The World’s Best-Selling Car Goes Green
The all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid sedan and stablemate, the gasoline-only Corolla sedan, go on sale this week. These two join the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback, which debuted in late 2018. The Corolla, now in its 12th generation, is the world’s best-selling sedan, which you probably could figure out as they are ubiquitous. As common as they are, it doesn’t make them all that exciting. Toyota aims to change that with an all-new design and the first ever Corolla Hybrid.
Smooth, Efficient Performance
The all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system of a 1.8-liter, 16-valve double overhead cam gasoline-powered, four-cylinder engine. When combined with the 53-kilowatt electric motor, there is a total system 121 horsepower and 105 pounds-feet of torque. Power is sent to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) via three driving modes of Eco, Power and EV.
Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric motor and gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine power. Fuel economy for the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid, aided by the active grill shutters, is rated at 53 mpg city/52 highway/52 combined. Running on regular unleaded, the hybrid system was smooth, with the CVT programmed to err on the side of fuel efficiency. For more spirited performance, opt for the driver-selectable Power mode. This is where we kept the Corolla Hybrid for all in-town driving and during hard acceleration. Otherwise, Eco was more than adequate for cruising along at-or-above highways speeds.
The Corolla Hybrid is not fast, but when asked to—and in the Power mode—it got the job done. The engine was quiet, except when under the most demanding acceleration, at which point the 1.8L engine was buzzy.
The nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery is charged when applying the brakes or coasting. The regenerative charging system converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.
When driving a hybrid, I like the option to select the EV mode, especially around town, forcing the car to run solely on electric power. The Corolla Hybrid has this option, but the driving range in pure electric mode is a short 0.6-mile. So, driving silently with zero emissions will be a very short proposition.
The 3,050 pounds of the Corolla Hybrid was well-balanced. While the car was not built for handling prowess, the independent MacPherson front and multi-link with stabilizer bar rear suspension made for a stable and confident ride.
Stopping comes from Toyota’s electronically controlled brake system that incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The stops were straight and consistent, producing a satisfying regenerative whirring.
One Model, No Options
The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid only comes in the LE trim line, with no option packages. The LE trim includes a completely redesigned exterior from the 2018 Corolla, adding a sleeker style and appearance. The front end is dominated by the large grill with a mesh insert bordered by slim LED headlights and attractive LED accent lights. The side view is clean with color-keyed door handles and power exterior mirrors. Black B pillars and 15-inch machined alloy wheels on 195/65 all-season tires complete the unadorned look.
The sweptback windshield seamlessly leads into a roof that peaks above the driver’s head. The roof is finished off with a color-keyed shark fin antenna that flows to the quickly sloping rear window, then onto a short trunk lid. LED taillights, connected by a slim accent strip, frame the rear end. Subtle “Hybrid” badging on the trunk and the Toyota logo, with a blue background, tell the world you are not stopping very often for fuel.
The interior is clean and basic, but is very well-equipped with features such as push button start/stop and one-touch power windows. The gauges are large and well-placed for ease of viewing with white numbers on a black background. The driver’s seat is six-way manually adjustable, with the passenger getting four-way adjustments. The fabric-trimmed seats had an upscale look and were comfortable to the touch. The fold-down rear seat, which has a folding center armrest, splits 60/40. The soft-touch center console was a welcome surprise.
The tilt-and-telescopic three-spoke steering wheel has controls for audio, hands-free Bluetooth telephone operation and cruise control. The centerpiece of the Corolla Hybrid is the 8.0-inch touchscreen that rises from the dash. Here you will find controls for the AM/FM radio with Siri Eyes Free and Apple CarPlay. There are two USB ports (one for power and one for connectivity) and Toyota’s Safety Connect that includes Wi-Fi by Verizon with a six-month free trial. For those long, fuel-efficient road trips, having Wi-Fi for multiple devises will keep back-seat passengers happy—and quiet.
A big thank you to Toyota for having volume and channel selection knobs. It may seem like a simple thing, but Clean Fleet Report reviews hundreds of cars a year, and our single most common challenge is operating an infotainment system without knobs. Sitting just below the sound system is the automatic climate control that had both push buttons and knobs for easy operation.
This is where the 2020 Corolla Hybrid LE really shines. Starting with the Star Safety System, there are active and passive safety features, including eight air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer and a rear view camera.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE has a base MSRP of $22,950. Pricing excludes the $930 delivery and processing fee. The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE comes with these warranties.
- Hybrid Components Eight years/100,000 miles
- Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles
- Basic Three years/36,000 miles
- Maintenance Plan Two years/25,000 miles
- Anti-perforation Five years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance Two years/25,000 miles
Observations: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE
So, what do you do when you have the best-selling vehicle in the world? If you are Toyota, you completely redesign the Corolla and offer it for the first time ever as a hybrid. This is like a basketball team having a 20-point lead with two minutes to play, and they continue to launch three pointers!
In its 12th generation and with 46 million in sales since 1966, the Corolla is the hands-down king of compact cars. But to keep that lofty perch, sitting still will not do.
Built in Takaoka, Japan, the all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE is an extremely economical vehicle that should cover all your driving needs, whether it be commuting, in-town errands or long road trips. It also is competitively priced, especially when considering the standard safety and convenience features, as well as the vaunted Toyota build quality and reliability.
Visit your Toyota dealer and request to speak with one of their factory-trained hybrid specialists. Then, take the Corolla Hybrid out for a lengthy test drive. See how this fuel-sipping compact sedan fits your driving style and needs. If you don’t like spending money on fuel, it should fit your needs quite well.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV
Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Road test: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Road Test: 2018 Volkswagen e-Golf
Road Test: 2018 Honda Clarity PHEV
Flash Drive: 2017 Honda Clarity Electric
Road Test: 2018 BMW i3s
First Drive: 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
Road Test: 2019 Chevrolet Volt
Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews.
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.