Behind the Wheel

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Review: So good, you wonder why they still make the Prius

The Toyota Corolla Hybrid is surprisingly fuel-efficient and cheap.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Toyota Prius. I said that when it first came out twenty years ago, it was for environmentalist wackos and early-adopter do-gooders who didn't mind driving a weird looking car. In fact, that was the point—to show everyone how green you were.

That new Prius gets terrific fuel economy and still looks a bit weird, but that remains the point if you want to show off how green you are. But what if you don't want to show off? What if you just want a car to get you from point A to point B? A car that is normal and doesn't stand out in a crowd?

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Toyota delivers the Corolla Hybrid on standard 15-inch wheels.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

In that case, my friend, you want to get yourself a Toyota Corolla. It's the least show-offey car around and, if you buy the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, it's just as fuel efficient as the polarizing Prius. In fact, it's so good that I think it might be the best small car that you can buy today.

The Corolla has always been a top choice for small car buyers. Between it's terrific reliability and reasonable price, it's a car that's easy to recommend (if a little boring). While the Corolla Hybrid won't get any hearts racing, it checks every box and then some.

The powertrain has been transplanted from the Prius, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit along with the requisite battery pack. There's no plug (that is kept for the Prius Prime and the new RAV4 Prime), so you drive it just like a regular car and the only hint to the outside world that there's anything different going on is the litany of "Hybrid" badges all over the thing.

The front end is also a bit more aerodynamic than the standard Corolla, but not so much that you'd notice unless you had them side by side. Easy-rolling low-resistance tires are fitted to 15-inch wheels to complete the look — no rolling on dubs here. In other words, it looks basically like every other Corolla you've ever seen. It's inoffensive and vaguely pleasing to look at.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid The car has a a traditional shifter setup that leaves the cabin feeling spacious.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Inside, it's a little more exciting. The floating dash leads to a surprising feeling of spaciousness for the front passengers, with reasonable amounts of storage in the doors and a big pocket for a phone sitting fore of the shifter. That shifter, it's worth noting, is a standard P-R-N-D unit (with an added "B" mode that adds additional engine braking for going down a hill) so it's familiar and easy to use.

The steering wheel allows easy access to volume and media controls, as well as the buttons to control the adaptive cruise control. A big digital display for the driver keeps you apprised of what the hybrid system is doing, including a tachometer which is lets you know what the internal-combustion engine is up to — not that you'll really care.

The center infotainment stack leaves a bit to be desired. Sure, it has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, so you're good to go there, but the buttons surrounding the 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen are completely unnecessary and use up valuable real estate that could be a larger screen. It's a nitpick, but I wish Toyota would just give us a bigger touch screen and forget all the hard plastic buttons. There's single-zone climate control which works perfectly well, and there is no center-stack Prius dash cluster.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid The Corolla Hybrid comes with a standard 8.0-inch infotainment touch screen.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

But the most important part of the Corolla Hybrid is actually made up of two numbers. First is the fuel economy. The EPA estimates it can make 53 miles per gallon city and 52 highway, with 52 combined. And... that's exactly what I got, too. Without particularly trying, and by that I mean I was cruising down the highway in the left lane, quickly pulling away from stop lights in a manner unbecoming a hybrid, etc — basically doing everything I could to not be an economical driver — I still managed 52 mpg. It was astounding.

Then there's the price. There are basically no options to be found on the Corolla Hybrid, aside from some paint protection film ($395) and carpeted floor mats ($249), and it still lands at $24,524. You get out under $25,000 with 52 miles per gallon and a normal looking, easy to drive, friendly car that will probably run forever without any major problems.

After my week with the Corolla Hybrid, I honestly found myself asking "why would anyone buy anything else?"

I haven't come up with a good answer, yet.

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New full-size SUVtoyota

Toyota teases new SUV that could be updated Sequoia

The teaser image gives zero detail on the new SUV.

Toyota

Toyota recently retook the title of world’s largest automaker and has its sights set on refreshing some of its oldest models. The Tundra full-size pickup truck got the treatment late last year, and now we’re seeing teases of a new SUV from the auto giant. The image, released yesterday, is likely of a new Sequoia, which is based on the Tundra and is equally as overdue for a refresh.

2022 Toyota Sequoia If the tease is of a new Sequoia, it will replace the 15-year-old current-generation model.Toyota

After 15 years or so on sale in its current form, the Sequoia is old enough to earn a learner’s permit of its own at this point. All of its competitors offer newer and more intuitive technology, a larger variety of advanced safety gear, and more efficient powertrains. In the teaser, we can see a sharply chiseled rear quarter panel and shapely tail lights, but not much else. If it is a Sequoia, the styling marks a significant shift in the SUV’s outward appearance.

The shadowy image is the only tidbit Toyota has shared so far, but we can draw some information from the recently released Toyota Tundra pickup truck, with which the Sequoia typically shares a platform and powertrain elements. The all-new 2022 Tundra dropped the 5.7-liter V8 that powered it for years, in favor of a pair of twin-turbo V6 engines, one of which is a hybrid. That means we could see a new Sequoia with the same engines, delivering up to 479 horsepower.

2022 Toyota Sequoia We're likely to see a TRD off-road oriented model.Toyota

The new full-size SUV will likely also get some of the tech updates that Toyota bestowed upon the new Tundra. That could mean up to a 14-inch infotainment touchscreen with a new, more intuitive user interface and over-the-air updates. Refreshed safety features are almost certainly on the list of Sequoia changes as well.

Toyota hasn’t nailed down an official reveal date or any other information for the new SUV, but has said that more details are coming soon.

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New luxury car

BMW sends its V12 engine off in style

BMW will build its final V12 engine this June.

BMW

Most automakers are focused on building EVs and extracting the best fuel economy from gas engines possible, so it’s not surprising to hear that BMW is pulling the plug on one of its biggest and most iconic engines. In June 2022, BMW will build its very last V12 engine for use in a super-limited-production special edition 7 Series model. The ultra-rare cars will carry a starting price of $200,995.

BMW 760i xDrive The last V12 will power a very special (and very expensive) 7 Series car.BMW

Only twelve lucky customers will have the option to nab a V12-powered BMW, which will be called the M760i xDrive. Displacing 6.6 liters, the twin-turbocharged beast produces a massive 601 horsepower. An eight-speed sport automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. BMW says the powertrain is strong enough to push the hefty 7 Series car to 60 mph from a standstill in just 3.6 seconds.

The final-run cars will feature little more than a special “V12” badge at the rear to differentiate them from standard 7 Series models. Inside, the car features a serialized plaque with the car’s production number out of the 12 units planned. The engine itself features a nameplate with “The Final V12.”

Beyond the badges, BMW’s 12-cylinder last-hurrah will come standard with 20-inch M double-spoke wheels, a choice of any available BMW full Merino leather color, M Sport brakes with black or blue calipers, a panoramic LED roof, remote control parking, a Bowers & Wilkins surround-sound system, and adaptive LED headlights.

BMW 760i xDrive Only 12 of the cars will be built, with a starting price of more than $200,000.BMW

Though it hasn’t been BMW’s most popular engine over the years, the V12 has been a part of the automaker’s catalog for 35 years. The first 12-cylinder engine showed up in 1987, producing 295 horsepower in the original 750iL sedan.

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