A sales leader in its small sedan segment of the United States car market, the 2020 edition of Toyota's Corolla should continue to be popular.
With a suggested starting price of $19,600, the front-wheel-drive, four-door, five-occupant car is ideal for families with one to two children. Prices for the six trim levels (L, LE, hybrid LE, SE, XLE, XSE) rise from $19,600 for the L to $25,450 for the top-of-the-line XSE. At the higher price points potential buyers might be tempted to look at entry level sport utility vehicles.
But there is one factor mitigating against the temptation of a more spacious SUV and that is economy. Even with the larger 2-liter, 169-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the Corolla will average 34 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. SUVs will be hard-pressed to match that.
During a test week with the 2-liter gasoline engine in the XSE, the combined city-highway average was closer to 36 mpg in the compact sedan. That was with two adults aboard. The smaller 1.8-liter engine should do even better. The all-new for 2020 hybrid LE excels at fuel economy with, according to the EPA, an average of 53 mpg in the city and 52 on the highway. Pricing on the hybrid begins at $23,100.
Two drive modes from which to choose are normal and sport. The 35.9 mpg during test week was while the vehicle was in normal mode. The 2-liter engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is available in the SE model. For the feel of a manual in the XSE, there are paddle shifters behind the leather-clad steering wheel which can tilt and telescope manually.
With a recent more sporty redesign, the Corolla looks nicer and more adventurous than past models. The XSE wears 18-inch machines alloy wheels with gray-painted accents and has chrome-tipped double pipe exhausts. Rocker panels and rear spoiler are a metallic gray. Door handles and heated power exterior mirrors are color-keyed. LED tail and stop palms have a smoked sport trim. Headlights and daytime running lights are LEDs. The black front grille has a sport mesh insert.
For 2020, the redesign includes replacing a torsion beam with an independent rear suspension. It is a stiffer platform with a front suspension, too, of coil springs and shock absorbers.
Power features in the XSE, in addition to exterior mirrors with turn signal indicators, include front seats (heated), windows, door locks, tilt and slide moonroof.
On the interior there were soft touches everywhere you put an arm or hand. Plenty of room for the driver. The seat hugged tightly, but might be too small for someone six-feet tall weighing 250 pounds. Controls were easy to reach and the blue stitching in the upgrade cloth seats helped deliver a more upscale feel and look.
Changing the drive mode from normal to sport meant the information display screen behind the steering wheel changed in lighting from blue to red.
The rear seat is tight. Adults of the six-foot variety will have heads almost touching the ceiling with knees pushing against front bucket seats. The rear split seats fold and open to a 13.5 cubic foot trunk. Storage possibilities, thus, are extended. For families with small children, parents will appreciate the updated latch system for child-car seats . It is super easy to put these seats in and out.
Corollas are loaded with technological gadgets.
In the safety category they include lane tracing and road sign assist, lane departure alert, blind spot monitor, smart key system with pushbutton start, backup camera, pedestrian detection, radar cruise control and rear seatbelt warning. During the test week the Corolla rode nicely on uneven roadways, steering was tight but not too tight, sight lines were good to the sides and the rear.
A navigation system, smartphone charging port, Apple CarPlay and a more extensive sound system are in a $1,715 option package. Check with a dealer for details.
One small suggestion to interior designers of the Corolla is this. Please incorporate a storage tray in the center console or under the dashboard. A tray always is useful for smartphone storage as well as a place to put smaller items such as tubes of this or that.
Vehicle: XSE model of 2020 Toyota Corolla
Type: four-door, five-passenger, front-wheel-drive compact sedan
Engine: 2-liter, 169-horsepower, double overhead cam four-cylinder
Transmission: continuously variable
Fuel: unleaded regular
Fuel tank: 13.2 gallons
Weight: 3,150 pounds
Trunk: 13.1 cubic feet
Leg room: 42 inches front, 34.8 inches rear
Tires, wheels: 18-inch
Wheelbase, length, width, height, ground clearance in inches: 106.3, 182.5, 70.1, 56.5, 5.1
Warranty: three years or 36,000 miles, five years or 60,000 miles powertrain