2020 Toyota Corolla – This is It

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Toyota gathered media in California this week, myself included, to drive the new RAV4 (check back next week for my thoughts). The company also decided that, since they planned to take the wraps off the new Corolla in China at about the same time we’d be eating dinner, it made sense to show us the newest version of the best-selling nameplate of all time.

Perched on Toyota’s TNGA platform like the already-on-sale Corolla hatch, the 12th-generation sedan retains the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as before, but grows wider front and rear. The front overhang shrinks by over an inch, the rear overhang grows by over half an inch, and the hood is lowered nearly an inch and a half. Overall height decreases by a little less than an inch.

The SE and XSE trims are considered the “sport” models and get a different front fascia that includes a chin spoiler, and the SE is offered with a six-speed manual transmission for the #savethemanuals crowd.

Eighteen-inch wheels are available for the first time on Corolla, standard on the SE and XSE. The LE and XLE make do with 16-inch rims.

Carrying over for the L, LE, and XLE trims is the 1.8-liter four-banger from the previous car, but Toyota promises more power and improved fuel economy. Promises only, as no numbers were released.

A 2.0-liter direct-injection four powers the SE and XSE, and the numbers are in on this one: 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque.

If the manual, complete with rev-matching and hill-assist control to prevent rollbacks, doesn’t work for you, it’s CVT time.

Inside, all trims but L get an eight-inch touchscreen (L gets seven inches of touch), and Toyota’s Entune app package comes as standard equipment. Apple CarPlay is now standard, and premium JBL audio is available, while a Wi-Fi hotspot appears as an available perk.

Available safety and driver-aid tech includes Toyota’s Safety Sense system. That system includes radar cruise control, lane-departure alert, pre-collision assist, and other safety-oriented driving-aid systems. Blind-spot monitoring is also available.

At first glance, the Corolla vaguely reminded me of recently-departed Scion models, at least in terms of exterior styling. Inside, the cabin looks modern and sleek but, as usual, I’m annoyed by a “tacked-on tablet” infotainment screen that mars the look. The J-shaped headlights give the car a bit of an evil grin, but the gaping maw of the lower fascia will probably turn some buyers off. The styling isn’t head-turning, but neither is it boring – the Corolla is now at least 50 percent less anonymous.

There’s a lot more I’d like to know – power numbers for the 1.8, pricing, and fuel economy, for starters – but my first take is that the Corolla may actually have a personality now.

There was one other piece of news dropped at the event: There will be a Corolla hybrid, scheduled for a debut in two weeks at the Los Angeles Auto Show. We’ll be there to see the wraps come off.

[Images: 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC, Toyota]

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