Toyota Corolla review 2020

Find out more about the Toyota Corolla in the latest MOTORS Review

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Out of 5


  • Economical hybrid powertrains
  • Nice to drive
  • Attractive styling


  • Lacklustre interior design
  • Not the most practical choice
  • Lacks a premium edge
Model review

As the nameplate spans 12 generations, we could spend all day going into detail about each and every one of them – but we’ll keep this to the point. The Toyota Corolla first arrived on the compact car scene in 1966, sporting a nippy 1.1-litre engine. 


In 1970, the second generation was introduced featuring new engines, before, in 1974, Toyota began production of the third generation, which was developed to meet tightening emissions regulations.  


The Japanese manufacturer refined the Corolla again for the 1979 fourth generation. The car’s design was more squared and boxier this time around – a trait which followed onto the proceeding fifth generation in 1983. This is the Corolla that ushered in front-wheel-drive for the model and upped its focus on tech. 


The sixth generation car, introduced in 1967 and now fully front-wheel-drive, built upon the last version’s design, but now was made sleeker and more aerodynamic. For the seventh generation, which arrived in 1992, the Corolla became larger, heavier and more rounded than ever before.  


In 1997, we got the eighth generation Corolla. It’s styling was designed to meet European tastes and was therefore considered more desirable than previous iterations.  


After the ninth generation arrived in 2000 and ended production in 2006, the Corolla nameplate moved away from British shores and was replaced by the Auris. However, in 2018, it returned. 

Current model

With this 12th generation model, don’t assume that due to its vast history it’s still living in the past. Quite the opposite in fact. The Corolla has been thoroughly brought up to date in every way. There’s even a couple of hybrid powertrains available. 


Three bodystyles are offered with the new Corolla – a hatchback, estate and saloon. With this in mind, there should be a version to suit most buyer’s needs. Go for the hatchback, which comes in a five-door setup only, and that will be nice and compact, while offering a good amount of space and practicality. However, for the upmost practicality, the Touring Sports estate will be the one to choose. And for a bit of both, the saloon should serve buyers well.  


This time around, Toyota has focused on making the Corolla as entertaining to drive as can be. And, while it doesn’t top the class in terms of driving enjoyment, the manufacturer has succeeded in making the car generally nice to drive. It’s based on the same platform as the C-HR, a crossover which has also impressed behind the wheel, so expect similar dynamics. The Corolla is comfortable as well and is, overall, a pleasant car to drive

Value for money

New Toyota Corolla hatchbacks are priced from £21,305 – that’s for the base, Icon trim level. Step up to the Touring Sports version, and the price goes up to £22,575. Spring for the saloon, and that figure rises to £23,755. 


Compared to rivals, it’s about on par, if not a little higher. For comparison, there’s the £18,545 Ford Focus and £20,595 Mazda3. Fortunately, the Corolla is generously equipped across the range, so it is pretty good value for money. 


On the used market, the cheapest Corollas will be that of the eighth and ninth generation – these cars go for as little as £470, meaning there’s plenty of good bargains to be had. For current generation models, however, asking prices are around £18,000 at the cheapest.  

Looks and image

Whether buyers go for the hatchback, estate or saloon, they all look great. With a striking front end, it really stands out on the road and has a proper presence. It’s bold, brash and means business. We don’t think it’s the best-looking compact car – that one might have to go to the Ford Focus in ST-Line trim or full fat ST form – but the Corolla’s up there. 


Unfortunately, the car’s interior doesn’t quite match the character and charisma of the exterior. It’s rather clinical and the dashboard’s design is quite uninteresting. On the other hand, everything’s very easy to use and well thought out. 

Video review

Space and practicality

In hatchback form, the Corolla is nicely practical. The cabin is roomy, although legroom in the back seats isn’t as plentiful as some rivals, meaning taller passengers may struggle a tad. That being said, taller passengers sat in the front will have no trouble getting comfortable. There’s also plenty of clever cubby spaces dotted around the place to make life easier. 


Boot space doesn’t set a new class standard, but is pretty good, nonetheless. At 361 litres (1.8-litre version), there’s a good amount of room. Although it must be said that opting for a hybrid model, like the 1.8-litre, results in boot space reduced due to the presence of hybrid tech underneath the boot floor.  


As mentioned before, the Touring Sports estate version will be the one to go for increased practicality – it features a considerably larger 581-litre boot. 



