The 2020 Toyota Corolla is proof it’s never too late to relax and have fun. For many years, the Corolla has been a default compact car for anyone who wanted basic, no-nonsense transportation. That’s fine if you’re after a budget-friendly ride with a strong reputation for reliability. But when it came to design, driving dynamics and overall enjoyment, the Corolla was short on all counts.
Don’t look now, but the 2020 Corolla not only looks and drives better than before, it still packs tons of value. Toyota has preserved the core values of the Corolla, while adding newfound driving fun to the mix, too. The cabin receives a similar upgrade and no longer looks like you’ve penny-pinched at the counter of the rental-car place. And when it comes to standard safety equipment, the new Corolla shames many luxury models.
What’s not to like? For starters, the price of the Corolla has ticked upward, especially when it comes to range-topping trim levels creeping above $28,000. The base engine is pretty much as advertised; it’s dull and basic. As we discovered during our recent test drive — which you can read all about in the full review by Cars.com’s Fred Meier via the related link above — a few key upgrades make the Corolla a better daily driver.
Here are nine things we like — and three we’re not so hot on — about the 2020 Toyota Corolla:
Things We Like
1. No Longer Invisible
If you enjoy losing your car in a crowded parking lot, previous generations of Corolla were perfect for you. The anonymous styling of the Corolla is finally replaced by an exterior with actual drama worked into its lines. The front end even looks a little aggressive, thanks to the narrow headlights and a wide lower grille. While the rear isn’t as bold, this is a handsome compact sedan that doesn’t fade into the background.
2. Classy Cabin
The 2020 Corolla gets an upgrade in terms of interior trim and higher-quality materials used throughout the cabin. You no longer risk bruising your arms and elbows trying to rest them on a chunk of hard and unforgiving plastic. The new Corolla has more soft-touch surfaces and an upgraded dashboard that’s contemporary and easy to use.
3. Roomier in the Rear
Any small sedan can fall to pieces once you start testing how much room there is in the second row. Thankfully, the Corolla doesn’t skimp on backseat space. It’s usable by real adults, and for more than short trips across town.
4. Good Visibility
We know it sounds picky, but it’s a huge plus when you can … ya know, see outside the car you’re driving. The Corolla has small front pillars that don’t impinge on your view ahead. The mirrors have been moved from the front windows to the doors for a little extra acreage in your field of vision.
5. Improved Infotainment
The Corolla starts with a 7-inch touch screen, though everything but the base model comes with a larger 8-inch display. Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay are standard, but Android Auto is still not available. Most models feature a pair of USB ports, while added tech touches include subscription-based Wi-Fi and available wireless device charging.
6. So Much Standard Safety
Here is something every Corolla shopper should know right away: The 2020 model comes loaded with standard safety features. All trims come with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure alert, road edge detection, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control in models with the automatic transmission.
7. Smart and Seamless Transmission
Speaking of the continuously variable automatic transmission, we found it to be unobtrusive while making the most of the engine power. The manual gearbox is notable for being sportier than the languid one used in the previous Corolla. Shifts are sharper, and an Intelligent Manual Transmission mode serves up rev-matched downshifts. Who’d have expected that in a Corolla?
8. Better Ride and Handling
It’s no Supra sports car, but the 2020 Corolla has sharper steering than before. It also has a more controlled ride, thanks partly to a multilink rear suspension that keeps the car planted to the road. While Meier, in his review, noted that rivals from Mazda and Volkswagen still feel ultimately sportier, the Corolla does a commendable job of mixing it up with them.
9. Impressive MPG
Sure, the 2020 Corolla is more entertaining, but it still needs to remain affordable and practical on a day-to-day basis. With that in mind, the Corolla delivers impressive fuel economy of 32-34 mpg in EPA combined ratings for city and highway driving. In fact, the optional and more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers better mileage than the base 1.8-liter four-cylinder. If you truly hate stopping for gas, the Corolla Hybrid returns 52 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.
Things We Don’t
1. Base Engine Is Basic
The entry-level 139-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder is dull, but it’s lower price will still make it the most popular choice among buyers. Too bad, since the optional 169-hp, 2.0-liter four is the much better engine. It’s smoother and more powerful, and gets better mileage.
2. Way-OK Cargo Room, Cabin Cubbies
The Corolla could use a few more storage places and cubbies in its interior. At 13.1 cubic feet, the Toyota’s trunk is roomy, though we pointed out the VW Jetta and Honda Civic have more cargo room. It’s a little nitpicky, to be sure, but good to know if maximizing cargo space is a priority.
3. Prices Are Higher
The Corolla is still a solid value, even if it’s not as cheap as it was before. We pointed out the popular LE trim is now roughly a thousand bucks pricier than the previous model. (That said, when you factor in the added safety tech alone, it’s worth the premium.)
More From Cars.com:
- The Toyota Corolla XSE Is More Fun to Drive Than a Mazda3, and Here’s Why
- Which Cars Have Android Auto in 2019?
- 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Review: All the Economy, Few of the Frills
- 2020 Toyota Corolla Sedan, Hybrid and Hatchback: Everything You Need to Know
- 2020 Toyota Corolla Sedan Shines in Crash Tests But Not Headlight Ratings
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