Toyota is killin’ it with Corollas

MSRP: $22,950 ($24,524 as tested)

4cyl, 121hp, 105pf, fwd

Last year, we reviewed the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, which was way more fun than we expected, and recently we reviewed the 2020 Corolla Hybrid, which was way more practical and economical than expected. Corollas haven’t always been the most exciting model, and to be fair, they’re not really in the most exciting new car segment, but Toyota has knocked the ball out of the park two years running with them.

Let’s get right to the best feature of this first-ever Corolla Hybrid: the gas mileage. How does 53 miles to the gallon suit you? That’s roughly triple what we’re getting with our daily driver SUV and minivan, so that got our attention right away. When I handed the keys back after a week of driving it, there was still well over half a tank of gas in it, and I had driven nearly 300 miles. The tank is a humble 11.4 gallons. That’s amazing. That makes a difference in your budget, even while gas prices right now are relatively low.

Imagine if gas prices go back up to 2008 levels (remember $4/gallon?), and now imagine how nice it would be to get more than 50 miles to that gallon.

So what are you giving up to get that kind of fuel economy? Well, that’s what we’re loving about these new Corollas. You’re not giving up much at all.

The Corolla, of course, is not as big (nor as expensive) as the Camrys, but the simple interior stylings mean you’re still getting lots of headroom (I’m six-one), plenty of leg room, and the seats are all supportive and comfortable. And you’re getting all the best electronic features you’d find in the upper-trim cars, which has always been an intriguing thing for us to consider.

You’re not getting the power of the bigger cars. The 2020 Camry LE Hybrid offers the 2.5-Liter four-cylinder that produces 176 horsepower, whereas the 2020 Corolla LE Hybrid comes with the 1.8-Liter producing only 121 horsepower. The Corolla is a lighter vehicle, but you’d notice the performance difference.

Incidentally, the Camry we’re comparing gets roughly the same gas mileage, and it’s only about four or five grand more expensive than the Corolla, so depending on your situation, you might want to consider the Camry as well.

Back to this Corolla. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of this hybrid Corolla is the display showing power transfer between the engine, battery and wheels. You wouldn’t need this sort of information display in most vehicles, because it would only show that the engine is full-time supplying power through the drivetrain to the wheels. These hybrids are different, and this display shows when the engine is driving the wheels, when the battery is driving the wheels and when the engine and the battery are working together to drive the wheels.

At other times, the display will show that the engine is simultaneously driving the wheels and recharging the battery. And then what’s really cool is when you see that the engine is dormant, the car is rolling forward and the wheels are actually generating energy that is being transferred back to the battery.

This power display is particularly interesting to watch, because it changes many times throughout your drive. It can change several times in one minute, especially when you’re cruising around the city.

But is the Corolla cool?

Yes. It really is a much cooler-looking car than the Corollas of only a few years ago. It seems that Toyota is pushing hard to set the standard from the bottom of the lineup to the top. It seems that they recognize even car buyers on a budget have options, including the option of picking up better deals on the gently-used market, so they’re working harder to earn your new car business.

Having said that, we at Georgia Dad (my household family) continue to be fans of used cars. We have personally never purchased new ones, opting instead for later-model used vehicles in most cases. Currently, our vehicles range in mileage from 170K to 365K, so we anticipate being back on the car lot soon. At that point, we’re going to scan the inventory for vehicles in Toyota’s Certified Pre-Owned program.

Is the Corolla fun to drive?

It really is fun to drive, especially for a lower-output car. Last year’s six-speed Corolla was more fun, but this LE Hybrid grips the corners well, turns on a dime, and has a responsive accelerator. It’s a quality ride, and one we would definitely consider buying for our family… after it gets traded back into the dealership.

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