The 2020 Toyota Corolla begins the 12th generation of a car that’s historically numero uno in global popularity. One drive and we were convinced that it continues with the practicality and commuter comfort that the Corolla is historically known for, but adds an expressive new design, improved technology, and a powertrain option not previously available here.
Now riding on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, means it shares many hardware bits with both the Prius and Camry. Yet, despite the new platform, wheelbase is exactly the same as before. Still, shorter overhangs and a wider track give the little Corolla a lot more presence.
The engine is mounted lower in the new chassis too, which means a lower hood, improving driver visibility. Under that hood, there’s either an updated 139-horsepower 1.8-liter I4 with 126 lb-ft. of torque, attached to the expected CVT transmission. Or, optionally, a new 169-horsepower 2.0-liter I4 where you can replace the CVT with a 6-speed manual if you wish.
But the biggest mechanical news is that for the first time in America, the Corolla is available as a gasoline-electric hybrid. Using the Prius’ Hybrid Synergy Drive, it’s good for 121-combined horsepower and a Combined EPA rating of 52 MPG, a number we easily attained during our initial drive.
Both the new chassis, and along with it the increased quietness, have made things much more pleasant driving the Corolla. Even at higher Interstate highway speeds, our hybrid had ample power readily available. Now, the hybrid is no rocket, but despite a CVT, the engine never sounded buzzy or tinny even at full throttle. Plus, the Corolla chassis is very settled and solid at higher speeds.
Inside you will still find some hard made-to-a-budget surfaces around the cabin, but also space galore, as this is now considered a midsize car by the EPA. Seats are quite comfortable, with the Corolla no longer feeling “entry-level.” There’s less of a penned-in cockpit style of before, and all but base L grade get an 8-inch touchscreen for multimedia. Gauges are a modern take on the traditional Corolla setup; with an available 7.0-inch multi-information display that allows switching between digital or analog speedometers. The hybrid, naturally, has unique displays for energy monitoring.
A lower roofline, makes getting in the back seat a little more difficult than before, but once inside, space is generous as well. The trunk is roomy too, with a good 13.1 cubic-ft. of capacity; in both standard and hybrid forms.
Understanding that many Corollas are piloted by new or less experienced drivers, Toyota has made Safety Sense 2.0 standard across the board. And it’s quite comprehensive, with automatic emergency braking, Full-speed Dynamic Cruise Control, and even Lane Tracing Assist all included.
For our complete road test of the 2020 Toyota Corolla, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3905 that begins airing October 4, 2019. For a listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings and throughout the week on the MotorTrend cable network.
Toyota certainly has a way with hybrids, and it’s safe to say the Corolla’s role in our automotive future is a secure one. The efficiency of a Prius in a more familiar package that, dare we say, is a lot easier on the eyes, is a match made in practical car heaven.