2020 Toyota Corolla Road Trip Review By Larry Nutson
2020 Toyota Corolla
Dixie Highway Road Trip
By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
On the invite of Toyota I was making a road trip from my Chicago home to Evansville, Indiana. It would take about five hours. The purpose of the trip was to participate in the line-off celebration of the new 2020 Toyota Highlander and learn about all the investment and new jobs at Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana plant.
Yes, I could have gone by air, but Evansville’s Regional Airport doesn’t have a broad offering of daily flights. It is winter and the risk of snow could impact driving as well as air travel. So I rolled the dice.
As I drove south along US 41—a pre-interstate four-lane divide highway, I passed flat farmland after farmland, an area densely populated with electric wind turbines for as far as the eye could see, numerous abandoned farm buildings and an occasional small town.
US 41 runs from northern Michigan to Miami Florida and is one of those roads you can picture in Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” scroll. I was driving one of the routes that make up the Dixie Highway system of roads from the north to the south that pre-date our interstate highway system. I would cross the east-west Lincoln Highway, another of the old routes used by travelers in the first half of the 1900s. In some places along the way signs reading Dixie Highway still stand.
Thanks to Toyota I would be diving a 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE sedan. The 12th-generation Toyota Corolla made its arrival in two chapters: the all-new Corolla Hatchback arrived in 2018, while the sedan has been redesigned from the ground up for 2020, with an available hybrid for the first time in the U.S.
My Corolla XSE’s power plant is a new 169-horsepower 2.0-L 4-cylinder mated to CVT. EPA test-cycle ratings are 34 mpg combined with 31 city mpg and 38 highway mpg. The long road trip would not only allow for some fuel economy measurements but also plenty of time to experience and evaluate much of the equipment and features.
The 2020 Corolla is available in L, LE, XLE, SE and XSE trims with base prices ranging from $19,500 to $25,450.
Off I went from my in-city Chicago home driving the interstate out of Chicago heading southeast around the southern tip of Lake Michigan to US 41. I put a number of the XSE’s features to use right away. I set my destination in the navigation system with its 8-inch touchscreen. Although I knew the route, the nav system does pick up traffic information and delays and suggest alternate routes. I also like to see the ETA displayed on the screen and see how much time I can knock off of that.
Qi-wireless charging for my smart phone helped keep my connected. SiriusXM offered me a variety of music genres played through the 9-speaker premium audio system. Heated front seats kept me comfortable, since on long road trips I don’t like to drive in a heavy coat. The power adjustable driver’s seat let me make small tweaks to my seating position to alleviate sitting the same way for too long.
The Corolla has a full contingent of Automatic Driver-Assistance Safety (ADAS) features. US-41 in not that heavily traveled and was the perfect road to use the radar cruise control. Posted speed limit is 60 mph and I set the cruise control a “bit” above that, since after all I am looking to beat the nav system’s ETA. Smart or radar cruise control systems by every carmaker are programmed conservatively and leave what turns out to be too much space between you and the vehicle in front. What ends up happening is someone moves over into this space in front and the car you are driving applies the brakes.
The radar cruise worked great, leaving me to just steer. The Corolla is equipped with lane departure alert with steering assist. This system looks at the lane markings and will steer the car back towards the center of the lane. Its a great feature to keep you from drifting a bit during those occasional brief moments when you take you eyes off the road. Blind spot monitor is another nice feature especially in poor visibility conditions which I experienced on the drive back home.
I made the 300 mile drive to Evansville in my predicted 5 hours. The 13.2 gallon fuel tank needed a refill in Terre Haute. As for fuel economy, I matched the EPA highway rating at 38 mpg, although my average speed was well above that of EPA’s laboratory dyno test.
My return trip north wasn’t as easy. Snow would be hitting Chicago right about the same time I would be. This slowed me down quite a bit and ended up adding 45 minuted to the drive home. I would note though, the Corolla performed quite well in the wet snow that was hitting the roads. Even with the XSE’s low-profile 225/40R18 tires, which is not the best choice for snow, the Corolla plowed through it all and got me home safely.
Sedans remain popular, in spite of what you may be lead to think. Check out the Corolla as www.toyota.com. The 5-seat compact Corolla in its 2020 guise has plenty of pep with its 169-HP and good overall ride comfort. It’s well suited for city living, commuting, or an occasional long road trip. Toyota has come a long way since 1967.
Toyota has made a tremendous investment in the U.S. market. The plant in Princeton just completed a $1.3 billion modernization that added 550 new jobs to the workforce that now totals over 7,000 individuals. They like to say it’s the second largest city in Gibson County.
Epilogue: After I made the decision to drive rather than fly I questioned myself if that was the right choice. Well, as it turns out, if I had flown the flight that I would have taken for my return to Chicago had been cancelled due to the snow. I’m glad I drove.
© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy