CARMEL, California — It’s official: Toyota’s new Corolla sedan will come to Canada in March 2019, and it will be built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that underpins the company’s newly-introduced products.
This isn’t really a surprise, because the new Corolla Hatchback has been on sale since the summer, and it already uses the TNGA platform that’s 60% stiffer than before. This improves the handling of the hatch, making it a sporty little car, and Toyota says the new sedan will also have a much more dynamic drive than any of the previous 11 generations.
There will be two distinct Corolla sedans: the LE and XLE will be the main volume sellers, retaining the 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine, while the sportier SE and XSE will get the more powerful 2.0-litre engine that’s under the hood of the hatch. A different grille and headlamps will be the quick way to tell the difference, though the sporty cars will have 18-inch wheels as an option from the standard 16-inch steel wheels.
All the sedans share the same body dimensions. While the wheelbase is unchanged from the current model, the front wheels have an 11-mm wider track and the rear wheels have a 22-mm wider track, with flares over their arches. The front overhang is now 33 mm shorter and the rear overhang is 15 mm longer. The new platform makes the entire car sit 20 mm lower, which drops the centre of gravity and consequently aids handling around corners.
The sedan’s suspension is upgraded across all the trims for 2020, with a multi-link rear suspension replacing the current torsion beam at the rear, and a totally revised MacPherson strut suspension at the front.
As with the hatchback, there’s a choice of either a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s stepped to simulate 10 different gears, or a 6-speed manual. The CVT is actually combined with a mechanical first gear, for quicker starts from a standstill, and includes paddle shifters on the steering wheel for faster shifts; the manual has an electronic rev-matching feature that smooths the transitions while shifting.
The more powerful 2.0-litre engine creates 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, while the standard 1.8-litre engine is retuned to create more than the current 132 hp – its actual power was not revealed. There are no official fuel consumption figures for the sedan yet, but in the hatchback, the 2.0L engine is good for a combined average of 6.7 L/100 km, while the larger and heavier 1.8L engine is currently rated at 7.5 L/100 km combined, which Toyota says will improve with the sedan’s new platform.
Inside, the cabin appears very comfortable – the seats are slightly relocated for the new platform, and sit a little lower and farther back. The instrument panel, hood and beltline are all lowered for better outside visibility. A large central screen, separated like an iPad, dominates the dash, and most of the car’s features will be accessible through it. Toyota says the ride is quieter than before, thanks to more, and better, sound-absorbing materials.
Perhaps the most remarkable improvement is with the available driver’s assistance features, many of which were only available on high-end luxury vehicles just a few years ago.
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 comes standard with all trims. It includes a pre-collision system to brake the vehicle automatically if it senses a collision is imminent; “lane tracing” that uses a camera to keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane; and active cruise control to keep a measured distance from the vehicle in front. The cruise feature even works all the way down to a standstill, to stop the Corolla if needed without any input from the driver.
Automatic high beams dip the headlights when another vehicle is approaching and switch them back to full beams when the way is clear. Blind spot monitoring will be an option on the cheaper trims.
Pricing will not be announced until nearer to the new sedan’s launch in the spring, but it’s not expected to be much different from the current model. The 2019 Corolla sedan starts with an MSRP at $16,790, while the hatchback tops out at $27,980. The CVT on the hatch costs $1,000 more than the manual transmission.
Later next year, there will also be a hybrid version of the new Corolla sedan, which has never been sold in North America. It will be revealed in a couple weeks at the Los Angeles Auto Show.