Buying Guide

2020 Toyota Corolla Review and Buying Guide | Clever commuter

Diving into pricing, specs, features, fuel economy and photos

2020 Toyota Corolla
2020 Toyota Corolla / Image Credit: Toyota
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The best Corolla in years. Toyota is finally injecting some life into its solid but somewhat dull lineup. A peppy engine and solid chassis are let down by a so-so interior, mixed styling and a bad infotainment system.

The Toyota Corolla was introduced in 1966, and more Corollas have been sold than any other nameplate in the world. It's Toyota's budget sedan, although now it's offered in a hatchback format as well. It has been completely revised for the 2020 model year (well, the 2019 model year for the Corolla Hatchback), and given another engine choice as well as a hybrid option. Toyota does a good job of putting a lot of safety technology into its cars as standard, and the Corolla is no different. For many drivers, the Corolla will be their first car, and many owners will hold onto it for years. As automakers move away from sedans, Toyota is committed to the body style, and provides the many shoppers still interested with an affordable, easy-driving commuter.

What's new with Corolla for 2020?

A lot. This generation is underpinned by the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, which will be shared among multiple Toyota models, from the Prius hybrid sedan to the new RAV4 crossover. In addition to the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, the 2020 Corolla offers a new, more powerful 2.0-liter, as well as a hybrid option with technology borrowed from the Prius. The exterior and interior of the car have been completely redesigned. It has upgraded safety technology, a new suspension setup and an overall increase in sophistication. There's also a hatchback version, which actually preceded the sedan in introducing this new generation as a 2019 model.

2020 Toyota Corolla

How big is the Corolla?

Not very. It's a compact car (classified by the EPA as midsize), which means it's smaller and less expensive than other Toyotas, apart from the tiny Yaris. It means you won't be seeing over traffic or putting three adults in the back comfortably, but its smaller size makes it more efficient, easier to navigate narrow or crowded roads, and easy to park.

The sedans are 182.3 inches long with a 106.3-inch wheelbase — the same as the Honda Civic and close to the Hyundai Elantra. Overall width is 70.1 inches, and overall height is 56.5 inches. It has an interior volume of 88.6 cubic feet, with 13.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which is less than both the Elantra (14.4) and Civic (15.1). It seats five. Headroom is in short supply, and rear legroom is less than the previous generation at 41.4 inches, though it beats much of the competition and two adults can sit comfortably in the back.

The Corolla Hatchback is even smaller at 169.9 inches of overall length and a 103.9-inch wheelbase. It's 69.9 inches wide and 57.1 inches tall. It has 85.0 cubic feet of interior volume, with 18.0 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. That's not a lot on paper, and in person, we've found it to have one of the smallest cargo areas in its segment. Unlike many hatchbacks, this one is actually less versatile than the sedan. There's also less rear legroom.

2020 Toyota Corolla 2020 Toyota Corolla

What are the Corolla's interior and in-car technology like?

The interior in the new Corolla is not bad for the price point. The higher trim levels, especially, have quality materials and adornments like genuine stitching on the leatherette throughout the cabin. We weren't in love with the look of the cream-colored plastic interior we saw in the Hybrid, but overall, it's nothing to complain about, especially at this price point.

Where the Corolla truly wins is in its suite of standard and available technology. Every Corolla comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (more on that in a bit), in-car WiFi, as well as Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa capability. We like the CarPlay feature, because Toyota's infotainment systems can often misbehave, though we didn't have the chance to explore the Corolla's system for bugs. Things like heated front seats, proximity key and push-button start, wireless smartphone charging and an upgraded JBL sound system are on offer in higher trims.

2020 Toyota Corolla 2020 Toyota Corolla

What's the Corolla's performance and fuel economy?

The non-hybrid 2020 Toyota Corolla is available with two engine options. One is a 1.8-liter carryover from the previous generation, available in the L, LE and XLE trim levels. It provides 139 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with a a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that is equipped with a physical first gear for smoother launches. L and LE trims get 30 mpg city, 38 highway and 33 combined, while the XLE is rated at 29/37/32 mpg.

