In the past few years, we’ve seen the Dodge Dart and Ford Focus get axed as automakers forge ahead with more profitable, SUV-heavy lineups. At least, that’s how manufacturers framed these decisions in the press. Another way to look at it: They cut objectively bad cars out of their future plans.
But you won’t hear similar rumblings about the Honda Civic. Likewise, no one is predicting the demise of the Toyota Corolla, one of the most reliable cars of the decade. In fact, Toyota confidently unveiled an all-new Corolla on November 15, marking the 12th generation of the compact sedan.
Following the debut of a hatchback on the same platform for 2019, the Corolla sedan will hit the U.S. market for the 2020 model year. Here’s everything you need to know about the redesign.
1. A major power boost
- Peak horsepower jumps 20% to 169 hp.
Once the Corolla hatchback hit the market with 168 horsepower, you could see the door open for a sportier version of the sedan. That’s exactly what consumers will get with the 2020 sedan in SE and XSE trims. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder Dynamic Force engine runs these models with 169 horses and 151 pound-feet of torque.
The L, LE, and XLE trims will run on the 1.8-liter engine that Toyota says will get a horsepower and mpg bump in the redesigned model. If a lack of power was a sticking point for consumers with the previous generation, this update should settle things.
2. A genuine style upgrade
- It’s not earth-shattering, but the new Corolla looks much better.
We can’t think of many anyone who buys a Corolla for its exterior design. However, we can think of consumers who would pass on one for that very reason. With the redesign, Toyota should reduce the number of folks who are turned off by the famously vanilla sedan’s looks.
Looking at the 2020 model head-on, you’ll notice how designers dropped the button-style hood design of the previous generation (and ’19 hatch) in favor of a smoother, more elegant front. The newly sculpted fenders and hood work with a fascia and grille that compliment a flying-V headlight formation. (This model is also slightly lower and a touch wider.)
Meanwhile, Toyota’s compact car will offer 18-inch wheels for the first time. At least in SE and XSE trims, this Corolla’s appearance represents a marked improvement over the outgoing model.
3. Keeping the manual
- Corolla’s manual transmission will not die with the 11th generation.
In the new BMW 3 Series, everyone noticed the departure of the manual transmission, and it was only the latest one to go. The 12th-gen Corolla will continue with a manual — a six-speed, rev-matching “intelligent” system that is all-new for 2020. Hill-start Assist Control will come standard and be a help to younger drivers learning the ropes of the manual.
Meanwhile, the automatic option will be a Dynamic Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT). Overall, Toyota said the shifting speeds are 20% faster in this system than in the typical CVT. Sport mode will be an option.
4. Interior comfort and design
- Along with the center of gravity, controls are lower.
Toyota engineers lowered the center of gravity in the new Corolla, and the thinking applied to the interior as well. All the controls sit lower than in models of the past, which serves to enhance visibility and reduce the feeling of a cluttered cockpit. Buyers can decide on a 4.2-inch or 7-inch digital display for gauges behind the wheel.
Around the seats, Toyota went with a mix of high-gloss and matte interior details in what is a simplified layout. Compared to the previous generation’s busy, button-heavy center stack, this model should be more pleasant to sit in and operate — provided all the tech works.
5. Infotainment tech
- Standard Entune 3.0
Every 2020 Corolla except the L gets the Entune 3.0 system standard with an 8-inch touchscreen. (L trims get a 7-inch screen.) Navigation, audio controls, and vehicle settings run through here. Climate control will run the old-fashioned way (i.e., with buttons and knobs) just below it.
A six-speaker audio system comes standard, but buyers can opt for a nine-speaker, 800-watt JBL thumper in the XSE and XLE trims. Entune Premium Audio is part of the package, as are 6.7-inch subwoofers in the doors and sealed door panels for the ultimate bass effect.
Other options include Apple CarPlay, a WiFi hotspot, and Remote Connect.
6. Standard safety equipment
- There’s plenty of standard safety tech.
Safety is as important an element of Toyota’s brand as anything else these days, so it’s no surprise every new Corolla will come with the Star Safety System and Safety Sense 2.0. Traction control, stability control, brake assist, anti-lock braking system (ABS), and smart-stop tech comprise the first chunk of the tech.
Meanwhile, the suite of advanced collision-prevention tech is extensive. A pre-collision system with auto-brake, dynamic-radar cruise control, lane-departure and lane-tracing assist, auto high beams, and road-sign assist are included. Blind-spot monitors are an option in lower trims and standard as you move up the Corolla range.
7. Pricing and mpg numbers ahead
- The new model should surpass 32 mpg.
While Toyota won’t release pricing or fuel economy specs for the 2020 Corolla until close to its launch date (i.e., in 2019), we can make a few educated guesses. For starters, the base engine would have to surpass 32 mpg to support the automaker’s claim about improved economy.
Meanwhile, the Corolla hatch got an estimated 36 mpg with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission, so there’s a solid chance we’ll see comparable numbers in the sedan. (The XSE hatch gets 33 mpg combined while the manual model gets 31 mpg.)
Pricing will almost certainly start below $20,000, even with the upgrades.