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2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid: No thriller, this one excels as an ultra-thrifty, hassle-free urban shuttle

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid: No thriller, this one excels as an ultra-thrifty, hassle-free urban shuttle

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Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

Let's not complicate the issue.

Simply stated, the all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla hybrid performs its assigned duties astonishingly well, and makes no pretense at winning other performance accolades.


All new for 2020 is the 12th-generation Toyota Corolla, which, for the first time in the U.S., offers a hybrid version. Photo provided by Toyota

This guy is focused on the mission, and the mission is to provide a comfortable cabin and hassle-free thrift at a frugal price.

Mission accomplished.

This first-ever (in the states) Corolla hybrid boasts a spacious, relaxing interior and stratospheric fuel economy, all at an affordable price and all without the added hassle of having to plug it in.

Available exclusively in LE trim, the 2020 Corolla hybrid is priced nearly 2 grand below a 2019 Prius LE, with which this new gas/electric Corolla shares a platform and powertrain. Consequently, Corolla matches Prius's 52 combined-mpg EPA rating.

In our 110 miles with the gas/electric Corolla, we did even better. In a mix of city/hwy driving, more the former than the latter, we achieved a remarkable 55 mpg. Impressive frugality!

And that, of course, is the idea.

On the other hand, this guy is slower than a school-zone speed limit. Its leisurely stroll to 60 mph takes so long -- nearly 11 seconds -- we regretted not bringing lunch.


Photo provided by Toyota

That glacial acceleration and those lofty mpg numbers are courtesy of a 1.8-liter I-4 combined with a pair of electric motors and a 1.3-kWh battery pack, all managed by a CVT automatic. Total powertrain output is 121 hp and 105 lb.-ft. of torque.

Interestingly, the packaging in Corolla of this latest Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive hardware puts the battery pack under the rear seat. The result not only prevents the battery pack from infringing on trunk space, but also enables a 60/40-split folding rear seat for expandable cargo room.

Other than leisurely acceleration, the driving experience is fine. Sure, there's a bit of wind and road noise at highway speed, but nothing egregious. Meanwhile, this new Corolla's suspenders -- a modern multi-link rear suspension replaces the hoary old torsion-beam setup of the outgoing Corolla -- provide a compliant, confident on-road demeanor.

Add drive modes of Normal, Eco, Power (such as it is) and, for brief runs, a pure electric EV mode, and the driver has some sense of communion with the car.

Outside, the 2020 Corolla sedan shows sharper duds than it has in the past. The front-end styling is similar to the hatchback, which arrived for 2019, but the four-door goes its own way in such details as placement of the corporate badge and in the front fascia's outboard grille wings, which vaguely recall the big Avalon. It's notable, from a styling standpoint, the hybrid is all but indistinguishable from the standard sedan.

Inside, room is marvelous up front in nicely bolstered, manually controlled buckets -- height-adjustable in the case of the driver's seat. Very comfortable. In back, leg room is better than you have a right to expect and head room is not a problem.


Photo provided by Toyota

Meanwhile, the LE decor is blue-collar elegant. Neoprene-like seat covers are pattern-stitched on front seat backs while satin metal-look accents appear around the cabin and piano-black accents class up the center console and center-stack screen.

Speaking of which, that infotainment system's blend of an 8.0-inch touch-screen, redundant hard-button controls and knobs for radio volume and tuning all combine to make navigating the electronics easy. Of course, the car's lack of satellite radio and navigation reduced complexity, too.

Finally, 2020 Corolla includes as standard equipment the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety features: a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, auto high beams, radar cruise control, road-sign assist and lane-tracing assist that helps to keep the vehicle centered in its lane.

Globally, Corolla, introduced back in 1966, is the best-selling automotive nameplate in the history of automotive nameplates, with more than 46 million sold during the past 53 years. This hybrid only expands its appeal for frugal U.S. buyers.

This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact

Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

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