2020 TOYOTA COROLLA LEHV

The 2020 Toyota Corolla LE HV is Toyota's new hybrid version of the popular compact sedan.

More and more automotive companies are building hybrid vehicles, but Toyota, and its elite big brother Lexus, continue to dominate the hybrid market.

Toyota has launched a 2020 hybrid version with an all-new design of the Toyota Corolla compact sedan, which the company claims is the most popular nameplate in the world.

Toyota remains committed to improving its suite of sedans, while some competitors, like Ford, have gone entirely or primarily to manufacturing SUVs and trucks.

The 12th generation of the Corolla began with the 2019 Corolla hatchback makeover, helping Corolla sell more than 710,000 vehicles last year.

That was good for second worldwide behind Toyota Camry, which ended as top seller for the first time.

There are six Corolla sedan trims – L, LE, hybrid LE HV, XLE, SE and XSE - 10.5 inches longer than last year with 2.4 more wheelbase inches.

The hybrid costs only $835 more than the L and nearly $1,000 less than the XLE, getting 20 more miles per gallon than each.

We test-drove a hybrid LE HV prototype, precursor to the first Corolla hybrids to be sold in the U.S.

With the hybrid getting 52 miles per gallon and a nearly 600-mile range with one gasoline fill-up, its popularity is destined to continue, especially with Europe’s highly taxed gasoline prices.

While the exterior has bulked up, the 2020 exterior design remains basically the same and the Corolla is now built upon Toyota’s New Generation Architecture platform.

That includes a suspension system using an independent McPherson strut in front and multi-link in the rear, both with stabilizer bars, to mitigate road imperfections for a pleasant ride and improved handling.

We rode on 15-inch wheels with all-season tires using the continuous variable transmission in one of three drive modes – normal, power or eco.

The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine uses an under the seat battery pack and a pair of electric motors for Prius-like mileage but it isn’t as quick. A stop/start feature is seamless.

The 7-inch multi-colored gauge display, in addition to traditional feedback, includes other information such as customizable settings and an eco-meter that rates your driving.

Premium fabric cloth seats are comfortable but rear seating’s tight. Navigation and moonroof are options but Toyota’s vaunted driver Safety Sense 2.0 is standard.

There is no CD player or Android Auto but Apple CarPlay is standard. Visors extend; there is a spare tire.

Top crash safety ratings are expected.

LIKES: Mileage, handling, cabin design, ride, safety features.

DISLIKES: Low power, no navigation/moonroof, tight rear seating.

BOTTOM LINE: Gas stingy and affordable with performance, reliability, value.

2020 TOYOTA COROLLA LE HV PROTOTYPE

Base price without options​ or destination fee:  ​$23,100

Vehicle curb weight: ​2,850 lbs.

Wheelbase​: 106.3 inches

Length: ​​182.5 inches

Width:​ 70.1 inches

Engine specs​: 1.8-liter, DOHC, VVT,​​4-cylinders, direct injection

Horsepower: ​121-hp at 5,200 rpm

Torque:​ 105 ft.-lbs. at 3,600 rpm

Transmission:​ Continuously variable​

EPA rating: ​53 mpg city/52 mpg hwy ​

Range: ​11.4-gallon tank, regular

Performance: ​0 to 60 in 10.5 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.