Cultural trends tend to start on the coasts and gradually migrate towards the heartland of America. In a similar fashion, vehicular technology improvements tend to be introduced on the top end (read “expensive”) cars in a auto manufacturer’s lineup, then gradually make their way down to the more entry-level vehicles. Most of the modern wave of car safety tech is now in that place where that migration has borne great fruit. Enter the tricked out, fun 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE. With a starting price of $22,950, this is a pretty darn impressive starter sedan with a full range of Toyota Safety Sense technology and a hybrid engine that delivers excellent fuel efficiency.
Having said all of that, it is also a modest little sedan that while still featuring modern styling, is a humble addition to the parking lot of your local supermarket or workplace. Here’s a pic of the Celestite Gray Corolla I drove for a week:
As you can see, it’s a handsome, albeit modest sedan with some stylish lines. What makes the 2020 Toyota Corolla most notable, however, is the addition of the Toyota 1.8L DOHC 16-valve 4 cylinder Hybrid engine. Having a hybrid Camry isn’t quite as profound, and of course the same engine can now be found in the Prius (kind of a no-brainer there) and the RAV4, but it’s the entry level pricing of the Corolla Hybrid that makes it so interesting. I saw about 54 mpg in a car that cost half of what most other vehicles I review price out at nowadays.
Having said that, a lot of the interior styling is familiar from other Toyota vehicles. For example, the main gauge display:
That dark blue at night is not only easy on your eyes – which is just good engineering – but it’s gorgeous too. In fact, it’s hard not to acknowledge the superb engineering of the entire Toyota line as demonstrated in this entry level sedan. From that gauge display to the overall driver’s cockpit control layout to the simple controls for everything you’d want to change, Toyota deserves its top position in the world car manufacturing industry.
In fact, let’s have a look at the overall cockpit design:
From the big, bold entertainment display to the drive mode controls behind the gearshift to the array of buttons on the steering wheel, it’s a car that requires surprisingly little research or peeks into the user’s guide to understand.
Except for one thing… Look closely above and you’ll see that Scout GPS Link is displayed on the screen. Without a device plugged in, you’ll find yourself stuck using Entune on your smartphone, a strange and confusing suite of apps that offer some level of connectivity and, through Scout GPS Link, directional smarts too. It feels very hobbled together and is nowhere near a good user experience in my experimentation. Fortunately Toyota includes Apple CarPlay with this vehicle and across its entire lineup. A definitely win if you’re an iPhone user. Got an Android phone? Ah, well, that’s a bit of a problem because Toyota doesn’t believe that Android Auto is entirely safe, so it’s not supported on Toyota vehicles at this time, except there’s a bit of a thaw with 2020 models and, finally, the 4Runner, Tacoma, Tundra, and Sequoia will include Android Auto from 2020 onward.
Assuming you can find the darn plug! It took me calling my test drive support crew to actually identify where the correct USB plug was for the wire that would let my iPhone control the audio and entertainment system. Here’s why:
In this picture, it’s pretty obvious on the right of the dashboard, but that’s low down on the dash and if you didn’t know it was there (or had someone who told you) you’d never find it. Indeed, that was my problem for the first day I drove the Corolla: I struggled with Entune because while I could see “Apple CarPlay Compatible” I couldn’t figure out how to get CarPlay to work! Tip: The USB plug in the center console is not the CarPlay plug 🙂
The rear exterior view shows off the simple, elegant styling of the Corolla Hybrid:
I drive a small SUV (known in the biz as a “CUV” or compact SUV) so I have a bit of a love affair with trunks. The 2020 Corolla offers a great amount of room in this regard:
Lots and lots of space and it’s all hidden as soon as you close the lid. So handy! Admittedly, I’ve been driving hatchbacks almost my entire vehicular ownership life!
Balancing that out is the very modest legroom for rear passengers if the driver / front passenger isn’t short:
With those pros and cons, the real story here is the hybrid technology and Toyota’s done a great job integrating it into the Corolla. It’s peppy, smooth to accelerate, and I was seeing over 54mpg. In fact, fill up your tank and you’ll see it has a range of almost 600 miles due to the fuel efficiency. 600 miles. Darn impressive.
Overall I was impressed with the 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE sedan. Its modest, affordable pricing is great, and when you realize it includes the full Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 tech suite (collision detection, lane departure assist, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane tracking and road sign assist), a big, bright entertainment system and crazy good fuel efficiency, it’s clearly a solid entry level choice. College kids aren’t going to be thrilled about the modest sedan styling, but if you don’t want to drop $50,000 on a new car or want to ensure your family members are driving a safe, reliable vehicle, this is definitely one for the short list.
VEHICLE: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE Sedan, Celestite Gray exterior, with 1.8L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder Hybrid engine tech. Base price: $22,950. Optional Equipment: frameless homelink mirror, alloy wheel locks, carpet mat package, body protection package, paint protection package. AS DRIVEN: $25,233 (includes $930 dealer prep).
Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the 2020 Corolla Hybrid to drive for a week in return for this writeup. During which time I barely used any gasoline at all, actually. Very nice, thanks Toyota!