By on July 1, 2020

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE Fast Facts

1.8-liter four-cylinder (121 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 105 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm)

Continuously-variable automatic transmission, front-wheel drive

53 city / 52 highway / 52 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)

4.4 city, 4.5 highway, 4.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $22,950 (U.S) / $24,790 (Canada)

As Tested: $24,467 (U.S.) / $26,883 (Canada)

Prices include $930 destination charge in the United States and $1,770 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Add the Toyota Corolla to the list of nameplates that were accused of losing the plot in recent years, before being righted — at least partially — by a redesign or refresh.

We’ve talked about this with the Nissan Altima (and Sentra, and Versa), as well as other vehicles. Now, it’s the Toyota’s turn.

I got my grubby mitts on a Corolla Hybrid and put it through its paces around Chicago. I’ve been critical of the car before – the last-generation model’s steering felt like it was constantly out to lunch, and the seating position was uncomfortable, especially for a tall, beer-gutted dude like me.

These flaws might’ve been acceptable if the car didn’t also feel downmarket, even accounting for its price point. Honda, Hyundai, and others were offering compact sedans that were even with (or better) than the Corolla for similar money.

Toyota took a step in the right direction with the Corolla hatch, but did the sedan follow? Well, sort of.

It’s better now – but I don’t think Honda or Hyundai execs need to start sweating just yet.

Normally, the best comp for Corolla would be Civic and Elantra, but since this one had the hybrid powertrain, Insight and Ioniq come to mind. The Insight offers a base price that’s close to Corolla Hybrid but also trims that are more upmarket, and priced accordingly; while the Ioniq is comparative in terms of price, while feeling a bit nicer inside.

[Get a price quote for the Toyota Corolla Hybrid here!]

Certainly, you’re not buying this car for power – you’re only getting 121 ponies and 105 lb-ft of twist here. But it’s enough for relatively seamless commuting. I say relatively because most of my driving was in the city – I imagine merging onto the freeway might be a tad stressful with that level of torque on tap.

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

The overall powertrain experience is standard Toyota hybrid. That means relatively smooth transitions from gas to electric, although not totally unnoticeable. And there’s plenty of instrumentation to check out if you’re curious as to what’s happening under the skin.

There’s three drive modes to choose from: Normal, Eco, and Power, and like many hybrids, this one has regenerative braking.

Ride is a bit on the stiff side, but the steering is much less watered-down than in Corollas past. It’s a fine commuter car, if not a bit anonymous. Driving dynamics are much better than before, but the Corolla is still tuned for the office drone who worries more about payment than performance.

Even the styling is quite bland, though not ugly. You’ll blend. Anonymity appears to be a theme.

Inside, the Corolla is marred by a slapped-on infotainment system and some downmarket materials, but controls are laid out logically and easy to use. The wonky seating position is gone, and comfort is achieved easily enough for most people.

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

Where this particular Corolla shines best is for those who want a low-cost hybrid without resorting to Prius weirdness – or driving around with the stigma of Prius ownership. EPA-estimated fuel economy is in the 50s for all use cases, and the Corolla is much less visible than the well-known Prius. The driving experience is also far more typical for a commuter compact.

The hybrid is LE-trim only, and standard features included 15-inch wheels, Toyota SafetySense 2.0 (pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, automatic high beams, and road-sigh assist), LED lighting, Bluetooth, multiple USB ports, Apple CarPlay, and automatic climate control.

Options were limited to mudguards, body-side molding, and carpeted mats. The sticker price was $24,467, including fees.

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

The Corolla is better than what it replaces, but it doesn’t have the sport/charm of a Civic, even accounting for this version being a hybrid. Nor is quite as well-rounded as the Elantra. Compared to hybrids, it feels a tad cheaper than the Ioniq, and it won’t stack up well against a loaded Insight (I haven’t spent time with the base trim, which is closer in price).

What it does best, at least with the hybrid powertrain, is provide an alternative to Toyota’s own Prius. The Prius makes the same power numbers and is only slightly better on gas, depending on the trim.

2020 Toyota Corolla LE Hybrid

So if you want to sip fuel, commute in anonymity, and not be pegged to a stereotype as a Prius owner, the Corolla Hybrid might work for you.

Like those other cars that lost the plot, the Corolla is mostly back on track, with still some distance to go.

At least it’s no Prius.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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28 Comments on “2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE Review – Incognito Prius Alternative...”


  • avatar
    pveezy

    This gen of Corolla is a winner. While everyone else is switching to torsion rear suspension Toyota bucked the trend and put independent rear across the board. Even the “drivers car” Mazda 3 now using a cheap torsion bar. The Hybrid is probably the most boring drive of the lot but the SE with the 2.0 is pretty adequate, and the upcoming 250ish HP GR version will be pretty crazy.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m happy that my ace of base Jetta S 2017 has IRS..VW went back to torsion beam for the MQB based cars…

    • 0 avatar
      here4aSammich

      “Pretty adequate”? Wow what a ringing endorsement. Have you driven one of these penalty boxes? I had a brand new LE non-hybrid as a rental. Less than 100 miles on it, so it hadn’t been thrashed yet. The interior was cheap, the CVT was droning, and it had no power. It might be “pretty adequate”, but so many cars make you want to drive it. This ain’t one of them.

      • 0 avatar
        pveezy

        It’s a 4 cylinder economy car, WTF are you expecting? It is still a better car than the majority of its competition but don’t expect a Lexus. Also there is a GR version coming that will probably blow the doors off whatever you drive now if that is what you want.

      • 0 avatar
        pveezy

        It’s a 4 cylinder economy car, WTF are you expecting? It is still a better car than the majority of its competition but don’t expect a Lexus. Also there is a GR version coming that will probably blow the doors off whatever you drive now if that is what you want. Also the LE you drove is the carryover engine not the actual good one.

