Winning Recipe: Toyota continues best-selling nameplate with redesigned Corolla

I like to think I know a decent amount about cars and automotive history. In doing some research on my tester this week, I learned a thing or two.

This week I’m behind the wheel of the completely redesigned 2020 Toyota Corolla. In doing some research and out of curiosity, I found some interesting facts about the Corolla. The Corolla has been around since 1966. And the Corolla has outsold the Volkswagen Beetle to become the best-selling nameplate in the world. Toyota has sold more than 44 million Corollas since its inception. Who knew? Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed that. So for 2020, Toyota risks a lot by updating this car and messing with their recipe for success.


For 2020, this stalwart nameplate gets a makeover and enters its 12th generation of production. The new-look Corolla is actually exciting. The 2020 Corolla features a new front end fascia and grille. There’s a grinning-like style that connects to the LED headlights. The grille is big with an aggressive nature to it. Indents on the hood help accentuate the attractive front-end styling on this Corolla. On profile it’s business as usual with the Corolla, with safe, conservative, universally appealing styling. The back has a lower fascia that matches the front end, giving this a proper flow and finishing look. LED taillights finalize the modern appeal of the Corolla’s new look.


There are two four-cylinder engine options for the 2020 Corolla. A 1.8-liter produces a paltry 139 horsepower and is more representative of what I’m used to experiencing with a Corolla. My tester had the optional 2.0-liter with a slightly better 169 horses. I was impressed with the power “for a Corolla.” That caveat is needed as it’s still not a blazer and still can be somewhat pokey at times. The continuously variable transmission does not help the cause either. The optional six-speed manual might make it more tolerable and enjoyable.


Where the 2020 Corolla makes the biggest leap forward is in the interior. The touchpoints are much improved and there’s even a leather steering wheel and shift knob. The high-end fabric used on the seats was comfortable and attractive. There were still some harder plastic materials used on the door and dash, but all in all, the Corolla felt more high end than previous generations. The five-passenger Corolla has adequate legroom, but I’d keep the rear passengers to two adults only for maximum comfort.

There is 13 cubic feet of space in the Corolla’s trunk. The rear seats also don’t fold flat, so cargo room is minimized in the Corolla. There are other small cars with better cargo room (like the Honda Fit) or the Corolla hatchback might be a better option too.

Toyota’s infotainment system is simple and basic. Some critics say it’s too simple. I actually think it does a good job and the seven-inch touchscreen is responsive with a nice combination of knobs and touch commands. Plus there’s Apple CarPlay which is really all you need anyway. There are plenty of standard safety features like blind-spot monitors, rearview camera, front collision warning, emergency braking and lane keep assist.


There are five trims offered for the 2020 Corolla: L, LE, SE, XLE and XSE. My tester was the top-of-the-line XSE trim. With the XSE trim you get some nice features like contrast stitching on the seats, accent lighting and heated front seats. Corollas start under $20,000 but my tester had an MSRP of $26,629.


The Corolla with the CVT has an EPA rating of 31 mpg/city and 38 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of residential and suburban driving I averaged nearly 37 mpg. Fuel economy is one of the main reasons the Corolla has been so popular.

Toyota seems to have the recipe for success with their entry-level car. It’s been around for more than five decades so they must be doing something right. With this redesigned Corolla, Toyota adds some new ingredients to this winning recipe and the end result is a delectable winner that won’t disappoint.


2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

Price/As tested price…………………….. $26,629/$26,629

Mileage…………………………………… 31 mpg/city; 38 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 169 hp/151 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… CVT

Drive Wheels……………………… Front-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point…………………. Aichi, Japan

Jimmy Dinsmore
For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - and follow him on Twitter @driversside.