2020 Toy­ota Corolla Sedan

Can Toy­ota’s econobox shed its dowdy im­age?

Motor Trend - - Intake - Frank Markus

Toy­ota’s freshly minted Corolla hatch­back, based on the hot new TNGA ar­chi­tec­ture, has been win­ning friends and in­flu­enc­ing edi­tors ever since we first clapped our eyes on it in March. We’ve since buck­led in a few times and lauded the lit­tle hatch for its quan­tum leapfrog­ging of its dreary Corolla im pre­de­ces­sor.

Sprightly dy­nam­ics and an up­scale cock­pit have drawn praise, though sparse rear-seat and cargo space drew rasp­ber­ries. Those prob­lems would seem to be eas­ily solved by stretch­ing the wheel­base (and rear leg en­vi­ron­ment) by 2.4 inches and graft­ing on a trunk. Our pa­tience is re­warded, as Toy­ota is now re­veal­ing the re­design of its plat­formshar­ing Corolla sedan.

The 12th-gen­er­a­tion Corolla sedan gets a broader stance, with its front and rear track widened by 0.5 and 0.9 inch, re­spec­tively, rel­a­tive to the out­go­ing model. Fol­low­ing a trend that started with the Camry, the whole car stands a bit lower—the height comes down 0.8 inch, the hood sits 1.4 inches lower, and with it the cowl, beltline, and in­stru­ment panel each come down. The driver even sits an inch lower and 1.6 inches fur­ther rear­ward. Thin­ner A-pil­lars im­prove out­ward vis­i­bil­ity.

A huge new one-piece floor si­lencer pad hushes road and tire noise, and a strat­i­fied cli­mate con­trol sys­tem can feed fresh, de­hu­mid­i­fied air to the green­house to pre­vent fog­ging while re­cir­cu­lat­ing warm air lower in the cabin.

The top pow­er­train of­fer­ing in the SE and XSE mod­els matches that of the sportier­look­ing hatch—toy­ota’s new 2.0-liter port- and di­rect­in­jected engine fea­tur­ing a lofty 13:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio, elec­tric cam phas­ing, and vari­able cool­ing and lu­bri­ca­tion cir­cuits. Here it pro­duces 169 hp (1 more than in the hatch) and 151 lb-ft of torque and comes teamed with a six-speed man­ual or a CVT that uses a torque converter and a con­ven­tional first gear, which then hands off to the belt-and-pul­leys sys­tem. Base L, LE, and XLE grades get an up­dated ver­sion of the last model’s 1.8-liter engine, re­tuned for a bit more power and bet­ter fuel ef­fi­ciency.

In­side, the Aval­onesque dash car­ries over, com­plete with its 8.0-inch touch­screen fea­tur­ing the En­tune 3.0 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with Ap­ple Carplay com­pat­i­bil­ity. Base L mod­els must make do with a 7.0-inch screen and fewer fea­tures. Top mod­els get a 7.0-inch dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter, and lesser grades get a 4.2-inch multi-in­for­ma­tion dis­play flanked by ana­log speedo and tach di­als. A full suite of con­nec­tiv­ity fea­tures is avail­able, in­clud­ing ac­ci­dent re­port­ing, re­mote ve­hi­cle sta­tus re­port­ing via phone app, on­board Wi-fi, and concierge ser­vices.

Stan­dard safety equip­ment in­cludes a radar- and cam­era-based pre-col­li­sion sys­tem that warns and brakes, adap­tive cruise con­trol (on CVT mod­els it even han­dles stop-and-go traf­fic), and lane de­par­ture alert, which will steer to pre­vent lane de­par­ture (or with the CVT, Toy­ota’s Lane Trace As­sist, which keeps the car cen­tered in its lane). There’s even auto high­beam as­sist and a sys­tem that in­ter­prets and dis­plays speed lim­its and other signs.

The out­go­ing Corolla placed sixth out of seven com­pacts in a 2016 com­par­i­son. When the new sedan ar­rives, we look for­ward to see­ing whether its per­for­mance im­proves with­out over­shad­ow­ing the prac­ti­cal strengths that have made the car a sales suc­cess for so many years.

This spring, Toy­ota will also add the first-ever hy­brid to the Corolla sedan lineup. The hy­brid’s bat­tery fits un­der the rear seats, leav­ing the gas model’s trunk vol­ume in­tact.

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