The Toyota Corolla is the world's best-selling vehicle, having sold over 46 million units since 1966.
A large part of the car’s success comes down to Toyota’s familiar combination of comfort, quality and reliability. Toyota is looking to build on those fundamentals with the 2020 Corolla sedan which features a bold design, a new platform and three powertrains. In essence, they are looking to offer a Corolla for everyone – and they’ve largely succeeded.
A Bolder, Sportier Design
Toyota used to be synonymous with conservative and boring styling. That’s changed over the past few years as the company has cranked out more aggressive looking sedans such as the Avalon and Camry.
The 2020 Corolla is also much improved compared to its predecessor, featuring a sporty and elegant styling that follows in the footsteps of the Corolla Hatchback. This isn’t terribly surprising, and we’re sure a number of customers will embrace the sleeker look.
Toyota will offer six different versions of the Corolla and claims that there are three designs themes for the model: Modern, Hybrid and Sport. The Modern theme can be seen on the L, LE and XLE as each features a large trapezoidal grille that is flanked by standard LED headlights. The cars also have pronounced wheel arches, streamlined bodywork and slender LED taillights.
The SE and XSE have a Sport theme, which adds a unique grille and horizontal LED daytime running lights. The cars also have "Triple J" LED headlight accents, smoked LED taillights and extended side skirts, as well as a rear spoiler, dual exhaust system and 18-inch alloy wheels with black accents.
The Hybrid theme obviously applies to the 2020 Corolla Hybrid. It features a handful of special touches including an active shutter grille and special 15-inch alloy wheels.
The new Corolla is 0.8 inches (20.3 mm) shorter and 0.8 inches (20.3 mm) lower than its predecessor, which makes it more compact. The only figure that remains unchanged is the car’s 106.3 inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase, which means that interior space should be, more or less, the same.
A Spacious And Modern Interior
Moving into the cabin, drivers will be greeted by an all-new interior which has a distinctive dashboard, metallic trim and gloss black accents. Drivers sit behind a three spoke steering wheel, which unfortunately feels pretty cheap in lower end variants. However, higher end models have a leather-wrapped wheel that is far more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing as well.
Speaking of comfort, the Corolla comes standard with fabric seats offering six-way manual adjustment on the driver’s side and four-way adjustment on the passenger’s side. While these are fine, the SofTex sport seats in the XSE are far more comfortable as they provide better bolstering and support.
Most versions of the Corolla have an analog instrument cluster and a small 4.2-inch multi-information display that can be a bit hard to read. Higher end variants have a 7-inch display, which is both brighter and more legible.
Speaking of displays, the entry-level Corolla L has a 7-inch infotainment system, while the rest of the lineup gets a larger 8-inch display. Both have dedicated buttons which provide easy access to commonly used features. The systems are fast and responsive, yet a little plain as most screens are dominated by white text on a black background.
Drivers shouldn’t have to fiddle around with the infotainment system too much, as the Corolla (thankfully…) has dedicated climate and audio controls. However, owners who delve into the system will find Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and Scout GPS Link compatibility.
Thanks to the car’s 106.3 inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase, the cabin has plenty of head and legroom up front. Rear passengers also have a decent amount of space, providing those up front don’t have their own seats all the way back. The new Corolla has 13.1 cubic feet (371 liters) of storage space in the trunk; not that much, sure, but it can be expanded by folding the rear seats down.
A Powertrain For (Almost) Everyone
While the previous Corolla was offered with only one engine, the 2020 model has three distinct options.
The L, LE and XLE have a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 139 hp (103 kW / 141 PS) and 126 lb-ft (170 Nm) of torque. It is connected to a continuously variable transmission which sends power to the front wheels.
Unsurprisingly, this powertrain isn’t too remarkable. It doesn’t seem sluggish and the CVT works surprisingly well, but there isn’t much to get excited about. On the bright side, it is relatively fuel efficient as the L and LE variants are rated at 30 mpg city / 38 mpg highway / 33 mpg combined. The XLE is slightly less efficient, returning 29 mpg city / 37 mpg highway / 32 mpg combined.
