2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE Review & Rating
You can’t argue with the success of a car that’s been satisfying drivers since 1966. So when Toyota decided to introduce a hybrid version of its perennially popular Corolla—now in its 12th generation—it tapped into its experience with the Prius to create an economical and attractive hybrid trim that creates some stiff competition in its class. Add in abundant standard driver assists and exceptional fuel efficiency, and you have a shoo-in for our Editors’ Choice.
Features, Pricing and Design
The 2020 Corolla Hybrid is available in a single LE trim that starts at $23,880—cheaper than a 2019 Prius, which starts at $24,700. Standard features include 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, four-way manually adjustable front seats, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. The redesign includes a 7-inch display under the speedometer arch replacing the gauge cluster.
Toyota’s new Global Architecture mimics the revamped styling of the 12th-gen standard Corolla, revealing its hybrid underpinnings with a badge display on the exterior. Built on the Prius hybrid powertrain, the Corolla produces 121 horsepower and 105lb-ft of torque. The rest of the engineering mirrors the non-hybrid Corolla, except for the 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four engine and a pair of electric motors also cribbed from the Prius. There’s a 1.3kWh battery stored beneath the rear seats.
Toyota tweaked its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to take some of the elasticity out of its response. Next to the CVT’s gear lever are two buttons to switch vehicle mode, allowing for EV-only operation. An extra cubby is tucked in front of the shifter with a USB port directly next to it.
The Corolla Hybrid comes with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of advanced safety features, including adaptive cruise control, pre-collision mitigation with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure assistance with road edge detection, automatic high beams, road sign recognition, and lane tracing assistance.
The sedan steals its looks from its awkward cousin, the Prius, which has a loyal fanbase that has embraced its unique design. While its entry-level heritage is apparent in the exterior design, the front fascia, identical to the gas-powered Corolla, adds a touch of elegance. The interior is clean and contemporary, but with a mostly plastic interior, it still reflects a focus on frugality over frivolity.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The center dash has an infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen that includes a Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth for hands-free phone and wireless audio, and a six-speaker stereo. Apple CarPlay is included, as well as Amazon Alexa, but not Android Auto. Plugging into CarPlay requires using a USB port under the dashboard on the passenger side.
There is no embedded navigation system, but Toyota’s Scout GPS link is available with a three-year trial and you can download Toyota’s Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect that provides directions as well as iHeart Radio, Yelp, LiveXLive, NPR One, Fuel, Sports, Stocks, Traffic, Weather, and Wi-Fi access through Verizon with a six-month trial. A USB port for charging devices is located under the center armrest. Unfortunately, Toyota didn’t add rear seat USB ports for occupants, which will lead to competition for that single armrest charger.
Our week of climbing local hills as well as highway runs along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon fetched an exceptional fuel economy of 50mpg, just shy of the EPA-estimated 52mpg combined (53 city and 52 highway). This isn’t bad considering the steep ascents required to get anywhere in the Gorge.
The 2019 Corolla Hybrid has three driving mode: Normal, Power, and Eco. While remaining in the Eco mode can save fuel, the Normal mode provides more reliable handling when accelerating into traffic. A Power mode is included, but provides no noticeable bump in performance. A 2.0-liter, 169-hp gas-only Corolla can get from zero to 60mph in 8.0 seconds. By comparison, the Corolla Hybrid we drove in Eco mode took 14 seconds to get to the same cruising speed.
The switch between battery and gas engine is undetectable, although the powertrain exudes a faint noise occasionally when stopped. We relied on the gas engine to propel us into traffic from the highway on-ramp. The Yokohama Avid GT tires effectively absorbed most of the noise on the freeway, churned up by weather and trucks and the exterior ergonomics glided through the Gorge wind, an environment where gusts can exceed 45mph.
The Corolla’s lane-keep assist is subtle, unlike some test cars that jolted us steering near a lane line. We also appreciate the single-beep lane-departure warning after recently driving a Maserati SUV that was so nagging it took all the fun out of the drive.
Combining the best features of a traditional Corolla with the fuel efficiency of the Prius engine makes the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid a strong contender to Honda’s Accord and Insight hybrids. Providing only a single trim level with no options and sluggish acceleration are drawbacks, but not nearly enough to overshadow the excellent value you’re getting here. The reliable and respected Corolla Hybrid is terrific option in its class, as well as our Editors’ Choice.