- Big power upgrade
- Lots of safety tech
- Stylish, for once
- Promising driving dynamics
- Base engine's light power output
- Back seat could be more spacious
- Hybrid not here yet
The 2020 Toyota Corolla promises to be more fun to drive.
The 2020 Toyota Corolla shows that its maker is serious about small cars, even as rivals jettison their offerings in favor of crossover SUVs more popular with consumers.
With the 2020 Corolla, Toyota realigns its compact sedan with a pair of engines slotted into a new body structure that's stiffer and should make the car both more fun to drive and have a better ride quality than last year's model. Admittedly, the bar was low. The outgoing Corolla felt outdated the moment it went on sale.
Toyota groups the new Corolla lineup in two families—trims with an L in their name and trims with an S. Corolla L, LE, and XLE trims use a 139-horsepower, 1.8-liter inline-4 with advanced variable valve timing cribbed from last year's thrifty Corolla LE Eco. The engine pairs to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to send power to the front wheels and Toyota said that it should best the outgoing model's 34 mpg combined.
Included on SE and XSE trims is a 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 169 hp and 159 pound-feet of torque that teams with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a different CVT that has a fixed first gear for smoother acceleration. The larger engine and its transmissions are shared with the Corolla hatchback, which was redesigned for 2019. In that model, we've been impressed with its smooth acceleration and its good fuel economy. EPA ratings for the 2019 hatchback are as high as 36 mpg combined. Sedans are traditionally more aerodynamic than hatchbacks, so that number may rise.
All Corollas now ride on a version of Toyota's modular architecture, which means that last year's simple twist-beam rear axle has been jettisoned in favor of a multi-link rear suspension. Combined with the stiffer structure and revised steering tuning, the 2020 Corolla should handle with more verve than the outgoing model. Again, low bar, but we like the way the Corolla hatchback tackles corners.
To match their upsized engine, the Corolla SE and XSE have more taut suspension settings and steering with more heft, Toyota said.
A Corolla hybrid will follow at a later date, but Toyota hasn't said when to expect it or how fuel efficient it will be.
LED headlights shared with the Corolla hatchback give the compact sedan a more upmarket appearance than before. L trims—those with the less-powerful engine—have different front and rear bumpers than S trims. Those with the larger engine come standard with alloy wheels and feature dual chrome exhaust tips poking out of a mock rear diffuser.
2020 Toyota Corolla comfort and features
The Corolla's wheelbase remains about 106 inches, even with the move to the new architecture. Interior measurements haven't been announced, but the models we sat in didn't impress for their rear-seat room or their headroom, especially with the moonroof that's standard on most 2020 Corolla trims.
The new dashboard design is more to our liking. A standard 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment floats tablet-like above the climate controls and features Apple CarPlay compatibility. No Android Auto is available, but the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen that Toyota said will come on most Corollas features Amazon Alexa integration.
Cloth upholstery comes standard, while synthetic leather is optional. Corolla SE and XSEs have different seats with beefier bolsters and unique upholstery.
All 2020 Corollas come standard with a wide range of active safety tech including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. Blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts will come on Corolla XLE and XSE trims and will be optional on LEs and SEs.
The redesigned Corolla comes with LED headlights with LED running lights tailored to each trim level.
Look for the 2020 Corolla to arrive in dealers in the spring of 2019.