REVIEW: Toyota Corolla joins the bold and the beautiful

After more than 50 years of production, the Corolla is still Toyota’s best-selling model globally.

Totally redesigned for 2020 model year, the all-new Toyota Corolla is actually beautiful, maybe even bold, and now offers a hybrid option. The Corolla has become a household name in terms of reliability, safety and affordability, and the 2020 model brings all of these traits to a new level.

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Toyota has made the right move by improving on key areas and by adding new features to stay competitive on the global scene. After selling more than 45 million cars, the newest Corolla offers better drivability and handling, comprehensive safety features, a hybrid option, and a much improved infotainment system.

Design

The body of the 2020 Toyota Corolla is lower, wider and built on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) which provides many engineering advancements and includes such items as a multi-link rear suspension system.

This new platform has improved everything from shock absorption to safety – Toyota claims this is the “most fun to drive” Corolla ever produced. Let me elaborate on that later.

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The new Corolla has a bold look that holds up well when compared to more expensive European luxury machines. photo supplied Toyota

A sloped and angled hood ends in an attractive honeycomb grille that results in a bolder, much more modern design. The new car is attractive enough that it almost looks like a small Audi or something out of Europe.

Even though the Toyota Corolla is not known to be a luxury vehicle, the quality of the interior materials is excellent and the whole interior shows much more upscale feel than before. The intuitive infotainment system is hugely improved and the Corolla comes with many standard items, including advanced safety features. Toyota even offers a Toyota+Alexa app right in the infotainment system to help you navigate, play music and ask just about any question that comes to mind via Alexa. Apple CarPlay is included in the 2020 Toyota Corolla, while Android Auto is not yet available.

Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of features are impressive for an entry level car. With features such as lane tracing assist, road edge detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, as well as bicycle and pedestrian detection, Corolla drivers can drive with confidence and those around them can also have peace of mind.

Performance

There are many trim levels for the Toyota Corolla including L, LE, XLE, SE, XSE, and Hybrid. For all trim levels, buyers have a choice of two engines plus a hybrid option.

Included in the base L trim as well as in the LE and XLE trims is a 1.8-litre in-line four-cylinder engine with 139 horsepower and 126 foot-pounds of torque. Combined city/highway fuel economy for this engine is 7.1 litres/100 kilometres for both manual and automatic transmissions.

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The Corolla’s interior is much improved, featuring quality materials and an upscale feel. photo supplied Toyota

The engine upgrade for the SE and XSE is a 2.0-litre Dynamic Force in-line four-cylinder which produces 169 h.p. and 151 foot-pounds of torque. Combined city/highway fuel economy for this sportier Corolla is at 7.4 l/100 km for the manual transmission and 6.7 l/100 km for automatic. SE and XSE trims also include a sporty grille and bumper, rear diffuser, dual exhaust tips and tail spoiler.

For the new hybrid option, Toyota equips the car with a 1.8-litre in-line four-cylinder combined with eCVT (Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission), which produces 121 h.p. It isn’t the strongest hybrid engine out there on the market today, but you get a significant fuel improvement (combined city/highway driving will get you an impressive 4.5 l/100 km).

Regardless of the trim, the new Corolla brings a level of refinement and feel never seen in previous Corollas. The car is generally quiet (though the engine can be somewhat buzzy), tracks straight and rides silky smooth. The handling is balanced and predictable, but it’s not as sharp as the feeling in the Honda Civic or the Mazda3. The car is a very “easy” car to drive, and overall delivers good performance for an entry level vehicle.

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Toyoto Corolla seats. photo supplied Toyota

Despite being somewhat old now, I would say the Honda Civic still provides slightly better handling and performance. And the new Mazda3 delivers BMW-like refinement and handling that is still a cut above the Corolla, though that vehicle costs more.   

Summary

Weighing all options, the SE or XSE might be the best choice as it comes with a better engine, better styling, more comfort features and a larger infotainment panel. The Toyota Corolla has been a staple vehicle over the years and has represented top-level reliability and practicality at an affordable price. Most of us can say we have owned or know someone who has owned a Corolla, and as such, it represents an important history for the auto industry.

The 2020 Toyota Corolla starts from $18,990 and goes up to $26,990 for the L, LE and XLE trims. For the SE trim, prices start from $22,290 and go all the way to $28,490 for the XSE. The hybrid option for the Corolla rings at reasonable $24,790 – a surprisingly affordable price.

All in all, the new Corolla is the best Corolla to date, and I would argue that it is in fact the best handling Corolla ever. It just isn’t the best handling car in its market, but that may not matter to 99 per cent of the customers who are more concerned about quality, reliability, fuel efficiency and smooth feel.

editor@automotivepress.com

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