There are three engines to choose from – one petrol and two hybrids. Starting with the hybrids – as those will likely head up customer choice – they make use of both petrol and electric power. The first one features a 1.8-litre unit, with the second utilising a larger 2.0-litre motor – the latter being the quicker and more refined out of the two. 


If you don’t want a hybrid, there’s a 1.2-litre petrol that acts as an entry-level engine. Although it’s outshined by the advanced hybrid version, the powertrain has its benefits, such as increased boot space (due to the absence of hybrid tech) and improved towing capabilities. 

Running costs

Sticking with the 1.2-litre petrol, it’s claimed to achieve 58.2mpg and emit around 116g/km CO2 – which is pretty good, even in the shadow of the hybrid models. Speaking of the hybrid models, the 1.8-litre hybrid will be the cheapest to run. It’s claimed to get an impressive 78.5mpg, while emitting just 76g/km of CO2. The 2.0-litre hybrid will be a little costlier – claimed 70.6mpg and 92g/km of CO2 emissions – but still cheap, nonetheless. Certainly, cheaper than most pure petrol and diesel models.    

Things to look out for

Toyota is a brand known for its reliability – and it’s been this way for quite some time now. This means that, while the latest generation Corolla is too new to make accurate reliability judgements for the long-term, we’re confident it should serve owners well. So should the hybrid powertrains too, in fact. In the reliability surveys, only a few owners found faults with another of Toyota’s popular hybrid models, the Prius, in their first year of ownership. 



Looking solely at the hatchback, there’s no shortage of competition. Rivals like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Mazda 3 are all keen class leader contenders. Luckily, thanks to the Corolla being well-rounded, attractive and available in two economical hybrid forms, it stands out from the crowd and offers a very appealing package to compact car buyers. 



Previous Corolla generations have faced their fair share of depreciation already, so buyers needn’t worry in that department. With regards to the current model, it shouldn’t depreciate massively. In fact, due to the desirable hybrid powertrains offered, for the time being it should depreciate less than the competition. The 1.2-litre may depreciate more because of the lack of hybrid tech but as we’re still in the early stages of its lifecycle, it’s difficult to judge.  

Trims explained

There are currently five trim levels to choose from – Icon, Icon Tech, Design, Excel and Excel with Panoramic Roof.


This is the entry-level trim and comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, Toyota Safety Sense 2 with adaptive cruise control, heated seats and a reversing camera.

Priced from £21,305,

'Icon Tech'

Up next is the Icon Tech trim. It gets parking sensors with Simple Intelligent Park Assist, an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio and Bluetooth, along with dual-zone automatic air conditioning (hybrid only).

Starting at £22,355


Design receives 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, folding mirrors, privacy glass and a panoramic roof (optional).

Priced from £23,380


Spring for the Excel trim, and the Corolla’s treated to 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-LED headlights, smart entry and push-button start, sports seats with partial leather and interior illumination.

Starting at £27,350

'Excel with Panoramic Roof'

This is treated as a trim level, despite the only addition being a panoramic roof as standard.

Starting at from £28,310


  1. The Suzuki Jimny is a loveable compact 4x4
  2. It’s been around since 1970 and the previous generation began production in 1998
  3. The current model arrived in 2018
  4. It features a cute yet tough appearance
  5. New Jimnys start at £15,999, making it a bit of a bargain
  6. Used one’s can be had for as little as £1,500, however, current generation examples are going for more than what Suzuki sell new models for due to immense popularity
  7. All Jimnys should hold their value well at the moment for the reason just stated
  8. There’s just one engine and two trim levels to choose from
  9. Restricted cabin and boot space mean it’s not very practical
  10. High running costs for a small SUV as a result of the four-wheel-drive systemThe Toyota Corolla is the best-selling nameplate in the world and has been around for 12 generations
  11. It was replaced by the Auris in 2006, so the UK missed two generations of the car, but the model returned for 2018
  12. It’s an attractive compact car, but the interior lacks excitement
  13. New Corollas start at £21,305, whereas used examples go for as little as £470
  14. It’s similarly priced to rivals, if not a bit more expensive
  15. While not best-in-class, the current Corolla is very good to drive
  16. The engine line-up is comprised of one petrol unit and two economical hybrid powertrains
  17. The hybrid options are the really cheap to run, with the 1.8-litre being the cheapest, but the 2.0-litre being the more refined out of the two
  18. It’s reasonably practical, with the Touring Sports estate being the best in this segment
  19. Should be very reliable