First making its appearance in 1966, the Corolla has proved to be a serious mainstay for the Toyota brand. To date it has sold over 46 million copies worldwide, along the way becoming the best-selling nameplate in the world. Its sales have far surpassing that of the original Volkswagen Beetle, the ubiquitous everyman’s car that was seemingly everywhere for years on end, but in actuality sold less than half the number achieved by the Corolla. Unlike the Beetle that remained true to its unmistakably simple form over its lifetime, Corollas have seen many major redesigns over the years and this year’s 2020 Corolla sedan features the model’s most compelling redesign in decades.
As with previous models, the 2020 Corolla’s strengths are its affordability, reliability, and notably high fuel economy. Now, it can add style to that list of strengths…along with the title 2020 Green Car of the Year®.
The latest Corollas use Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA). This brings a stiffer platform with an independent multilink rear suspension that replaces the previous torsion beam setup. The standard base engine on lower-end L, LE, and XLE trims is the long-used and dependable 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 139 horsepower. Stepping up to SE and XSE trims bring a 169 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant to bear. Both are quite fuel efficient, with the 1.8-liter delivering 30 city/38 highway mpg and the 2.0-liter 31 city/40 highway mpg.
Power is delivered to the road through a 6-speed manual on the SE and an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission on lower end models. Upper trims get a continuously variable transmission with intelligence. Shift Mode starts out with an actual first gear and then shifts to a CVT operation. Paddle shifters allow selection of 10 simulated gear ratios.
For optimum fuel economy there’s the new Corolla Hybrid LE model that features a 121 horsepower, 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder and a pair of electric motors. This highly efficient hybrid system achieves an impressive, Prius-like EPA estimated 52 combined mpg. Energy is provided by a 1.3 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack positioned under the rear seats, so trunk capacity is not compromised. Importantly, the Corolla Hybrid LE is priced at just $23,100, about $3,500 more than the base gasoline-powered model. Its high fuel efficiency, affordability to the masses, and huge worldwide sales means this model has an outsized impact on decreasing gasoline use and carbon emissions reductions.
In addition, this affordably-priced car offers a a full complement of driver assist systems that rivals those found in much more expensive vehicles. All versions have Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 as standard equipment. This package includes Toyota’s Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Road Edge Detection and Sway Warning, Automatic High Beams, Lane Tracing Assist, and Road Sign Assist. Full-Speed Range Dynamic Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist are also part of the package.
Our time behind the wheel of a Corolla Hybrid LE proved this vehicle to be a great daily driver. It’s roomier than you would expect, quite comfortable, and delivers a satisfying driving experience while achieving its pretty amazing fuel efficiency. Acceleration is decent though not particularly quick, but then, buyers of the Corolla nameplate in its many forms are not shopping for high performance. They are shopping for value, durability, connectivity, safety, and efficiency, and with the 2020 Corolla they get all this in abundance.
Plus, of course, they now get an all-new Corolla with surprisingly attractive styling. While that might not have been the tipping point for buyers looking for top value and efficiency over the years, it’s sure an important addition that will draw even more interest in this enduring nameplate. And let’s not forget that with today’s greater interest in environmental performance – including significantly lower carbon emissions – the Corolla Hybrid becomes even more compelling as a champion for the cause, all the while sporting more mainstream appeal than many hybrids that came before it.