By on November 16, 2018

Toyota gathered media in California this week, myself included, to drive the new RAV4 (check back next week for my thoughts). The company also decided that, since they planned to take the wraps off the new Corolla in China at about the same time we’d be eating dinner, it made sense to show us the newest version of the best-selling nameplate of all time.

Perched on Toyota’s TNGA platform like the already-on-sale Corolla hatch, the 12th-generation sedan retains the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as before, but grows wider front and rear. The front overhang shrinks by over an inch, the rear overhang grows by over half an inch, and the hood is lowered nearly an inch and a half. Overall height decreases by a little less than an inch.

The SE and XSE trims are considered the “sport” models and get a different front fascia that includes a chin spoiler, and the SE is offered with a six-speed manual transmission for the #savethemanuals crowd.

Eighteen-inch wheels are available for the first time on Corolla, standard on the SE and XSE. The LE and XLE make do with 16-inch rims.

Carrying over for the L, LE, and XLE trims is the 1.8-liter four-banger from the previous car, but Toyota promises more power and improved fuel economy. Promises only, as no numbers were released.

A 2.0-liter direct-injection four powers the SE and XSE, and the numbers are in on this one: 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque.

If the manual, complete with rev-matching and hill-assist control to prevent rollbacks, doesn’t work for you, it’s CVT time.

Inside, all trims but L get an eight-inch touchscreen (L gets seven inches of touch), and Toyota’s Entune app package comes as standard equipment. Apple CarPlay is now standard, and premium JBL audio is available, while a Wi-Fi hotspot appears as an available perk.

Available safety and driver-aid tech includes Toyota’s Safety Sense system. That system includes radar cruise control, lane-departure alert, pre-collision assist, and other safety-oriented driving-aid systems. Blind-spot monitoring is also available.

At first glance, the Corolla vaguely reminded me of recently-departed Scion models, at least in terms of exterior styling. Inside, the cabin looks modern and sleek but, as usual, I’m annoyed by a “tacked-on tablet” infotainment screen that mars the look. The J-shaped headlights give the car a bit of an evil grin, but the gaping maw of the lower fascia will probably turn some buyers off. The styling isn’t head-turning, but neither is it boring – the Corolla is now at least 50 percent less anonymous.

There’s a lot more I’d like to know – power numbers for the 1.8, pricing, and fuel economy, for starters – but my first take is that the Corolla may actually have a personality now.

There was one other piece of news dropped at the event: There will be a Corolla hybrid, scheduled for a debut in two weeks at the Los Angeles Auto Show. We’ll be there to see the wraps come off.

[Images: 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC, Toyota]

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42 Comments on “2020 Toyota Corolla – This is It...”

  • avatar

    Hideous gaping maw? Check!
    You got it Toyota.

  • avatar

    It looks good, it will sell. But contrary to popular internet opinion I think the current Corolla looks ok too.

  • avatar

    I like it actually, as I also like the new hatchback.

    Haters should drive one, and sit in the surprisingly large and comfortable back seat before criticizing.

    • 0 avatar


      They’re also so unapologetically rational, that I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up selling some, to clued in hipsters wanting to publicly distance themselves from all the currently fashionable silliness: From AVs to EVs to maximum “capability” to do absolutely everything (race around Burgerking, crawl the Rubicon, tow the Pentagon, outbling a rapper), other than the one thing people actually do use their cars for.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, driving one is what made me into a “hater,” though I’d say that word’s a bit harsh. The current one is plenty practical, but it sucks to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        FreedMike, if you drive the current one equipped with the CVT I totally agree with you. I have the S model with the 6 speed manual and while not a Civic fighter, it makes the Corolla a much better vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Drove the HB (manual) last week. Surely an improved version than the outgoing Corolla. But I don’t agree on the interior room. The rear seat is cramped and the hatch is quite a bit smaller than the competitor’s hatch. I also found the clutch pick up vague and overly light, the shift action slightly notchy and the steering too light. I drove the Mazda3 a few days later and the driving dynamics were quite a bit different. Of course, both make my heap of a 2017 Cruze feel just like the piece of junk it is.

  • avatar

    Finally! Do you know how long I’ve waited for this?

  • avatar

    Why is this car shouting so angrily?

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe it’s to project an owner’s desired warning to a world which has become more hostile and uncivil? But then there’s Mazda, whose grilles look puckered-up to give you a big, wet kiss.

  • avatar

    I genuinely love how the centre console isn’t far from a gear lever sticking up from the carpeted centre tunnel (and while the iPad dash is a little cliché, it’s at least a simple, clean layout here).

  • avatar

    unusually fugly, even for Toyota – actually worse than the Camry, which few thought was possible

  • avatar

    I’m not keen on the “tacked-on tablet” look either, but Mercedes, who I believe started it, have expanded its use. Do you think it’s because it places a chunk of complex, potentially trouble-prone equipment where it’s more easily serviced or replaced?

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe it’s a good thing- makes it easier for me to throw a black hand towel over the screen when I don’t want it glaring in my face, which is 99% of the time. Otherwise, it’s a terrible idea, placing a bright, distracting screen closer to my line of vision– because nothing that ever shows on that screen is more important than the pothole, pedestrian or cement mixer that’s in my lane, up ahead.

  • avatar

    99% of the haters would be praising the design if the car wore a hundai or kia badge. Personally, I think it’s an improvement over the existing model. It’d be nice if the clean, conservative designs of the 90’s Toyotas will make a comeback one day. I’m not holding my breath. I’m glad they decided to keep the 6spd manual transmission as an option.