      • 0 avatar
        pveezy

        It’s a 4 cylinder economy car, WTF are you expecting? It is still a better car than the majority of its competition but don’t expect a Lexus. Also there is a GR version coming that will probably blow the doors off whatever you drive now if that is what you want. Also the LE you drove is the carryover engine not the actual good one.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    “and like many hybrids, this one has regenerative braking.”

    All Hybrids have regen braking, that is the entire point of a hybrid, to capture and store that energy, rather than allow it to be turned into heat.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m disappointed you didn’t report your observed fuel economy in the review.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m a big fan of the Corolla SE, but I’m not sure this hybrid version works out unless you rack up a ton of miles or are a real city grinder.

    For most people it’ll take about 4-5 years to recover the “hybrid premium” against the SE. Which isn’t too bad but you’re giving up a lot of performance and amenities for those extra MPGs. Plus, it isn’t like the SE is a guzzler in the first place.

    Then there is the Camry hybrid for people that can stretch from $25K into the $28K-$30K range. They have 208hp and the hairshirt Camry hybrid LE trim has the same fuel economy rating as the Corolla hybrid (although I’m sure in the real world it will be slightly less) while the Camry hybrid SE brings an overall nicer experience and a 46MPG rating.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      My Prius, acquired new in March 2007, is still on the road. Works great, and looks darned good.

      I don’t think “recovering the hybrid premium” is an issue with Toyta cars.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        How’s insurance? A mid 20s colleague got a bit miffed when he learned insurance on his Rav4 hybrid was 25-50% higher than for the same gasser.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          Ya know, I’m not sure how insurance is apples to apples vs a similar non-hybrid vehicle. I guess that’s something to ask the insurance guy next time I start looking at cars.

          I wonder why they’d be tremendously different rates.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            I was surprised too. Being of the “raped for riding a literbike and driving VTech-Yo! cars in my misspent youth” kind, I always assumed cars like the Prius would be the cheapest of any to insure.

            Only reason I can think of, may be that people who buy hybrid CUVs, do so because they excel in dense cities where they are at greater risk of mishaps, rather than in typical CUV suburbs…. Either that, or hybrids are the new young person’s RAV4; and even helicopter parented, “responsible” millennials “working in tech” and “saving for their starter shoebox” are a greater risk than older cohorts. Just speculation, though…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Since I have the Ioniq EV, I’m partial, but its 200 ft-lbs of torque make it a wonderfully responsive commuter.

    Alex Dykes has gotten real-world 55-60 mpg from the Ioniq Hybrid, and it has a DCT rather than a CVT. It also has a liftback, which greatly improves utility over the Corolla.

    YMMV.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I got to drive a 2020 LE for a month last winter as an insurance rental. Generally-speaking, I liked the car, but like you, I wasn’t crazy about the stick-on iPad, at least the customization of the UI, and being able to arrange the view on the screen. I also was never able to get the CarPlay or the Alexa working on the thing, even after installing like four apps on my iPhone X, including some Toyota/Alexa thing. They need to work on that.

    I did like the electronic parking brake, and how it automatically applies when you put the car in Park, and also the brake hold feature, which was handy in fast food drive-thru lanes (I typically put my vehicles in Neutral and set the parking brake, instead of having to go Drive-to-Park, Park-to-Drive and back, ad nauseum.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      I had one for a week, same trim. I actually like the car, but there’s a few things off about it.

      – The seats and steering wheel position are ok, but the relationship between your arm and the door sill is off. And I’m average height and build.
      – The steering wheel buttons have horrible tactile feel, there isn’t any travel to the buttons and you don’t get a “click” sense
      – The car is quiet with one exception; the chassis is poor at isolating road rumble when you drive on worn pavement.
      – I don’t mind the infotainment being mounted up high BMW-style; it makes for easier line of sight while driving. But the menu and layout design is 80’s Japanese and lacks the elegant more flat design of a modern UI.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “road-sigh assist”

    so, a car with an attitude?

    “sigh. Maple Street again, Dave? I mean, I know I’m a Corolla hybrid and all, but come on. You can surely go down Main Street once in awhile, couldn’t you?”

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I had a dealer provided XSE loaner when my 2014 Corolla had a recall done and I was impressed with it. The one thing I hated over mine, and it is a deal breaker for me, is the sprouting iPad. The wheels were bigger, the car was slightly quieter than mine and the new CVT seems more responsive than previous generation which isn’t as bad as the Nissan but not as good as Honda’s. Mine is a 6speed manual since the CVT really turned me off. I do like the new Corolla simplicity and reliability over the Civic’s weird looks and the Civic engine oil dilution problem in all their 1.5l turbos.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    With those kinds of output and torque numbers in this day and age, I gotta ask just what does the turbocharger do with this particular powerplant? Does it suck air out if the engine instead of putting more in?

    Hopefully it’s turbonormalized to maintain sea level horsepower up in the mountains or wherever and whatever elevation.

    • 0 avatar
      pveezy

      What are you talking about? No current trim of Corolla in North America has a turbo.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Ummmmm is that a trick question? I’m talking about the TTAC article that you just posted a comment under:

        “2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE Fast Facts

        1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (121 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 105 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm)”

        I have a rebuttal question- what are YOU talking about? :P

  • avatar
    la834

    Two reasons you still may want a Prius over the Corolla hybrid: (1) the Prius offers hatchback versatility (the Corolla hatch is gas-only for now), and (2) there’s a Prius AWD hybrid model.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Now that brown, manual, diesel wagons are in short supply, let me say this: Toyota, give us the Corolla hybrid wagon!

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    Hmmmm. Looks like a REALLY early fall in Chicago this year!

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