2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE Sedan Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Great Value Proposition
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Toyota has built more than 40 million Corollas since the model's introduction in 1966, which makes it the number one selling car of all time, a title it stole from VW's Beetle back in the 1990s. So it's no wonder this company can produce MacDonald's burger value at such a bargain price point. The latest Corolla, which Toyota introduced in 2019, relies on the company's all new TNGA chassis platform. This complete structural redesign features a fly weight aluminum hood, which is so much easier to lift when you need to check the oil or top off the water. We also like the fact that Toyota opted not to cover the Hybrid's impressive mechanicals with one of those trendy plastic modesty covers that have become all the rage these days. With weight savings measures like that alloy hood, Toyota has managed to increase the Corolla's thermal efficiency 40% over previous models. Bottom line: the Corolla Hybrid weighs in at a scant 3,060lbs.
The low curb weight is a good thing, because the Hybrid combo put out only 121hp. A four cylinder engine displacing 1.8 liters drives the front wheels through a 10-stage CVT transmission which is equipped with a physical first gear for better off-the-line performance and CVT longevity. But once the initial thrust provided by the first gear launch dissipates, the Hybrid takes longer than you would like to achieve freeway speed from a stop. There are no paddles on the steering wheel, nor any manual control gate on the console mounted gear lever to mitigate the leisurely acceleration. But there is a choice of Drive Modes, and if you select "PWR" or power from the button located in front of the shift lever, the Corolla responds to the throttle with notably more élan. But in either Eco or Normal Mode, slow throttle response compounded by droning CVT belt whine are the prices you will pay to earn a range of close to 500 miles between trips to the gas station.
If your dash has more blank buttons than operative ones, you're probably driving an airport rental or this Corolla. The Hybrid's low price point becomes glaringly obvious when you slip into the driver's seat. To the left of the steering wheel you'll find a row of 5 rocker switches. Only two of them are labeled (dash display brightness and Headlight Auto-Dim) while three blanks await designation. An unrelieved tedium of black plastic stretches from one end of the dash to the other. Equally black seating surfaces are covered with the kind of serviceable nylon mesh you would expect to find on patio chairs. Since our test Corolla lacked XM Satellite radio as well as a CD player, we resorted to linking our I-Phone to the Corolla's Apple CarPlay system. Two USB ports are provided - under the dash and inside the console storage box - but only the one under the dash worked with the phone. And if you use AndroidAuto, you're still out of luck because the Corolla doesn't yet support that technology. Note that the under dash receptacle leaves the connection cord dangling in the passenger's footwell.
Even our test Hybrid handled with exemplary precision, and seemed glued to the road when pressed hard on rural switchbacks. The standard fitment 15 inch alloy rims and 195/65R15 Yokohama Avid GT radials look pathetically small today in a world that worships 22 inch tires. But they worked exceptionally well in giving accurate steering feedback to the Hybrid, and were rewardingly easy to flick from lock to lock in the twisties. The latest Corolla TNGA chassis is highly responsive to such enthusiastic management. They Hybrid's engine and gearbox, not so much.
2020 TOYOTA COROLLA HYBRID LE SEDAN
- ENGINE: 1.8 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves, VVT-i plus Hybrid Motor
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 53MPG City/52MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $25,233
HYPES: Great Value Proposition
GRIPES: Down on Power
STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10