Sport models come with a rear deck spoiler, 18-inch wheels, and sport seats. While the manual transmission SE is priced higher, it also includes some content like a leather wrapped sport wheel.
The Hybrid LE model is priced in the middle of the range with a sticker starting at $22,950. All prices exclude $930 delivery.
Where will the 2020 Toyota Corolla be built?
The Corolla will be built in three plants: in Blue Springs, Mississippi, at the same plant where the current Corolla is built; in Takaoka, Japan; and in Huntsville, Alabama.
When does the 2020 Toyota Corolla go on sale?
The 2020 Toyota Corolla will go on sale in March 2019.