When the next generation of Toyota’s venerable Corolla compact sedan comes to market next March, the Japanese maker really wants it to add some excitement to the brand.
“We’ve crafted our new Corolla from the ground up,” Stephen Beatty, Toyota Canada’s corporate vice-president, said when he unveiled the sedan here. “Its new TNGA platform allows our customers to feel … improved handling and outstanding driving dynamics, plus surprisingly impressive power.”
Yes, this is the Corolla he’s talking about, Toyota’s 45-million-unit-selling mainstay for the past 50 years, and legendary for being popular in beige with characteristics to match.
There’s already a hatchback version of the 12th generation Corolla available in Canada, sold since the summer and built on the stiffer Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. The hatch has an all-new 2.0-litre “dynamic force” engine that’s more powerful and more efficient, and the new sedan will be sold with that 169-horsepower engine in its sportier SE and XSE trims.
The regular LE and XLE trims will keep the current 1.8-litre, 132-hp engine though it is apparently re-tuned for more power and greater fuel efficiency.
A hybrid version of the Corolla, never before sold in North America, will be revealed at the Los Angeles auto show later this month and come to dealerships later next year.
All Corolla sedans will share the same dimensions: the wheelbase is unchanged, but the car is a little wider and lower, dropping the centre of gravity by two centimetres to improve its handling. In more Toyota-speak, the designers called their new look “shooting robust” because, apparently, they were shooting for a confidence-inspiring stance.
Whether they succeeded is up to consumers, but the 2020 sedan does look a little more aggressive, with a squatter look and flares over the wheel arches to make them appear even wider. The LE and SE trims have different grilles and lighting designs, and the sportier models have available 18-inch wheels, compared with the standard 16-inch steel wheels.
As with the hatch, the sedan comes either with a six-speed manual transmission, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has a mechanical first gear for quicker launches from standstill. The CVT has standard paddle shifters on the steering wheel, while the manual has electronic rev matching for smoother shifts.
The TNGA platform is 60-per-cent stiffer than before, for better handling around corners, while the old torsion beam suspension is now replaced with a multilink independent rear suspension and a completely revised MacPherson strut front suspension.
“If I had to pick one thing that’s truly exciting about the new Corolla, it would be all the technology,” said Adam Lovelady, a Toyota product specialist. “We’ve got Apple CarPlay, Alexa, WiFi, Safety Connect, all of that shoe-horned in there along with our standard Toyota Safety Sense. We’ve put so much energy and technology into it to make it safer for everyone.
"And now there’s a sport model that brings real sport things: more horsepower, more torque and we’ve kept the manual alive.”
Toyota’s next generation of Safety Sense driver’s assistance is standard in all trims. This includes active cruise control (which automatically sets your speed to drive no faster than the vehicle in front), and a precollision system that uses radar and a camera to detect vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users in front of the car – it will automatically hit the brakes if the computer thinks a collision is imminent.
Even technology such as lane-tracing assist, which uses a camera to follow the centre of the lane and make sure the Corolla doesn’t stray over the lines, comes standard. This was available only in high-end luxury cars just a few years ago.
Pricing is expected to be similar to the current generation’s starting MSRP of $16,790, which rises to $27,980 for the top-of-the-line Corolla hatchback. It will be announced closer to the new Corolla’s launch in the spring.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.