Base Camp: 2020 Toyota Corolla L
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
There’s a very good reason why the Toyota Corolla is perpetually one of Canada’s best-selling models. A combination of affordability, reliable powertrains, and healthy resale value all conspire to annually place these things in many driveways across the country.
Over the last couple of model years, you can add a dose of style to that list as well. With an angry set of headlights plunging toward the tarmac and a distinct character line running along its flanks, the new Corolla is no longer in danger of disappearing in mall parking lots. For 2021, there’s even an Apex Edition that brings a sport-tuned exhaust and rev-matching six-speed manual.
We’re here to evaluate the base trim, of course, called the L. Starting well under $20,000 it brings a 1.8 L inline-four making 139 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque. That engine is connected to a six-speed manual transmission, a rarity in this world of rapidly vanishing stick shifts. Unlike days of yore, however, both the standard and $1,800-more-expensive automatic earn the same combined fuel economy rating of 7.1 L/100km.
Air conditioning is standard in the base Corolla, underscoring that entry-level cars are no longer the penalty boxes of the past. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake while the locks, windows, and heated side mirrors are all power operated. Thank you, economies of scale. A keyless entry fob will dangle from your new set of Corolla L keys. That’s a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, by the way, capable of Bluetooth duties and playing nicely with Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is showing up for the 2021 model year).
Fifteen-inch steel wheels helps keep a lid on tire replacement costs when it comes time to shop for a new set. They aren’t a dead giveaway to your thrifty trim selection, though, since the next-level-up LE has 16-inch steelies. Your neighbours will have to look carefully to tell the difference. Door handles and side mirrors are also colour-keyed and a snazzy bi-LED headlamp system looks more expensive than the car’s price tag may suggest. Our main carp about the base Corolla’s exterior is that it is only available in shades of grey. If you want it in visible light, you’re outta luck.
What We’d Recommend
It’s difficult to argue against this level of content for $18,990 especially when one considers that Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driving aids (lane departure system, radar cruise control, and pre-collision tools). The base Corolla has even binned its rear drum brakes, vanquishing that complaint.
It’s a $2,800 walk to the LE (automatic-only, by the way), which is a lot for heated seats, blind spot monitoring, and an upgraded infotainment system. If it was our money, we’d pocket the difference and enjoy the savings.