A new offering for the 2020 model year is an all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 169 hp and 151 lb-ft. In the S trim level, it is offered with either the CVT or six-speed manual. The SE CVT gets 31 mpg city, 40 highway, 34 combined, while the SE 6MT gets 19/36/32. The XSE sees the 2.0-liter paired only to the CVT for 31/38/34 mpg. With either transmission, this new motor feels like a great fit for the Corolla, providing a good amount of power and fuel economy with little fuss or effort, but the manual-equipped version is the most entertaining.

The Corolla Hatchback comes in SE and XSE versions, both with the 2.0-liter and 6MT options. 6MT versions get 28/37/31 mpg, while the SE with CVT gets 32/42/36 mpg.

The Corolla Hybrid features a version of the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, assisted by a battery pack and 53-kW electric motor. As such it offers an adequate 121 peak hp, which doesn't make this a fast car — though it can easily keep up with the flow of traffic — but makes it effortlessly efficient. We had no trouble surpassing its rating of 53 mpg city, 52 highway and 52 combined. That's the same combined rating as the regular Toyota Prius, if you're keeping score.

What's the Corolla like to drive?

The new Corolla feels more refined and responsive from behind the wheel, and the addition of a 2.0-liter option only serves to make the driving experience better, especially if you tend to pass and lead rather than follow along in traffic. While the CVT does cause the engine to get groany when pushed, using the paddle shifters to simulate shifts helps to avoid that, if you care enough to make the extra effort. The manual transmission allows you to make the most of the power you've got, and had us appreciating the smoothness of this new engine. Its automatic rev-match downshifting capability is something usually found in sports cars, but makes for smoother and easier manual driving.

The Hybrid is impressively quiet, with a little tire noise and a faint engine rumble under acceleration. It offers Normal, Eco and Power modes to allow you cater the response to your needs or whims.

The suspension has been upgraded to a multi-link setup for the new generation of Corolla, which helps to make this car feel well sorted in corners, and keeps things calm on rougher roads. The steering is above average, and we've actually had fun driving the Corolla, especially the Hatchback, which is not something we've often found in a Corolla, if ever.

In all it's also pretty quiet, and definitely a very easy car to drive, whether you're a long-time commuter or a first-time driver. Having the standard suite of active safety equipment helps build confidence, even for the most attentive pilots. Furthermore, the Corolla's relatively small size makes it easy to navigate through heavy traffic or park in a crowded lot.

What more can I read about the new Toyota Corolla?

2020 Toyota Corolla First Drive Review | Reaching higher, adding a hybrid

"The Corolla may not be our favorite non-hybrid car to drive in this price range — that would probably go to the VW Golf, Mazda3 or maybe even the Honda Civic. That said, Toyota's offering moves closer to the top of the pack with this well-rounded sedan. For those who care about standard safety equipment at a low price, the Corolla is a worthy choice. It's not the enthusiast's choice, but it's closer to it than ever before. For everyone else, it's a smart buy. Toyota has done a lot to make the new Corolla safe, comfortable and convenient, without straining your wallet from dealer to crusher. And for those who want a no-fuss hybrid powertrain for an affordable price, the Corolla Hybrid is a winning prospect."

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
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2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback First Drive Review | Corolla of a different color

"How is it to drive? Well, for starters, the transmissions are pretty cool ... The standard six-speed manual is the first car in its segment to feature rev-matched downshifting ... The suspension feels spot-on for this segment, imparting a responsive overall feel and a playful nature. The steering is well-connected, appropriately weighted and provides enough feedback. This is a Corolla that actually encourages you to have some fun."

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
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2018 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Drivers' Notes Review | Right back in the mix

"It's actually pretty good to drive. Even the CVT is good. It avoids maxing out the revs when more poke is called for, and in manual mode, it locks in ratios and changes them quickly and smoothly. The 168-horsepower engine actually feels gutsier than the numbers imply, and the smooth, responsive power delivery of the naturally aspirated unit is welcome in our increasingly turbocharged world. Handling is solid, with eager turn-in and fairly neutral feel. It does lean a fair bit, though, and the steering feels a tad too light and numb."

2019 Toyota Corolla vs. compact hatchbacks: How they compare

"After driving the 2019 Corolla, we can say that it is a far more competitive vehicle than the old Corolla iM or still-existing Corolla sedan. Besides its now-competitive power, its handling is sharper without abandoning ride quality, its manual and CVT transmissions are compelling, its interior quality is excellent, and its new tech interface is easy to use. While we can't say where it may land if we were to subjectively rank these six cars, we can at least posit that it would make a strong case for itself."

