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The Toyota Corolla remains reliable, consistent after 50 years

Executive Wheels: The 2020 Hybrid Toyota Corolla might not be exciting, but it has its perks

Jeff Rundles //February 17, 2020//

The Toyota Corolla remains reliable, consistent after 50 years

Executive Wheels: The 2020 Hybrid Toyota Corolla might not be exciting, but it has its perks

Jeff Rundles //February 17, 2020//


Toyota, arguably among the top three most powerful automobile companies in the world, started making the venerable Corolla way back in November 1966. The Corolla became the No. 1 selling automobile in the world in 1974 and has remained among the leaders ever since. Consider: In the “car” category, U.S. sales of the Corolla in 2019 were 304,850, third place behind the Toyota Camry (336,978) and the Honda Civic (325,650), with the Honda Accord (267,567) and Nissan Altima (209,183) rounding out the Top 5.

The car’s success wasn’t so much rooted in the fact that the Corolla was economical, although it was. The real groundbreaking that Toyota introduced with the Corolla was the concept of reliability to the U.S. car business. It would take the Americans more than 30 years to even begin to compete on that score.

The Corolla is now in its 12th generation of production, having gone from a subcompact to a compact sedan with the 1992 model year.

The 2020 Corolla is still the well-made, reliable, consistent, affordable, predictable and comfortable sure-fire car it has always been. No, it is not exciting; it will not win styling contests; it can’t race. But it sells like hot cakes because it will take you and your family anywhere you need to go with very little worry.

Like most cars these days, even inexpensive ones, this car featured a screen in the middle of the dash for access to all the car’s technology, and the car had most of the modern entertainment and safety technology that even expensive cars have. It is a relatively handsome car – it looks like every other car on the market, although Toyota/Lexus has gone to that high-styled nose that looks like a Star Wars storm trooper’s helmet.

There are eight trims in the Corolla lineup, beginning with the L, which carries a base price of $19,600, and going up to the XSE which starts at $25,550. Right in the middle, carrying a base price of $22,950, is this LE Hybrid model.

Toyota has, obviously, always been an innovation car maker, and its hybrid system is one of the major reasons why over the last 30 years. Oddly enough, in Toyota’s luxury division, Lexus, the company uses the hybrid system more for a performance booster than an economical boost, but here in the Corolla it starts with the economy. This 1.8-liter gas engine, coupled with an electric motor and the hybrid system, is rated at a whopping 53 mpg city/52 mpg highway/ 52 mpg combined (and about 139 horsepower),  and those are wonderful numbers.

For most of my driving, I had the car on its “Power” mode, so I experienced around 40 to 41 mpg, but I also experienced very nice performance. On the “ECO” mode, the mileage fell into the 50 to 52 mpg range, but the performance dropped off significantly. For each trip, the car gives you an “Eco Score,” I guess to encourage you to be more ecological (it’s called “green mile-ing”); my best being a 95, and my worst being a 65 on the power mode.

For just driving around town, this Corolla is a fine vehicle, a great commuter car. But it is very lightweight, so when you get on the highway I didn’t like the handling as it felt as though the car would get away from me. I would hesitate to take it on a road trip. This front-wheel-drive car was very good for a 2WD in the snow and ice.

Perhaps owing to the lightweight-ness of the car, my wife mentioned that the passenger seat was very thin and unpadded, and I must admit I have sat in more substantial seats driving. My back seat passengers all said there was plenty of room and the seats were comfortable.

Another plus was the trunk – it was quite large for a car of this size. This is a relatively new thing because carmakers used to put the hybrid system batteries behind the back seat, taking up a ton of trunk space. But today the hybrid batteries are in the floor, so the trunk is back to full size, and it also affords for a pass-through from the trunk for extra storage in the back with the seats down. This is perfect for skiers, if there’s no more than three people.

Speaking of batteries, over the years people have had concerns that hybrid batteries would not last and that replacing them after the standard warranty would be expensive. Due to this, Toyota has added in a 10-year/150,000-mile warranty on the hybrid batteries. For the record, the powertrain warranty here is 60 months/60,000-miles, and the basic warranty on everything else is the standard 36 months/36,000-miles.

As mentioned, the base price on the sticker is $22,950, and on my test-drive vehicle they added a few enhancements – Homelink mirror (garage door opener), alloy wheel locks, paint protection film, a carpet mat package, a body protection package (side moldings, rear bumper protector and door sill enhancements). Add in the $930 destination charge and the bottom line is $25,233.

That’s a pretty good price for a hybrid, especially a Toyota Corolla that I know from experience is well-made and reliable. But if you want excitement, look elsewhere.