The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid marks the first time we’ve seen a hybrid powertrain in a Corolla in the U.S. It uses the same hardware as the Prius, consisting of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and single electric motor that combine for 121 horsepower. So no, the power numbers aren’t scintillating, but the EPA fuel economy figures are. The Corolla Hybrid is rated at 53 mpg city, 52 mpg highway and 52 mpg combined. Those numbers put it right on pace with the 52 mpg combined rating of the Prius LE (though the Prius Eco achieves 56 mpg combined). Its price is significantly less than the Prius LE, though — at just $ 24,055, it’s $ 2,435 less. Impressive stuff, but the Prius is more practical with its hatchback body. You can also get the stripper Prius L Eco for just $ 25,280, closing the gap by a bit.
Toyota positioned the Corolla Hybrid like this on purpose, letting it be the budget option for Toyota’s small, hybrid lineup — the Prius C hatchback is no longer with us. Our tester was the LE trim, because that’s the only trim Toyota offers on the Corolla Hybrid. After a couple of accessories were tacked on (body side molding, mudguards and a carpet mat package), our tester came to $ 24,467. A few of the standard features are impressive at its low price point. You get LED headlights, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility and Toyota’s full Safety Sense suite of driver assistance aids that includes adaptive cruise control and lane-centering.
If you were looking for the cheapest Corolla, this isn’t it. A base Corolla L sedan starts at $ 20,555, and the Corolla Hatchback SE goes up from $ 21,245. According to the EPA, you’ll save about $ 400 annually by opting for the Hybrid over the traditional combustion engine Corollas, given a typical 15,000-mile yearly cycle. Those savings are respectable, but it’s important to have some perspective when spending extra cash on the greener choice.
News Editor Joel Stocksdale: I’ve got mixed feelings about the Corolla Hybrid. On the one hand, it’s an impressively good car to drive with remarkable fuel economy. Its 52 mpg combined rating matches that of most Prius trims. It has a smooth, comfortable ride while also handling corners nicely with mild body roll. The steering is even fairly communicative.
But the Corolla Hybrid is only available in one trim level, LE, which is the second lowest in the Corolla line. And it definitely shows inside. Nearly every surface is hard black plastic. The cloth on the seats and the headliner look and feel cheap. The dashboard design itself isn’t particularly interesting, either. It’s far from what a $ 24,000 car should feel like.
With that being said, it is the best version of the LE Corolla. An equivalent gas-only Corolla LE comes in at $ 23,000, but only gets 33 mpg. The 1.8-liter gas-powered Corolla does have about 20 more horsepower and pound-feet of torque, but with just 139 horses, it still isn’t fast. The Corolla Hybrid is also a way to effectively get a Prius for about $ 1,000 less, but the Prius is more spacious inside with a more interesting interior and a bit more versatility thanks to its hatchback. That base Prius Eco also returns 56 mpg, but at such a high number, that’s a very small advantage. So I suppose the Corolla Hybrid could make sense for a number of people, but some higher trim options would be welcome.