What features are available and what's the Corolla's price?

The 2020 Toyota Corolla sedan starts at $20,430, including $930 in destination fees (applied to all models below). There are five trim levels, — L, LE, XLE, SE and XSE.

Standard equipment on the L ($20,430) includes the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 with adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights, integrated backup camera, wi-fi, Bluetooth connectivity, voice controls, 4.2-inch color TFT display and seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa capability. It sports fabric-trimmed seats and 15-inch steel wheels.

The LE ($24,880) takes what the L has, and adds 16-inch steel wheels, remote keyless entry, automatic climate control, heated mirrors, premium fabric seats, rear center armrest with cupholders, and an eight-inch touchscreen with the same CarPlay and Alexa capability.

The XLE ($24,880) adds high-grade LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels, auto climate control with dust and pollen filter, heated mirrors with turn signal indicators and blind-spot warning, leather steering wheel, SofTex-trimmed heated front sport seats, moonroof, Smart Key system with push-button start, seven-inch TFT display in the instrument cluster, and the Audio Plus package.

The SE steps things up with the 2.0-liter inline-four and starts at $22,880 for the CVT-equipped version. The SE 6MT costs a little more, at $23,580. The SE includes as standard high-grade LED headlights and LED accent lighting, 18-inch machined alloy wheels, grey metallic rocker panels and color-keyed rear spoiler, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 with adaptive cruise control, integrated backup camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity, voice controls, premium sport seats with sport fabric inserts, auto climate control with dust and pollen filter, leather-trimmed steering wheel, heated mirrors with turn signal indicators, eight-inch touchscreen with CarPlay and Alexa capabilities, 4.2-inch color TFT display, a sport-tuned suspension, sport driving mode and paddle shifters for the CVT.

The line-topping XSE ($26,380) also gets the 2.0-liter engine. Standard in this trim are everything from the SE, as well as SofTex trimmed heated front sport seats with sport fabric inserts, moonroof, blind-spot warning, and the seven-inch TFT display in the instrument cluster.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

The Corolla Hybrid (pictured above) comes in a single trim level, LE, and starts at $23,880. Besides the electrified powertrain, the Hybrid takes what the standard LE gets, and adds high-grade LED headlights, 15-inch alloy wheels, auto climate control with dust and pollen filter, Smart Key system with push-button start, and seven-inch TFT display in the instrument cluster.

The Corolla Hatchback starts at $20,920 and comes in SE and XSE trim levels, each with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive and the choice of a CVT or six-speed manual transmission.

The SE starts at $20,920 with the six-speed manual, or $22,020 with the CVT. It comes standard with LED headlights, taillights and running lights, 16-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, dark-grey grille surround, leather-trimmed steering wheel, sport driving mode, Bluetooth, wi-fi, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa capability, eight-inch touchscreen with Entune 3.0 Audio, 4.2-inch information display in the instrument cluster, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0.

The XSE costs $23,920 with the manual transmission, or $25,020 with the CVT. It adds upon the SE with LED fog lights, 18-inch machined alloy wheels, chrome grille surround, dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed heated sport seats with sport fabric inserts, Entune 3.0 Audio Plus, and a seven-inch color TFT display in the instrument cluster.

What's the Corolla's safety equipment and crash ratings?

Besides the usual airbags and stability systems, the Corolla comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes a forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and road edge detection, automatic high beams, and road sign assist. We've found this feature suite to work quite well, it takes a lot of the stress out of driving in traffic, and it's impressive that this is available as standard in an entry-level sedan. It also has a backup camera and available blind spot monitor and adaptive front lighting.

As of this writing, the 2020 Corolla sedan has not been crash-tested by IIHS or NHTSA.

IIHS has rated the Corolla Hatchback as a Top Safety Pick, with crashworthiness ratings of "Good" in every category, "Superior" crash avoidance and mitigation, "Acceptable" headlights and "Good +" for ease of use for child seat anchors. NHTSA has not rated it as of this writing.

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Toyota Corolla Information

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