The 2020 Toyota Corolla is all-new and it’s easily the most interesting new Corolla to debut in years. While Corollas from the 1980s were offered with rear-wheel drive and hot-hatchback, the Corollas of recent memory have all been simple, economical, point-to-point people movers and not much else. That’s starting to change, though, with the introduction of the all-new 2020 model. In addition to the Corolla’s vastly improved looks and overall more engaging demeanor, Toyota has taken this opportunity to introduce a few new variants, and buyers can now opt for a sporty new hatchback bodystyle (introduced as a 2019 model) complete with an available rev-matching 6-speed manual transmission and a hyper-efficient new hybrid model as well, which returns an impressive 52 miles per gallon combined.
Altogether, while it still isn’t a sports car, the new Corolla offers buyers a little something extra regardless of trim level or bodystyle, which just wasn’t the case in the past.
What’s New for 2020?
The 2020 Toyota Corolla Sedan is all-new, while the Corolla Hatchback, which was all-new for 2019, gains Android Auto compatibility to go with Apple CarPlay along with a Nightshade trim edition (offered on the sedan as well) and an optional black roof. See the 2020 Toyota Corolla models for sale near you
What We Like
- Standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0
- Clean design
- Hatchback is actually kind of fun
- Rev-matching manual transmission
- Incredible fuel economy of Hybrid trim
What We Don’t
- Polarizing front-end styling
- Still no Android Auto for the sedan
- Corolla Hybrid only available in one trim
- Hatchback begs for a turbocharged engine option
The 2020 Corolla is offered with three different powertrains. Offered in basic L and LE models is a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder making 139 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque. Paired with a continuously variable automatic (which offers a fixed first gear for smoother starts), the base engine returns 30 miles per gallon in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg combined. Starting with the SE trim, the Corolla gets a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes paired to either the CVT or a 6-speed manual with a trick rev-matching feature, although the manual is only available with the hatchback and on one trim level of the sedan. With the CVT, the Corolla sedan returns 31 mpg city/40 mpg hwy/34 mpg combined, while the hatchback nets 32 mpg city/41 mpg hwy/35 mpg combined. Manual-equipped Corolla sedans return 29 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/32 mpg combined while manual hatchbacks come in at 28 mpg city/37 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined.
Finally, the 2020 Corolla is offered, for the first time in the US, as a hybrid. The 2020 Corolla Hybrid comes only in LE trim and offers a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder making 121 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque, paired with a hybrid system. The Corolla Hybrid returns an impressive 53 mpg city/52 mpg hwy/52 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Corolla is available in six trim levels: L, LE, SE, XLE and XSE. The LE is available in hybrid form. Toyota is going for sportiness with the Corolla Hatchback and thus offers it only in SE and XSE trims. Finally, there’s a special Nightshade appearance package available on both the SE sedan and hatchback for 2020.
The entry-level Corolla L ($20,555) starts with 15-in steel wheels, LED headlights and taillights with LED daytime running lights, a black mesh grille, a 7-in center infotainment screen, an integrated backup camera, a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat and 4-way adjustable passenger seat, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with audio and multi-information display controls, a padded center console, one 12-volt power outlet, one USB port and a total of four cupholders, with two up front and two in the back.
The Corolla LE ($21,005) and LE Hybrid ($24,055) add 16-in steel wheels, heated sideview mirrors, variable intermittent windshield wipers, higher-end seat fabric, a rear center armrest, metallic interior trim with chrome door handles, two front USB ports and an 8-in center infotainment screen.
The SE ($23,005) and SE 6MT ($23,705) adds sportier styling with a rear spoiler, 18-in wheels, turn signal indicators for the mirrors, dual exhaust tips, premium sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a few other things. A sunroof and blind spot monitoring are optional with the automatic. The SE 6MT comes standard with a sunroof but isn’t available with blind spot monitoring at all, oddly. CVT models also gain paddle shifters and a “Sport” driving mode.
The available SE Nightshade trim ($23,705), available only with the CVT, adds to the mix black painted wheels, a black rear spoiler, blacked-out badging and other black trim pieces.
A Premium Package is offered for the Corolla LE and SE that adds blind spot monitoring, a sunroof and passive keyless entry with push-button start.
Building off of the LE trim, the Corolla XLE ($25,005) gains higher-end LED headlights, standard blind spot monitoring, a standard sunroof, standard 16-in alloy wheels, “SofTex” vinyl seating, heated front seats and a 7-in gauge cluster display. Options available via package include a JBL audio system, an adaptive front lighting system, ambient interior lighting and a wireless charging pad.
