It’s difficult to argue with an automobile that has been satisfying drivers since 1966. When Toyota decided to release a hybrid version of its perennially popular Corolla—now in its 12th generation—it drew on its experience with the Prius to develop a cost-effective and appealing hybrid trim that competes well in its class. When you add in a plethora of standard driving aids and excellent fuel efficiency, you’ve got a shoo-in for our Editors’ Choice.
Design, Pricing, and Features
The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid comes in only one trim level, LE, which starts at $23,880, which is less than a 2019 Prius, which starts at $24,700. 15-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, heated exterior mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, three drive modes, adaptive cruise control, a virtual instrument panel, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats are all included as standard features. The gauge cluster has been replaced by a 7-inch LCD under the speedometer arch.
Toyota’s new Global Architecture is based on the style of the 12th-generation regular Corolla, with a logo on the outside revealing the hybrid underpinnings. The Corolla’s hybrid powertrain produces 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. Except for the 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four engine and a pair of electric motors borrowed from the Prius, the remainder of the engineering is identical to the non-hybrid Corolla. A 1.3kWh battery is hidden beneath the back seats.
Toyota adjusted the reaction of its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to remove some of the flexibility. Two buttons next to the CVT’s gear lever switch vehicle mode, allowing for EV-only operation. A USB port is located exactly next to an extra cubby in front of the shifter.
Adaptive cruise control, pre-collision mitigation with pedestrian and cyclist identification, lane departure assistance with road edge detection, automatic high beams, road sign recognition, and lane tracing aid are all included in the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package.
The sedan takes its design cues from its ungainly cousin, the Prius, which has a devoted following thanks to its unusual styling. While the exterior design reflects its entry-level status, the front fascia, which is identical to that of the gas-powered Corolla, provides a touch of class. The interior is clean and modern, yet the majority of the interior is made of plastic, indicating a concentration on affordability over frivolity.
Connectivity and Infotainment
An 8-inch touch screen in the center dash houses an entertainment system with a Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth for hands-free phone and wireless audio, and a six-speaker radio. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa are included, but Android Auto is not. To connect to CarPlay, you’ll need to use the USB connector on the passenger side of the dashboard.
There is no built-in navigation system, but a three-year trial of Toyota’s Scout GPS link is available, as is a six-month trial of Toyota’s Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect, which includes directions, iHeart Radio, Yelp, LiveXLive, NPR One, Fuel, Sports, Stocks, Traffic, Weather, and Wi-Fi access through Verizon. Under the center armrest is a USB connector for charging gadgets. Unfortunately, Toyota didn’t include USB connections for occupants in the back seat, which means that the solitary armrest charger will face competition.
Our week of climbing local hills and interstate runs through the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon resulted in an amazing fuel economy of 50 miles per gallon, just missing the EPA’s combined prediction of 52 miles per gallon (53 city and 52 highway). Given the high ascents required to reach anywhere in the Gorge, this isn’t awful.
Normal, Power, and Eco are the three driving modes available on the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hybrid. While staying in Eco mode can save you money on gas, the Normal option gives you better control while accelerating into traffic. A Power mode is provided, although it does not deliver a perceptible performance boost. In 8.0 seconds, a 2.0-liter, 169-hp gas-only Corolla can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph. In comparison, in Eco mode, the Corolla Hybrid took 14 seconds to reach the same cruising speed.
Although the powertrain emits a tiny noise when halted, the switch between battery and gas engine is imperceptible. From the freeway on-ramp, we depended on the gas engine to propel us into traffic. The Yokohama Avid GT tires effectively absorbed much of the noise on the motorway, which was stirred up by weather and trucks, while the external design floated through the Gorge wind, which can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.
Unlike some test cars that startled us steering near a lane line, the Corolla’s lane-keep assist is mild. After previously driving a Maserati SUV with a nagging lane-departure warning that took all the fun out of the journey, we appreciate the single-beep lane-departure alert.
The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a formidable competitor to Honda’s Accord and Insight hybrids, combining the greatest attributes of a standard Corolla with the fuel efficiency of the Prius engine. The fact that there is only one trim level with no options and sluggish acceleration are both disadvantages, but not nearly enough to hide the fantastic value you’re getting. The dependable and well-respected Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a fantastic option in its class and our Editors’ Choice.