2020 Toyota Corolla Review

2020 Toyota Corolla - Convergence


2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Price: $23,100

Pros-First Corolla hybrid. All new. High fuel economy. Lively. Agile. Roomy. Advanced safety features.  

Cons-Occasional grabby brakes. Little cabin storage. Narrow rear door openings. No Android.

Bottom Line-Outstanding in most respects.

The all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla is the first U.S. Corolla to be a gas-electric hybrid and is the most fuel-efficient model to wear that  name. The Corolla is the best-selling vehicle of all time. It arrived in 1966, and more than 46 million have been sold.

The Corolla long has been a rather dull but practical, utilitarian car, but the 2019 hatchback got an aggressive new design. The 2020 sedan also looks more sporty and is new from the ground up, with such items as black front grille with a "sport" mesh. However, the new styling causes the rear seat doorways to be rather narrow, and there's only one trim level.

There are "hybrid" signs strategically placed on the front tenders and trunk to let everyone know you're being "socially responsible." Without them, it would be impossible to tell this is a high-economy hybrid model. Some hybrids seem to be deliberately designed to alert folks that they are hybrids.  

The Corolla Hybrid delivers an estimated 53 miles per gallon in the city and 52 on highways. As an aside, the engine compartment is a thing of beauty, as if Toyota took pains to place all components in an almost artistic manner.

The hybrid system delivers 121 horsepower and provides the 3,050-pound car with lively acceleration. I found it to be quick off the line, and entering Chicago's very fast-paced expressways was no problem. Easily passing other vehicles at highway speeds also was no problem.  One can choose Normal, Eco or Power mode, but I found Eco mode to be fine virtually all the time.

There's no noticeable switch from electric to gasoline power, and the CVT transmission worked smoothly with the hybrid system, which has a long warranty.

Although designed primarily for high fuel economy, the Corolla Hybrid is fun to drive. It's quick and nimble with nicely geared steering. However, as if often the case with gas-electric hybrids, the anti-lock brakes are occasionally grabby at lower speeds. The 15-inch  wheels with 65-series tires aren't aren't especially large, but the Corolla Hybrid is nimble in town and handles sweeping curves with confidence, thanks partly to vehicle stability and traction controls. The ride is supple.

The 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine requires only 87-octane fuel for the compact 182-inch-long car's 11.4-gallon tank, although the hybrid powertrain from Toyota's proven Prius should allow owners to pass lots of gas stations without stopping.

If nothing else, the Corolla Hybrid is practical. Cabin storage room is stingy, but there's good room for four tall adults, although the rear seats are rather firm and the backseat center is too stiff for comfort and best left to the fold-down armrest with dual cupholders.

The fairly large trunk has a low, wide opening and can be enlarged by flipping the 60/40 split-folding rear setbacks forward. However, the pass-through opening from the trunk to the rear-seat area should be larger and the seat backs are too thick to sit entirely flat.

The interior is quiet and nicely laid out, with good materials and a backup camera. There's a push-button start, adjustable steering wheel, supportive (manual-only) front seats, easily read instruments, no-fuss touch screen and a good number of clearly marked manual controls. Power door locks have an automatic locking feature.

One dashboard readout shows how much battery power is left. There's also automatic climate control and the 6-speaker sound system is decent. You get Apple CarPlay compatibility, but no Android feature is available.

Being mainly a family car, the Corolla Hybrid has advanced safety features. They include a pre-collision system with pedestrian protection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure assist with steering assist, lane tracing assist, brake assist, smart-stop technology and brake force distribution. There's also a bunch of air bags, including front and rear side-curtain air bags.

After more than 46 million Corollas built, one should expect the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid to be something special.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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