Toyota Corolla XSE
SAVANNAH, Ga. —
When something is ubiquitous, can it be good?
If you’re hungry,
McDonald’s is cheap but not tasty. Need new clothes? Kohl’s and
J.C. Penney have piles of them, but they’re far from fashionable.
On the other hand, if
you buy a high-end Swiss watch, one that sets you back thousands of
dollars, it will have 16 dials that make reading the time harder,
and it will need costly regular servicing to maintain its accuracy.
In contrast, a Timex, Swatch, Fossil or Armitron can have its
battery changed by that brain-dead teenager at the watch kiosk in
the shopping mall.
It’s not different
when you purchase a car. What you want is a Lamborghini. Once you
locate a dealer, you’ll find the cost of fuel, insurance and
service, not to mention the cost of gold chains, put it out of
It’s so much
simpler to own the redesigned 2020 Toyota Corolla, a compact sedan
that will have fewer competitors now that GM, Ford and FCA no longer
“Frankly, at the
end of the day, I’m OK with taking 100 percent market share of a
5.3 million unit segment,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president
Toyota Motor North America. “We’re staying bullish on small
It’s no wonder.
Toyota has sold more
than 46 million Corollas since the first one rolled out of
Toyota’s Takaoka plant in 1966, making it the bestselling
nameplate in the world. So yes, the Corolla is ubiquitous, thanks to
its continued affordability, reliability and fuel efficiency. But
the 2020 Corolla adds a missing ingredient: personality.
Toyota’s New Global Architecture that’s used for the Camry and
RAV4, the Corolla’s 106.3-inch wheelbase is unchanged, but the car
is 0.2 inch wider, 0.8 inches lower and 0.8 inches shorter and wears
a more alluring wardrobe. While its shape remains familiar, the
Corolla looks lower and leaner, accentuated by gently flared fenders
and anchored by LED headlamps. It has a cleaner, energetic edge.
redecorated cabin has an articulate grace that feels neither cheap
nor sparse thanks to contrasting colors and shrewd material choices
that evoke a premium feel. An 8-inch infotainment touchscreen
(7-inch on base L models) anchors the center of the instrument
panel, and is placed above a simple row of climate control buttons
bookended by rotary knobs. Uniquely, the center console and
instrument panel don’t physically connect, which imparts a feeling
of spaciousness. The instrument and door panels are covered in a
synthetic material accented with a simple stitch that suggests
extravagant modernism. This is mass market design at its finest.
The XSE test car’s
sleek ecru and black interior’s minimalist ambiance never seems
entry-level. The front passengers sit low, with a short but
supportive front seat cushion. Head and legroom are good up front.
Back seat legroom is adequate, but headroom is tight due to an
encroaching sunroof, so try before you buy. Trunk space is
impressive; at 6’2”, I fit without a problem.
The 2020 model’s
mainstream L, LE, and XLE grades use the 139-horsepower 1.8-liter
engine found in the previous-generation Corolla. Sportier SE and XSE
grades get Toyota’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 169
horsepower. Both engines mate to a continuously variable automatic
transmission or a six-speed manual transmission – a rare commodity
in this class, but one that Toyota officials feel is a key selling
seeing in markets like Southern California and even a little bit in
South Florida is car culture seems to be alive,” Laukes said.
“There are markets where people want to drive stick or they want
to learn how to drive stick, and that’s where their interest
Also, buyers can opt
for a Corolla Hybrid, which uses the Prius’ 121-horsepower
drivetrain and returns 52 mpg.
Aiding and abetting
the powertrains is a MacPherson strut front suspension and
multi-link rear suspension attached to 16-inch wheels on LE and XLE
grades, and 18-inch rubber on SE and XSE trims. Driver assistance
features include dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system
with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering
assist, automatic high beam, lane tracing assist, blind spot
monitor, and a system that alerts the driver about various road
signs. A rear backup camera is standard.
Driving brings out
modest road noise, but a surprising amount of wind noise. The engine
moans, typical of a driveline with a CVT transmission. It’s more
fun-to-drive than previous Corollas, although that’s not saying
much. Nevertheless, it will surely please most drivers. In contrast,
the Hybrid is distinctly less exciting to drive than the rest of the
lineup. While the throttle is responsive off the line, it becomes
less so at speed. It isn’t as quick as other drivelines, although
its fuel efficiency compensates for its lack of excitement. The
Hybrid’s ride seems more abrupt over rough stuff, although it is
very quiet. Thoughtfully, there’s no space penalty from the
Hybrid’s battery pack; it’s under the back seat.
you’ll find staying connected is easy thanks to its 4G LTE Wi-Fi
hotspot, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Scout GPS compatibility,
Toyota’s Entune 3.0 App Suite, auxiliary audio jack and USB port;
AM/FM/MP3; voice recognition and music streaming via Bluetooth;
customizable home screen; and weather/traffic info. An 800-watt JBL
audio system is optional.
The updates render
what was once common somewhat less so, making it even more tempting
than a McRib or an 80 percent off sale. OK, maybe not the 80 percent
off sale, but you get the idea.
EPA fuel economy
Length: 182.3 inches
Cargo capacity: 13.1
Curb weight: 3,150