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Test Drive: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Greg Zyla
More Content Now
Daily Comet

Entry price: $20,290

Price as tested: $24,620

This week, we’re driving the 12th generation 2020 Toyota Corolla hatchback, arriving in top-level XSE trim and coming off a new generation debut last year. Now the bestselling car in the world after surpassing the VW Beetle in global sales, Corolla’s DNA dates back to 1966 when it arrived as a small 90-inch wheelbase subcompact. Today, after more than 44 million have been sold, Corolla Hatchback has grown 13.9-inches longer in wheelbase and if you choose the Corolla Sedan, add another 2.2-inches to the wheelbase growth number.

The new generation Corolla hatchback features a distinctive front-end design with oversized grill, LED headlights and the choice of either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic. Our tester came with the six-speed manual, which was a pleasant surprise. If you choose the CVT automatic instead of the six-speed manual XSE, it will cost an additional $665.

Available in three trims for 2020, Corolla Hatchback starts with an entry SE at $20,290, then moves to a mid-level SE Nightshade Edition at $22,290 and ending up with our tester’s top line XSE that starts at $23,240. Notable are the standard features even on the entry SE including all the powers, keyless entry, air conditioning, a great sounding stereo, USB, Bluetooth, Android and Apple compatibility, and much more. Therefore, don’t think the entry model is a stripped down Corolla as all three versions come well equipped.

All Corolla Hatchback models for 2020 come powered by Toyota’s fuel friendly Dynamic Force 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that delivers 168 horsepower and 151 lb. ft. of torque. This design performs much better than the previous 1.8 liter, 138-horse inline four that powered the previous generation Corolla line. The current XSE, in either six speed manual or CVT automatic, provides good low end torque.

Fuel mileage is good for both manual and CVT. The XSE six-speed manual churns out 28 city and 37 highway versus the CVT, which does a little better in the XSE with 30 and 38, respectively. If you choose the CVT in either of the lighter weight SE trims, it delivers the best mpg with 32 city and 41 highway. However, after a week of driving the six-speed, even with the less MPG estimates, I recommend it if you are one of the few drivers that still likes to shift gears over a CVT automatic, the latter not one of my favorite transmissions.

The XSE line, not surprisingly, features a bevy of extra amenities that make it stand out. Included are chrome upper grill surround, rear spoiler, enhanced LED headlights, daytime running lamps, comfortable heated front seats, push button start, upgraded interior, 18-inch Yokohoma Avid GT tires on machined alloy wheels, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, fog lamps, heated outside mirrors and power heated front seats

Our Corolla came with just one option, a recommended $425 Blizzard white pearl paint upgrade. Notable on the top class XSE is the standard Preferred Package that is a $1,325 option on the SE trim. Featured are an eight-speaker JBL Premium Audio, Dynamic Navigation, Toyota’s App suite, 8.0-inch touch screen, AM/FM/HD radio, one USB media port, all of the

Toyota Connect services (Safety, Service, Wi-Fi and Destination Assist), two USB charge ports, Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite with 90 days free, HD radio, Bluetooth, hands free phone capability and much more. With $955 destination, the final tally came in at $24,620 retail.

On the road, Corolla is fun to drive and gets you up to freeway merging speeds effortlessly. You’ll also enjoy good handling thanks to a MacPherson strut front setup and a trailing wish-bone rear arrangement. The cabin is quiet and has a nice “mid-size roominess” to it with excellent leg and head room. If taller adults sit in the rear, they may find accommodations a bit snug.

Every Corolla built comes with Toyota’s Star Safety System and Toyota Safety Sense Pre-Collision systems. The Star Safety includes all traction controls, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, rear view safety camera, and Smart Stop technology. The Safety Sense features include a pre-collision system, lane departure, stability control, electronic brake force, brake assist, pedestrian detection, radar smart cruise control and much more. Add eight airbags and you’re riding in one safe vehicle.

I applaud Toyota in every column I write as these high tech safety features should be standard in every car built today … but they still are not. By offering all of its top line, high tech safety even in the entry SE Corolla Hatchback, Toyota again goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to protecting those who purchase their cars, SUVs and trucks regardless of model or trim.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.9-inches, 3,060 lb. curb weight, 5.1 inch ground clearance, 17.8 cu. ft. of cargo space, and a 13.2 gallon fuel tank.

In summary, there’s a reason the Toyota Corolla is the best selling nameplate in the world, and you’ll find out why when you test drive one. They are reliable, lower cost cars that also tout excellent owner reliability and customer satisfaction factors over and above much of the competition.

Likes: New 12th generation, top line safety, legendary status, looks.

Dislikes: Ride bumpy over rough surfaces, a little engine noise.

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and Gannett Co. Inc. Contact him at greg@gregzyla.com or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.