The sportiest 2020 Corolla is the XSE model ($26,505). The XSE adds to the SE basically the same features the XLE adds to the LE. Differences from the XLE include 18-in wheels, sport seats and some more aggressive trim pieces.
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback starts off in basic SE form ($21,245), which is available with the same Nightshade appearance package offered on the sedan, although Toyota considers this its own trim level ($23,345). As with the sedan, the Corolla XSE Hatchback ($24,195) sits at the top of the hatchback hierarchy. While the sedan is only offered with a manual transmission in the special “SE 6MT” trim, both the Corolla Hatchback SE and XSE can be had with either the CVT or the manual.
Across the board, packaging for the Corolla Hatchback is mostly consistent with that of the sedan, although unique options available on the hatchback include a rear spoiler ($375) and a contrasting black roof ($500), which is new for 2020.
In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Corolla receives a Top Safety Pick+ designation, earning top marks in all crashworthiness categories. The 2020 Corolla also comes with an array of standard active safety features. The Corolla offers pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, lane-tracing, automatic high beams and traffic sign recognition. Blind spot monitoring is available as well.
Behind the Wheel
The Corolla isn’t meant to be a performance car, but its new generation is much more engaging to drive than previous generations. The same goes for its exterior and interior design as well. As it has with much of its lineup in recent years, Toyota clearly made a point to inject some style and excitement into the new Corolla. We’ve had a chance to experience two ends of the new Corolla spectrum — a manual transmission-equipped XSE Hatchback and a Hybrid LE.
While we wouldn’t put it in the hot hatchback category, we can’t help but call the new Corolla Hatchback fun to drive. Its manual transmission is incredibly easy to use — if you’ve never driven a manual before, there’s arguably no better vehicle to learn on thanks to its smooth shift lever and clever rev matching feature that makes the vehicle much more difficult to stall. Steering is quicker than in years past, and while we’d love a little more power under the hood, the 169 hp from the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which comes standard in the hatch, is sufficient. Cargo space is good. It’s generous enough to fit a mountain bike without removing the wheel, provided you move the passenger seat forward. Altogether, the Corolla Hatchback is a compelling product and is easily the most exciting Corolla in years.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Corolla Hybrid. Available only in LE trim for 2020, we look forward to Toyota introducing additional trim levels in the coming model years. As it sits, though, the Corolla Hybrid’s 52 mpg combined fuel economy rating is right on par with that of the Prius. The Corolla Hybrid’s unique driving characteristics are subtle while its fuel economy savings are not, making it one of the most compelling hybrids on the market. If you’ve driven a Toyota hybrid before, the new Corolla Hybrid will seem very familiar.
Across the model lineup, the Corolla offers a basic yet charming interior. Materials aren’t luxury-grade, but the quality is certainly there. An 8-in touchscreen infotainment system rises out of the center stack on all but the lowest trim, while a 7-in screen resides in the gauge cluster of upper trim models. Between its smart design, reasonably good infotainment system (especially if you’re an iPhone user) and generous offering of standard active safety features, the new Corolla is a great overall offering.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Honda Civic — The Civic is arguably the leader of this segment and offers a superb combination of space, fuel economy, performance, quality, feature content, comfort and driver engagement. It’s also available in sedan, coupe and hatchback body styles and can be had in performance-oriented Si trim.
2020 Mazda3 — The Mazda3 was all-new for the 2019 model year and offers two things the Corolla doesn’t: available AWD and an upscale, near-luxury interior. Like the Corolla, sedan and hatchback bodystyles are offered.
2020 Hyundai Elantra — The Elantra got a mild refresh for 2019. While similar to the Corolla and Civic, the Elantra offers Hyundai‘s exceptional warranty, making it a great value-play in this segment.
Used Toyota Camry — The midsize Camry is bigger than the Corolla and offers more available features. If you’re willing to go the used route, you’ll likely be able to find a pre-owned 2018 or 2019 Camry for a similar price as a brand-new Corolla.
The new Corolla is far more engaging than the generations that preceded it. If you’re looking for an economical compact car but have written off the Corolla as being too boring for your tastes, we’d encourage you to reconsider. Between the new hatchback design, the excellent 6-speed manual transmission and the incredibly efficient hybrid model, there’s now a Corolla out there for just about anyone. We’d give strong consideration to the Corolla Hybrid, as its 52 mpg combined fuel economy rating means you’ll likely recoup its added costs after just a few years of ownership. While you can’t get it as a hybrid, the Corolla Hatchback is particularly compelling as well given that it offers cargo volume on par with a subcompact SUV. As far as basic gas-powered Corolla sedans go, we’d probably focus our search around the LE and SE models. Find a Toyota Corolla for sale