    • 0 avatar

      It would still be over styled and ugly no matter what badge is on it. Hyundai and Kia competitors, whatever their faults, dont look like they’re trying SO HARD to be cool.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota hate originates from its appliance behavior and function. Not from its looks. I would buy 2011 Corolla if it drove ok. But it was POS. There was NOTHING good about it besides pretty cool looks in S trim

  • avatar

    If its not boring to drive they got a car I’d like to buy.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s not terrible. The hybrid would be interesting, since there has always been a curious gap between the Prius family and the Camry on up.

    The current model is roomy, and I like their green paint color.

  • avatar

    I like it, I like it a lot. I like that it is getting more power. I like that you can get it with a 6-speed manual (I’m guessing only lesser trims). The rear end appears a bit out of proportion but not horribly. Not a fan of the “tacked on” Infotainment look but that’s what the cool kids are doing so is what it is. 18″ rollers feel like overkill but again, that’s what the cool kids are doing.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually it is the other way around. The manual can only be had in the higher trims…such as the old S trim or the current XSE or whatever. Finding one at a dealership near you? Good luck. My local dealer would not entertain me when I posted that question to him. I had to build a search on a car search engine and found a slightly used one after 6 months, 80 miles away. It saved me a ton of money over a new one and it had only 9,000 miles. In a way, my dealer did me a great service. He saved me about 5,000 by laughing at me when I asked for a manual.

  • avatar

    Is there a better way to describe the infotainment? I swear tacked on iPad is the go-to for every review I’ve read with similar setups. Does it work? How well does it work? How steep is the learning curve? There are so many more important things about the infotainment system than whether it looks like a tacked on iPad, yet that’s where everybody lands.

    A picture is better at allowing people to decide if they can deal. Inform the reader how it works because that can’t be captured in a photo.

    For the record, I find the MazdaConnect system to be relatively unintrusive, if a bit slow, and am ambivalent about its mounting.

  • avatar

    Could do without the innermost set of headlights and 17″ instead of 18″ wheels on the upper trims.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I have 17s on my Corolla S and that’s plenty. They are 45 profile so one has to be careful when shopping for tires. If you get big names, you can easily drop 600 on tires…for a Corolla!! I try to stay with lesser names such as Uniroyal or next Hankook Ventus. They both can be had for well under 400 which for a 17 inch, 45 profile isn’t bad at all. I just try to stay away from loud tires. 50 mile commute each way would drive me to insanity with a loud tire.

  • avatar

    Toyota still can’t design a nice grill

    They must have an overstock of black plastic grill material

    Their goal is to use up this material by designing stuff that breaks easy so lets make it large :=)

  • avatar

    “A 2.0-liter direct-injection four powers the SE and XSE…”

    It should always be mentioned that Toyota went the extra mile by incorporating dual injection for the 2.0, a combination of direct- and port-injection, which should help keep intake valves free of deposits (a process which costs hundreds of dollars to media-blast off, typically every 30k – 50k miles).

    • 0 avatar

      +1, Kenn. With the notable exception of SavageGeese, the scribes/bloggers/vloggers give Toyota way too little credit for this. DI-only engines are the unhappy medium between port injection and dual injection.

  • avatar

    I give credit to Toyota for not embracing absurdly high beltlines. This, the current Corolla and Camry and Corolla hatch all seem to have decent sight lines out the sides and rear. Friends have a Mazda3 hatch which I rode in the back of, and the thick C pillars and tiny slit rear windows are a turnoff.

  • avatar

    In Southern California, and in Boston, women love the Corolla and the Civic. That is a fact. Why fight that trend? Just get a Corolla or a Civic, and a newer hotter girlfriend could be in your future. I love Toyota.

  • avatar

    Disc brakes all around? Or is it still drums in the rear for the “non-sporty” trims? Independent rear suspension? The Fisher Price tablet on the dash look….pfffffftttttt. I actually like the comparatively clean and utilitarian interior looks the of current gen. mo’ better. But these will sell like hot cakes. Every time the local mook dealer gets a 2019 hatchback it is gone within a day.

  • avatar

    The hood wrapping over the side is a stupid idea, as it is on many cars. It’s especially bad on what is supposed to be an economy car.

    A ding on either fender will easily tweak the hood adding more cost to the repairs.The kind of thinking Ford used when putting a half baked, expensive to replace transmission in a Focus or a Fiesta.

    The cut lines of it in profile are annoying as well.

    Tail lights are from the Universal Design bin.

    I think I like the current model better.

  • avatar

    IRS? The other iterations of Toyota’s new chassis – Prius, Camry, Corolla hatch – have gotten pretty decent reviews for improved handling.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve read that (all trims) get IRS. That’s pretty surprising given most others that (still) had it are stepping down to a torsion beam (Jetta, Mazda3). I actually pulled the trigger on an Elantra Sport few months back mostly due to it’s IRS compared to the (still competitive-for a cheap daily) base Elantra/Forte.

  • avatar

    I’ve enjoyed the Corollas I rented a year ago and back in May. I’m 6/4 and they were very comfortable. The new Camry was great too. And I was stuck with the worst car a Versa in Sept- the Toyotas showed me how bad that car is.

  • avatar

    I can image the designers laughing in secret as they implement the directives handed down from the CEO. He told them to make onlookers “uncomfortable” when they see a Toyota. The new Prius is an angry cockroach, the Corolla is now a fish with phallic accents. One of these days the design team turn their attention to the pickup trucks…

  • avatar

    The Scion-turned-Corolla hatch is a decent handler…so given that the new Corolla sedan is on the same IRS-blessed platform, its two sporty trims may have promise for those who like reliability to go with their scoot. Together with the genuinely attractive new Camry—which itself has pretty athletic moves in the right trim—it seems like Toyota is rethinking boring-is-beautiful.

    Not to say the nose of this thing is beautiful, because good Lord, this must be what it feels like to be a rug when the Hoover approaches.

  • avatar

    Such an ugly front end.

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