2020 Toyota Corolla Shames Luxury Sedans With Standard Safety Suite

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The Toyota Corolla, best-selling car of all time, arrives next spring as a 2020 model. Sold in 90-plus countries, every Corolla gets the Toyota Safety Sense suite, “with specifications and availability refined for each country.” In the US, that means all Corollas get Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 and six standard safety features, including emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning. TSS on the Corolla does not include blind spot detection, but it’s either optional or standard depending on trim line.

The 2020 Corolla will likely sell for less than $ 20,000 in the least expensive form. Yet the Corolla will have more driver assists and safety features — standard, across the line — than many luxury sedans costing $ 50,000 and up. It’s a wakeup call to the auto industry that the two best-selling compact sedans, the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla, have standard safety suites on all grades. Note that Toyota and Honda are doing this not because of government mandates, but because they believe drivers are idiots (well, not exactly how they’d put it) and they can build in this much safety for only a few hundred dollars, making it a sales advantage.

The 2020 Corolla was unveiled at the Guangzhou Motor Show Friday morning (their time) and Thursday night at the California media drive of the 2019 RAV4 SUV.

The 12th-generation, 2020 Corolla is built around the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) on the inside and an edgier design on the outside. Toyota says the Corolla sedan is similar to the 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback introduced in the spring. Both use TNGA and a pair of four-cylinder engines. But the Corolla hatch is more than a foot shorter than the sedan and snug in the back seat, where the sedan is reasonable for adults for several hours. The new sedan measures 183 inches long, 70 inches wide, and 57 inches high, with a wheelbase of 106 inches. It’s about a half-inch longer and 0.8 inches lower, with lower seating points to retain similar headroom.

The L, LE, and XLE trim lines (grades) use a modified version of the 1.8-liter, non-turbo four of the previous Corolla sedan. The sporty SE and XSE grades get a new 2.0-liter, direct-injection “Dynamic Force” four with 13:1 compression yielding 169 hp. The Corolla uses a Dynamic-Shift CVT with a physical first gear to take the force of initial takeoff; from there the car runs on the CVT pulley system. A six-speed manual will be offered, too.

Toyota’s Safety Suite Sets the Standard

Toyota and Honda have been leaders in offering solid safety suites on many of their cars, often when the model gets a full redesign or midlife refresh. Hyundai is moving in that direction, and soon automakers who don’t will be shamed — or lose sales to — automakers that do. We’re excited by what the Corolla will offer when the first one ships, probably in March:

  1. Full-range dynamic radar cruise control (in Toyota terminology), meaning stop-and-go adaptive cruise control. Stick-shift Corollas get a version that works down to about 20 mph.
  2. Lane departure alert with steering assist or lane keep assist. It detects the lane markings and steers back. It also attempts to detect road edges and steer back.
  3. Lane tracing assist. A new feature that, combined with ACC and the driver’s hands on the wheel, gives a measure of autonomous driving. It “actively tracks the center of the lane … [recognizing] white or yellow lane markings or the path of a preceding vehicle if lane markers are temporarily not available.” It is close to Nissan ProPilot Assist in functionality, based on other Toyota early production cars I’ve driven.
  4. Pre-collision system. It now detects a preceding vehicle or pedestrian day or night or even a bicyclist in the daytime. It will warn, brake to slow, or brake to avoid an accident in most cases.
  5. Automatic high beams.
  6. Road sign assist, a road sign reader. It spots and posts in the instrument panel: stop, yield, do not enter, and speed limit information with a visual and (some cases) audible alert.

Honda has a roughly similar set of tools on the Civic through Honda Sensing, which is also standard. Neither offers a blind spot detection system. Toyota has the better if imperfect solution: blind spot monitoring offered as an option on entry trim lines, standard on upper trim lines. Honda offers nothing on its two lowest grades. The upper grades get, standard, Honda LaneWatch, a passenger side camera with a display on the center stack LCD, with three distance lines on the display for the driver to gauge if it’s safe to change lanes. It works adequately by day, marginally at night. Blind spot detection on the driver side is a wider mirror.

If you shop small sedans next spring, if you focus on the Corolla, the only question to ask the sales rep (before dickering on price) is, “Will you please show me only the ones with blind spot detection.”

Other Good Stuff in Corolla

I sat in a pair of Corolla prototypes briefly and was impressed by the fit and finish, the big 8-inch center stack LCD, the 7-inch multi-information display in the middle of the instrument panel (4 inches on lower trim lines), and other technology offerings. Toyota says the car will be noticeably quieter and smoother than the previous generation.

The Corolla’s umbrella infotainment offering is called Entune, now in Version 3.0. There are three levels of infotainment hardware and services. The upper two have or offer JBL premium audio systems. The Corolla gets Safety Connect, a telematics system for Mayday calling and breakdown services; Service Connect with smartphone updates on vehicle location and service needs; Remote Connect for remote engine start, door lock/unlock, and car locater; and Wi-Fi Connect with Wi-Fi for five devices. Apple CarPlay is offered, but not Android Auto. Toyota says Android Auto needs to be more secure. Amazon Alexa is offered, for Android phones only.

There are LED headlamps in front, the shape varying by trim line, with a triple-J-shape outline at night on the higher SE and XSE trim lines. Tail lamps are LED on all trim lines, meaning no burned out lamps for the life of the car.

Corolla sold more than 300,000 units in each of the past five years. This year it will drop by about 10 percent to around 275,000. Even best-selling sedans aren’t immune to the trend toward SUVs. Unlike Toyota’s best-selling (in the US) RAV4, the majority of Corolla sales are outside the US, and there’s still plenty of interest in the sedan that so far has sold more than 60 million units.

Now read: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review: More Tech, More Vroom, Less Room2018 Toyota Yaris iA Review: An Affordable Car That’s Fun to Drive, Too, and Toyota Reportedly Adding Android Auto Support

2020 Corolla reveal, Guangzhou Motor Show:

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