2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE in Celestite Gray Metallic

2015 Audi Q52020 Toyota Corolla XSE

Class: Compact Car

Miles driven: 920

Fuel used: 25.2 gallons

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB
Power and PerformanceB
Fit and FinishB-
Fuel EconomyB+
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyB
Tall GuyB
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs169-hp 2.0-liter
Engine Type4-cylinder
Transmission CVT automatic
Drive Front-wheel drive

Real-world fuel economy: 36.5 mpg

Driving mix: 40% city, 60% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 31/38/34 (city, highway, combined)

Fuel type: Regular Gas

Base price: $25,450 (not including $930 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation ($1715), Adaptive Front Lighting System ($450), Carpet Mat Package ($249)

Price as tested: $28,794


Quick Hits

The great: Peppy, efficient powertrain; sporty driving personality

The good: Generous level of standard safety features; decent passenger and cargo room

The not so good: Upsized wheels and tires compromise ride quality somewhat; XSE trim level pumps up the bottom-line price

More Toyota price and availability information


John Biel

In any “next-generation” update of a known nameplate you would expect changes like the ones Toyota made to the 2020 Corolla. You would figure on some different styling and dimensions. You wouldn’t be surprised by added features.

What you might not get every time is a boost in the power department or a significant line-extender like a hybrid model. Toyota’s well-established compact adds both.

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

Corolla XSEs are distinguished by more-assertive exterior touches front and rear, including a dark-grey rear spoiler.

The ’20 sedan completes the Corolla transformation that began with the 2019 hatchback. Having first tried out the LE Hybrid, Consumer Guide editors’ next experience with the notchback was a premium XSE with the most powerful engine ever offered in a Corolla.

The 169-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine—a pick-up from the Hatchback—is standard in SE and XSE sedans. (The remaining three trim levels come with a 1.8-liter four tweaked up to 139 horsepower.) It is mated to a unique continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission, though the SE can also be had with—can you believe it?—a 6-speed manual. The CVT in 2.0-liter cars is different than the one employed for the 1.8. It uses meshed gears for first gear, then hands off to the belt-and-pulley arrangement that makes a CVT a CVT. As such, the 2.0-liter Corolla is a decidedly spunky performer, particularly with better-than-expected zip off the line. In CG’s own 0-60-mph testing, the car reached that speed in 8.6 seconds. Once the CVT fully takes over, it is not the impediment that it can be in some cars, and it “kicks down” in what anybody would judge to be an acceptably prompt manner for expressway passing.

Quick Spin: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE (Manual)

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE, Rear seat, steering wheel, navigation system

Even in top-line XSE trim the Corolla’s interior feels a tad less ritzy than some competitive compact cars’, but the cabin has a sturdy, high-quality feel. Corolla sedans offer notably more rear-seat legroom than Corolla Hatchbacks.

EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2.0/CVT hook-up are 31 mpg in city driving, 38 on the highway, and 34 combined. In a variety of driving mixes, CG editors got anywhere from 30 to 41.2 mpg. This driver saw 37.4 mpg from a stint of 165.8 miles that included 45 percent city-type operation.

Bestowed with a standard sport suspension and 18-inch wheels, the XSE’s ride isn’t bad overall, but it is susceptible to registering good jolts from potholes and surface cracks. Road noise comes up a bit at highway speeds. Cornering lean is commendably controlled. As in the Hybrid we tested, maneuverability is good, a boon for getting in and out of parking spaces or working through tight traffic. While the 106.3-inch wheelbase is a holdover from the previous Corolla, the new sedan is about an inch shorter and lower, and minutely wider.

Test Drive: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE, Engine and Wheels, Corolla engine,

Stepping up to an SE or XSE model gets you the Corolla’s most-powerful engine: a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 169 horsepower. Aggressive-looking 18-inch machined alloy wheels are standard on XSE models.

The test car started at $26,380 with delivery, but was capped at $28,794 with the addition of a considerable sound/infotainment upgrade, adaptive front lighting, and a carpeted-mats package. The top Corolla trim level has a pretty good distribution of pliable surfaces across the dash and tops of the front doors. Seats are covered in SofTex leatherette and brightly striped cloth, with contrast stitching on seat seams and the console-box lid. The steering wheel and shifter knob are trimmed in leather, and the cabin sports a bit of metallic trim. The takeaway is this car is the XSE, not XSsive.

Test Drive: 2019 Honda Civic Touring

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

The Corolla sedan has 13.1 cubic feet of trunk space. The sickle-type trunk hinges take up some space, but a generous aperture and low load floor are pluses.

The Premium Audio infotainment option in the test car—with navigation, 9 speakers, Qi wireless smartphone charging, and Toyota Connected Services—improves on the standard Audio Plus unit with six speakers, AM/FM/HD radio, satellite radio, 8-inch touchscreen, new Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, separate USB ports for device input and charging, and Bluetooth phone and music-streaming capability. Also included is the new-to-Corolla 2.0 version of the Safety Sense suite that consists of forward-collision warning and mitigation with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, lane-departure warning and mitigation, lane-keep assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and road-sign recognition.

Other XSE standard equipment lists a metallic-gray “sport-mesh” grille, dark-gray rear spoiler, chromed twin-outlet exhaust tips, 4-wheel disc brakes, power moonroof, LED headlights and taillights, and heated power-adjustable sideview mirrors. Inside are heated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with paddle shifters, blind-spot monitor, electronic parking brake, push-button starting, automatic climate control, and a 7-inch color thin-film-transistor vehicle-information display.

Passenger space is decent for the class. Rear seat backs are on the upright side, but there’s sufficient legroom to accommodate 6-footers—though headroom for them might get kind of short. Thanks to the very minor floor hump, a third small-stature, small-build passenger might be wedged into the back seat if necessary. Cabin-storage options include a decently sized glove box, but a smallish console box and door pockets. There’s just one rear storage pouch, this on the back of the front passenger seat. Exposed cup holders occupy the console and the pull-down rear-seat armrest.

The trunk has a wide opening and usefully squarish interior space. Wheel-house intrusion is minimal but gooseneck hinges sink into the load space. Rear 60/40 seat backs fold quite flat, but rest at a level several inches higher than the trunk floor, and a bulkhead narrows the passage from the trunk to the rear-seat area somewhat.

The revamped Corolla caters to more tastes than before. The XSE bundles a dash of power with a pinch of luxury for budget-conscious shoppers who crave that flavor.

Test Drive: 2019 Mazda 3 Hatchback AWD

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE

The XSE model is as sporty–and spendy–as a Toyota Corolla gets. The extra money brings a bit more driving fun and luxury to the Corolla’s practical, everyday-driver personality.

First Spin: 2020 Nissan Versa

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE