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Pizzazzing the Daily Grind: 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE Sedan

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When it comes to car buying, the Toyota Corolla has always been a safe route. Due to its impeccable longevity life span, the Corolla and its reliability, fuel efficiency and comfort ability of affordability made it the top of everyone’s shopping list. This however didn’t always make the car appealing to drive, despite some of the sporty attempts. But when practically and reliability are at the top of your checklist, a passionate chassis and encouraged performance usually don’t correspond well with the other two. That no longer has to be the case with the all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla.

Carrying all the same attributes we look for, the Corolla is stepping out of its usual boring beige trousers and into some hipster board shorts. Inspired by keenness, there is a hefty curb appeal to this new sedan no matter which of the trim levels one chooses from. With pricing starting just under $20-grand for the entry ‘L’, there is a strong presence of superior characteristics with standard LED head-, tail-, and daytime running lights, 7-inch touch screen display with integrated Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is not yet available), and of course the latest in Toyota Safety Sense system that now features Lane Tracing Assist as standard across all Corolla’s.


With 7 available models, the Corolla is structured around 3 engine choices depending on ones level of inspired driving technique. For those seeking a city run-a-round sedan, the entry 1.8-liter returns for a comeback tour into this latest model producing 139-horsepower through a CVT automatic. If your someone with the mind set of fuel economy, a hybrid powertrain is all an all new offering with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder combined with an electric motor, making for a combined performance output of 121-horsepower and capable of seeing over 50 miles to the gallon. However, due to the popularity of the Corolla’s sportier models, the one thing it was lacking was the performance to back up its flair; however, much like the new Corolla Hatchback, the sedan’s SE and XSE models feature a more recital influenced 2.0-liter four-cylinder and 169-horsepower.

For the sake of this article, our test subject was the sportiest of the sporty-ish Corolla models in XSE form with a starting price of $25,450. The XSE is only available with a CVT automatic, but if one chooses that the manual way of life is for them, a six-speed manual is available on the lower SE model starting at $22,650. Even with a boosted spark of enjoyment, that level of umph one would get from a turbo competitor isn’t going to be found here. Due to its CVT transmission, the Corolla won’t necessarily receive street cred for its green light acceleration show down as it gets to 60 mph in over 8 seconds. Be that as it may, the CVT automatic is rather pleasant, power is fairly linear and consistent as it increases in revolutions, faux shift points are in place for a more dramatic driving experience and a piece of mind to those that don’t quite understand how a CVT operates. While there is a sport mode that can fluctuate the gearing and throttle mapping, the only thing really cool about the button is its ability to change the gauges to glow red.

Structured around what Toyota calls TNGA, the Corolla rides on a completely new platform – meaning it’s capable of being a spirited, energetic sedan. There is a more sophisticated setup to its chassis refinement that improves on ride quality and handling. With a more firmness in its chassis, there is a level of gratification with on road comfort and boosted assurance in its handling with the return of pleasantly weighted steering.

Despite having more horsepower on the SE and XSE models, the Corolla continued to surprise us with its fuel economy figures. Rated on the EPA with 31-mpg city, 38-mpg highway and 34-mpg combined, we managed to squeeze a hair over 40 mpg on our 200-mile highway run and a combined average of 36.5 mpg.

With the XSE being the most expensive Corolla to be offered, it showcases it well at first sight. Upgraded to the advance lighting system, the LED headlights and daytime running lights are sharp with a more premium delight as it encompasses a triple-j design scheme and adaptive feature that moves the headlights side-to-side with the motions of the steering wheel. Adding the sport flair of a dark gray mesh grille, gray painted rear lip spoiler, and 18-inch wheels, the Corolla certainly starts to look the part of its sporty badging.

Fitting well into its price point, the interior features an attractive, tasteful display of nicely appointed finishes throughout without having too many cheap plastic bits. With the large touch-screen display being the main focus point, its functionality and streamline design makes it easy for the driver to control everything within reach. Toyota’s new Entune system allows for easier control and features a clean, high-def display. While leg room in the back seat has been reduced, passenger comfort remains as any average size adult can comfortably fit in the back seat without breaking a fuss.

As we stroll into the Corolla’s 12th generation, this is by far the best one yet. Being more than just a safe bet when it comes to car buying, this latest offering incorporates more pizazz and frills to the daily grind.


Starting Price: $19,500


Horsepower/Torque: 169-HORSEPOWER / 151 LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: CVT AUTOMATIC
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 31-CITY / 38-HWY / 34-CMB
Fuel Range: 375 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±8.0 SECONDS


  1. Nice to see this is still offered in a manual configuration, even if only on the lowest trim level. Hard to believe this car is in its 12th generation – possibly one of the longest-running nameplates in America. The Accord and Civic are each on their 10th. I looked up the Ford F-Series and it’s in its 13th. Can you think of anything that’s been around longer than 13 gens?

    • I had to do some research to see if I could even answer your question. I couldn’t find a single car that has been around as long as the Corolla except for the Toyota Camry, which is in its 12th generation cycle.

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