Drivers looking for more power can opt for the Corolla SE or XSE. Both come with a new 2.0-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder developing 169 hp (126 kW / 171 PS) and 151 lb-ft (204 Nm) of torque, a noticeable improvement of 30 hp (22 kW / 30 PS) and 25 lb-ft (33 Nm) over the base engine.
The extra power isn’t the only change; the SE can be equipped with a six-speed manual or a Dynamic Shift CVT featuring a physical first launch gear. The manual livens up the driving experience and features rev-matching technology and gas also been designed to be forgiving and “fight” stalls caused by inexperienced drivers.
The CVT, on the other hand, feels more like a traditional automatic, largely due to its physical first gear which helps to improve off the line acceleration.
Despite being more powerful than the 1.8-liter engine, the 2.0-liter is actually more fuel efficient, too. The SE CVT returns 31 mpg city / 40 mpg highway / 34 mpg combined, while the XSE (which is only available with the CVT) is rated at 31 mpg city / 38 mpg highway / 34 mpg combined. The SE Manual has a slight penalty at the pump, with 29 mpg city / 36 mpg highway / 32 mpg combined.
Given the improved fuel efficiency and added performance, most consumers should consider upgrading to the 2.0-liter engine. It feels much quicker and the extra power makes the car much more enjoyable. That being said, the Corolla SE starts at $21,950, which makes it $2,450 more expensive than the entry-level L. That’s a sizable difference, but it does comes with additional equipment that helps to soften the financial blow.
Last, but most certainly not least, there’s the Corolla Hybrid, which deserves (and gets) its own dedicated review. It features a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor for a combined output of 121 hp (90 kW / 122 PS). While it’s the least powerful variant, it is also by far the more efficient, as it returns 53 mpg city / 52 mpg highway / 52 combined.
Comfortable, But Not Very Sporty
Like many new Toyota products, the 2020 Corolla rides on the TNGA platform. Thanks to this change, chassis rigidity climbs by a staggering 60%. This helps the car feel solid and composed, especially on the smooth streets of Savannah, Georgia.
All versions we drove were comfortable and even the larger 18-inch wheels on the Corolla XSE didn’t upset the ride quality. That’s pretty impressive, and there’s little doubt the sedan will be an excellent long distance cruiser.
Unfortunately, the driving experience focuses too much on comfort and not enough on sport. Some drivers will probably be happy with this trade-off, but given its specs, we were hoping the new Corolla would be a bit more entertaining to drive.
That being said, it is pretty nimble and can easily dart in and out of traffic. The steering is also light and predictable, while the brakes are strong and can bring the car to a rapid halt.
Loaded With Driver Assistance Technology
Every 2020 Corolla sedan comes equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver assistance systems. It includes commonly sought after features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and a pre-collision system which can detect pedestrians and cyclists. The model also has a standard road sign assist system which will display the current speed limit and orange outline if you’re speeding.
Other standard safety features include automatic high-beam headlights and a lane tracing assist system – on all models except the SE Manual – which helps to keep the car centered in its lane. There are also plenty of conventional safety features including eight airbags, stability control and traction control – just to name few.
A Solid Entry In A Shrinking Segment
The 2020 Toyota Corolla is the Swiss army knife of mid-size sedans, with an eco-friendly hybrid powertrain, an affordable base model and a sporting variant catering to the majority of the segment’s buyers’ needs. Customers looking for something more practical can also opt for Corolla Hatchback, which was introduced last year.
As a result, there’s a Corolla for everyone. Well, better make that nearly everyone: the only exception is a high-performance model and Toyota was coy on the possibility of a GR Corolla to battle the likes of the Honda Civic Type R.
Even so, the Corolla’s combination of comfort, space and safety will undoubtedly appeal to consumers. Toyota also has a sterling reputation for reliability and it’s likely the 2020 Corolla will continue the trend.
Given all of this, the 2020 Corolla is an excellent choice for consumers shopping for a mid-size sedan as it keeps its predecessors strong points and improves upon them by adding new technology and more powertrains.
Fans won’t have to wait much longer to get behind the wheel, as the 2020 Corolla is slated to arrive in dealerships next month with a starting price of $19,500 (excluding a $930 delivery fee).