2020 Toyota Corolla

Performance


#5 out of 13 in Compact Cars

MSRP
$19,600
U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Toyota Corolla Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.1

The 2020 Toyota Corolla gets excellent fuel economy, but its base engine is bland, and the optional powertrain, though better, isn't much more engaging. The Corolla has a comfortable ride and stable handling.

  • "The Corolla was mostly unremarkable, as it should be. It's easy and calm to drive. It's not loud or rough. … As we played with the transmission and loaded up the new suspension in some of the few corners we found, we noticed we were actually having fun. In a Corolla." -- Autoblog
  • "Overall, this is by far the best-driving Corolla in recent memory. … the new sedan exhibited substantially more life than its predecessor in almost every measure. It also differs from the new hatch, being longer and engineered for a more comfortable ride. The extra length and wider track combine to contribute to a sense of stability that first-time drivers can appreciate." -- Motor Trend
  • "The 2020 Corolla is among just a handful of cars in this segment that feels at ease at higher speeds, and doesn't convert a cushy in-town ride into a floaty, detached experience when you have to swallow hundreds of miles in a single day." -- Autoweek

Acceleration and Power

The Toyota Corolla comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 139 horsepower. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard. It gets an EPA-estimated 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, which is above average for the class. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 169 horsepower is optional. This engine is available with either a CVT or a six-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy is rated at an excellent 31 mpg city/40 mpg highway.

The Corolla's base engine feels weak and underpowered, and the standard CVT delivers inconsistent throttle response. The optional larger engine improves acceleration, and the available manual transmission is somewhat engaging.

  • We weren't greeted by lightning-quick reflexes or precision feedback, but the XSE offered a pretty solid first impression. It's quick enough, but not fast. It's quiet enough, but not serene. It proved sure-footed when pushed … and we were never hurting for power. … This [manual] transmission isn't a world-beater, but there's enough feel both in the shifter and the clutch pedal that it's very intuitive to drive." -- Left Lane News
  • "More disappointing is the carryover base engine that's standard on L, LE, and XLE models. This 1.8-liter inline-four is an ancient powertrain that has been featured in the past several generations of Corolla with minimal updates. Its 139 horsepower is on the low end of the compact segment, and the Corolla LE we drove with this engine felt less than enthusiastic getting up to speed." -- Car and Driver
  • "The standard continuously variable transmission exhibits the so-called rubber-band effect, sending the engine's revs zinging up and down, which makes linear and smooth acceleration a little tough. The Corolla suffers from a notable delay when you step on the accelerator: There's a beat between when you press the right pedal and when the engine begins to respond. It is, frankly, hugely annoying in city driving, especially compared to the predictable ways in which the Corolla's competitors step away from a stop." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

All Toyota Corolla models feature standard front-wheel drive. The Corolla has composed handling, with well-weighted steering and controlled body motions. The ride quality is comfortable in most situations.

  • "With unique spring and shock tuning … the SE and XSE models have noticeably more weight to their steering, as well as a slightly firmer ride. Calling these cars 'sporty' would be a bit of a stretch, but they drive with a lot more maturity than the 1.8-liter Corollas alone. Frankly, they drive so well I wish every Corolla were set up the way the SE and XSE are." -- CNET
  • "For 2020, Toyota also improved the Corolla's suspension, replacing the torsion beam with a multi-link setup in the rear. When we put the car through some brisk corners, it felt sturdy and stable, not soft or wallowy. The ride is comfortable, too — smooth with a nice amount of tautness to give a feel for the shape of the road without transmitting every little bump into the cabin." -- Autoblog
  • "The significant uptick in chassis refinement is obvious even at lower speeds, where, finally, the Corolla returns satisfying ride comfort and nicely weighted steering. We found the sedan to be a bit more comfortable and settled than the Corolla hatchback, which is pitched as sportier and has a shorter wheelbase." -- Car and Driver
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