toyota corolla sedan 12
toyota corolla sedan 12

Toyota Corolla: the throwback sedan

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What is it?

An update for the Toyota Corolla sedan arrived some months after the hatch.

It was late in 2019 when the Japanese goliath showed off the design of the sedan in the metal.

From the rear seats forward, it’s largely the same as the hatch but features a restyled rear end.

Underneath there have been changes and improvements to the suspension for  a better ride and handling package.

It’s a three-tier range, starting with the Ascent Sport, then mid-range SX followed by top of the line ZR.

Engine choice is a “normal” 2.0-litre petrol for all three or a 1.8-litre based hybrid for the Ascent Sport or SX.

Transmissions are a manual or CVT in the Ascent Sport — CVT for the other two.

We drove the 2.0-litre SX.

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What’s it cost?

SX is priced from $28,325 before onroads.

Locally it’s available for $31,842 driveaway in white.

Prices vary slightly depending on where you are in Australia.

There’s a solid range of standard equipment.

Standard rolling stock is 16 inch alloys and rubber is Bridgestone Ecopia with a 205/55 profile.

Audio includes DAB digital radio and produces good sound through six speakers.

The 8.0 inch touchscreen includes satnav, and there’s provision for app access via the bespoke Toyota app too.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard.

The SX also has climate control, a wireless phone charger, and comfortable fabric trimmed and manually adjusted seats.

It’s a push button start, has a simple, elegantly laid out dash and console, and all round fit and finish is high.

Seven airbags are complemented by the comprehensive Toyota SafetySense package.

That includes Active Cruise Control (ACC), Pre-Collision Safety System (PCS) with Pedestrian and Cyclist detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Auto High Beam (AHB) plus reverse camera with fixed guidelines for the SX and ZR.

Driving is assisted by the usual traction aids including Hill-Start Assist, plus Active Cornering Assist.

This system gently applies brakes to the front driven wheels if required during cornering at speed.

The body is, obviously, noticeably different to the sleek looking hatch.

At 4630mm long it’s about 30cm shorter than Camry but a decent 25cm longer than the hatch.

The wheelbase is 2700mm, Camry’s is 2825mm.

Width and height are 1780mm and 1435mm.

Boot size is 470 litres and fuel tank is 50 litres.

Headlights are full LED across the range, as are the running and tail lights.

The rear lights, in honesty, have a resemblance to the Holden Astra — even with refinement from the previous sedan. 

The nose is subtly different from the hatch and a trainspotter could happily to sit down with you and point out the differences.

Although the exterior has been refreshed, it’s still not an eye-catcher in the carpark — the real test of buyer appeal.

Entry and exit is relatively easy with wide opening doors, and seats at a height that don’t require a dip of the head for anyone up to 180cm.

Taller people may need to be aware of bouncing the scone, and possibly a bit of leg squeeze in the rear. 

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What’s it go like?

The numbers thou shalt count to are 125kW and 200Nm.

Economy is quoted at 6.0L/100km, a figure definitely achievable, given our 7.4L/100km on a 90 per cent urban cycle.

The CVT in the Corolla is definitely an improvement on the outgoing model, but with peak torque needing a hefty rev, initial progress is on the slow side — even allowing for the “engineered-in” first gear.

Real get up and go from a standing start needs a bit more right welly. 

Hill climbing, oddly, isn’t so much of an issue, as the throttle balances the engine’s revs to sit at around 3000rpm, and moves the 1400kg plus mass easily.

Mid-range driving is better than adequate and highway cruising is relaxed.

There is a Sport mode button in the centre console but this is mostly superfluous, unless you need to get a hustle on from a stop.

The CVT itself exhibits a trait common to these transmissions.

There was some vibrations, a shudder if you will, and these are felt on idle or on application of the brake pedal.

Otherwise, on its own, it shifts well enough up and down.

Using the gear selector to shift manually makes an appreciable difference, especially at the traffic light grand prix.

Punch it hard and there’s noticeable, if not overly intrusive engine noise.

The SX has a slightly softer rear suspension than the front, allowing for a ride that could be described as plush.

It’s certainly comfortable, but there is a downside.

There is a worse than expected amount of tyre roar on all but the newest and smoothest blacktop.

On some surfaces the noise was enough to require the audio volume to be raised to hear clearly.

Bridgestone supplies the Ecopia rubber and on the dry tarmac it’s fine enough, bar that road noise.

Get it on to a damp road however and there’s suddenly nervousness, indecision, and a definite lack of confidence in its ability to grip.

Being a front driven car there was clearly a bent towards understeer, with even slow entry into corners, seeing the nose running, or wanting to run, wide.

Steering is light, perhaps too light for some.

We certainly felt a little more weight would enhance the experience.

Braking was unremarkable, but that means it does the job as expected.

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What we like?

  • Standard equipment across the range is solid
  • It’s sleek, attractive, and bigger than the styling suggests
  • Driveline shouldn’t disappoint anyone in the market for this kind of car

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What we don’t like?

  • Road noise
  • Slightly anonymous looks
  • Initial sluggishness on light throttle

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The bottom line?

There really isn’t much “wrong” with the 2020 Corolla sedan.

Although sedans are now seen as an automotive anachronism, not everyone wants a big ute or SUV.

It’s to Toyota’s credit that its longest running nameplate continues to include a sedan — and long may it do so.

As a drive, it’s pleasing enough in nearly all environments, bar the road noise and lack of adhesion on wet roads.

Deal with these on the go and it’s a very competent package.

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CHECKOUT: Toyota Corolla: petrol versus hybrid?

CHECKOUT: Hybrid option for all Corollas


Toyota Corolla SX sedan, priced from $28,235
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 9/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 8.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10

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