2020 Toyota Corolla SE Sedan
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- 16 Oct 2019
By James Park
Toyota Corolla has something in common with such prominent writers as Stephen King, Michael Connelly and James Patterson.
These best-selling authors of mass-produced paperback novels will never win (I dare say) the Nobel Prize for Literature. They probably don’t care because after decades of seeing millions of their books sold world-wide, they are all sitting pretty on heaps of large bank accounts.
Similarly, the Corolla is a car for the ordinary people. No self-admiring Saudi oil sheik ever lusted after this car for its exclusivity, power and beauty… ever!
Not the best car, but as the best-selling car ever, the Corolla gives ordinary consumers affordability, reliability, practicality and fuel-efficiency. It’ll take you from point A to B for years without too much complaint and with – if not style – dependability.
This unpretentious compact family vehicle has sold more than 45 million copies world-wide since its 1966 debut, surpassing the previous record holder – the VW Beatle – in 1997. To satisfy demand, the car is produced all over the world, including in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Ubiquitous as it is, the Corolla never really stood out with eye-catching style. At least for this writer, that changed with the introduction of the all new Corolla Hatchback last year. Even with the usual Japanese designers’ proclivity to do little too much (personal bias?), the new Corolla Hatchback may attract new customers on looks alone.
Based on the same new platform (Toyota New Global Architecture) as the Hatchback, the new Sedan introduced this year as 2020 model, gets similar attention-getting front-end treatment. The rest of car, however, seems less stylish. Compared to previous models, though, the new Corolla definitely stands out more from the crowd.
The TNGA platform, according to Toyota, is 60% stiffer than before, making the new Corolla a better handling vehicle. The multi-link rear suspension should also lend itself towards better stability going through corners.
The only engine choice for the Corolla Hatch happens to be the normal-breathing 2.0 litre four good for 169 horses and 151 lb-ft of torque. This same engine also motivates higher-end Corolla sedans. The base motor for the sedan, however, is the 1.8 litre four-cylinder engine producing maximum 139 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of barely adequate twist.
Both engines could be mated to either six-speed manual or the Toyota-specific ‘Direct-Shift’ CVT that has regular first gear to lessen the ‘elastic’ effect of many CVTs. The top-of-the-line XLE and XSE models are offered with CVT as only transmission choice. As for the manual, Toyota calls it ‘IMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission).’ Push the ‘IMT’ button and the transmission does the rev-matching for you during down-shifts.
In Canada, the Sedan lineup includes eight models, starting with L that can be had for $18,990 (before taxes and other fees) with manual tranny. 1,800 dollars more will get you the CVT. The XLE and XSE cost $26,990 and $28,490, respectively. There’s even a hybrid model for $24,790.
The mid-level SE with manual provided to this writer starts from reasonable $22,290. Another 2,000 dollars of options including heated steering wheel, 18’ alloys, wireless charging, power moonroof, etc, brought the price up to $24,290. If you don’t need leather seats and such, this model more than satisfies.
The car’s interior, as first seen in the Hatchback, is simple but elegant and the materials used throughout do not look or feel cheap. The touch-screen infotainment system, however, seems to be a work in progress. It is not as intuitive as others in the Corolla’s rivals and the Android Auto is still not available.
On the other hand, most of the electronic nannies as pre-collision warning with pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane-departure warning, road-edge detection and radar cruise control are bundled in the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 Package.
The tester’s 2.0 litre engine is peppy enough for everyday driving situations. The six-speed manual shifts with bit of rubbery feel but slides into gates with precision nonetheless. The clutch action is light and easy to modulate.
As with growing number of manual vehicles, the old-fashion handbrake is replaced by an electronic button. However, the ‘auto hold’ button will be quite useful for those manual-beginners going uphill in stop and go traffic.
On the whole, the car accelerates and handles reasonably well and now it’s easier on the eyes than before. Mechanically, the car is expected to be as reliable as ever. There’s no reason the Corolla will give up its best-seller status anytime soon. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2020 Toyota Corolla SE Sedan
As tested: $24,290
Engine: 2.0 litre four
Power: 169 hp/151 lb-ft
Transmission: 6 spd manual
Fuel: 8.2 litres per 100km (city), 6.5 litres (highway)
Best: improved exterior styling, better handling
Worst: less intuitive infotainment, no Android Auto
Competition: Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Kia Forte
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