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.
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.
Yes, yes. It’s a Corolla. I’ve cursed them in traffic, you’ve done the same, and more than a few of them are purchased by a segment of the driving public who view the car as an appliance.
The little sedan from Toyota didn’t become a success for no reason; they’re scattered around this country like litter after a ticker-tape parade, after all. Can the new-for-2020 base model pull the pursestrings of this flinty-eyed author? Or is the frugal shopper better off spending $450 and upgrading to the LE trim?
I had a nickname for the Toyota Corolla once. Back in my days as an overly judgmental prepubescent teenage boy, I used to call Toyota’s honest economy car the “Crapolla.” Growing up in an affluent North Jersey neighborhood in the ‘90s, everyone and their mother had a Bimmer, Benz, or even a Bentley. If you drove a Corolla, you were either a maid at the McMansion down the street or the underpaid seventh-grade social studies teacher of the local school district.
Although a by-word for cheap, efficient, reliable, and honest transportation, I simply couldn’t see beyond its reputation as a soulless tin econobox. It was far from a total dog. Yet, it still clearly gave off the impression that it was for people who didn’t have a pulse and couldn’t care less about cars or driving them. And let’s be honest, with the Toyota Corolla surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automotive nameplate in history – over 46 million Corollas sold over its 11 generations – the vast majority of the car-buying public might have a questionable pulse.
My teen years were almost 20 years ago and the Corolla has certainly changed since then. Up until 2012, the Toyota Corolla maintained complete anonymity and was more inconspicuous than a loaf of Wonder Bread. It was hardly any more exciting than the loaf in nearly every aspect.
It’s Mileage Monday, apparently. In unveiling the upcoming Corolla Hybrid late last year, Toyota predicted the normal-looking alternative to its long-running Prius would deliver a combined rating of 50 mpg, once the EPA got around to testing it.
Not the hardest bar to clear, given that the 2020 Corolla Hybrid uses the same 121-horsepower hybrid powertrain as its stigma-soaked hatch sibling. Toyota stuck the jump with room to spare. There’s also good MPG news for those who hate hybrids but loath the current generation’s tepid four-banger.
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.
If you lose sleep this weekend, we’ll know why. Toyota plans to debut its next-generation Corolla sedan at the Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition on November 16th, completing a product revamp that began with this year’s introduction of the Corolla Hatch (formerly Corolla iM, formerly Scion iM).
It’s expected the sedan, now swapped to the TNGA platform, will appear with a familiar face and upgraded mechanicals borrowed from its five-door sibling. With compact cars on the decline, Toyota needs its aging Corolla gone in order to better compete with the Honda Civic. Both models, however, are alike in one way: they’re falling out of favor with consumers.
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