Adding more green to the compact commuter standard

Toyota just introduced a brand-new generation for the Corolla this year, with both a head-turning hatchback and a smart sedan making the body style lineup. Now, Toyota is adding yet another model with a new hybrid variant, ushering in an even-greener option for the compact four-door segment. Standout features for the 2020 Toyota Corolla hybrid include a comfortable ride, loads of technology and features, and as an added bonus, upwards of 52 mpg combined thanks to the drivetrain that’s borrowed from the Toyota Prius.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior Styling

  • Same updated style as standard Corolla sedan
  • Unique hybrid badging front to back
  • LED headlights and taillights
  • 15-inch alloy wheels as standard
  • 0.47 inches wider front track
  • 0.87 inches wider rear track
  • Front overhang is 1.3 inches shorter
  • Rear overhang is half an inch longer
  • 0.8 inches lower overall height
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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Toyota introduced a brand-new look for the Corolla’s twelfth generational changeover.

The new styling can be seen across the lineup for the 2020 and 2019 model year, with the latest design language adding a sharper and more pointed fascia, new proportions, and a boxier, squared-off shape overall.

Toyota currently offers the Corolla in both a hatchback and standard sedan body style, with the hybrid taking after the latter in terms of shape. And although the powertrain is substantially different, the Corolla hybrid is more or less identical to non-hybrid variants with regards to the exterior styling, save for some distinguishing badges placed on the fenders and a few other minor details.

The fascia, for example, is pretty much exactly the same between the hybrid and non-hybrid models, with the exception of a blue-tinted Toyota badge on the nose. With the Corolla hybrid, you still get J-shaped headlight housings with LED lighting elements, which are drawn rearwards into the front fenders. The main intake remains large and in charge across the front, while a slim upper intake connects the headlights.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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Moving to the sides, we find the same silhouette as the standard Corolla, including a blunt nose, a sloping roofline, and a short tail section.

However, the corners are occupied by unique 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, which are a clear departure from the standard model’s 16- to 18-inch units.

Don’t forget the “Hybrid” badging on the fenders.

Moving to the rear, we find the Corolla sports a simple truck design with several horizontal styling elements to enhance the model’s overall visual width. LED lighting can be found in the angular taillight housings as well, while a second blue-tinted Toyota badge adorns the trunk lid.

Overall, we feel the look is simple and surprisingly understated for a hybrid model - which is perhaps one of the Corolla hybrid’s greater selling points. If flying under the radar is a priority, this thing will definitely get the job done.

The Corolla hybrid also shares the standard model’s new exterior dimensions. The wheelbase remains set at 106.3 inches, but the front track was widened by
an extra 0.47 inches for the 2020 model year, and now sits 60.77 inches. The rear track was widened even more, gaining an extra 0.87 inches for a total of 61.27 inches overall.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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Meanwhile, the front overhang is 1.3 inches shorter and the rear overhang is more than half an inch longer. The overall height was also reduced by 0.8 inches and the hood is 1.4 inches lower.

Many of these changes were implemented as a way to increase outward visibility, and come complemented by a lower instrument panel inside the cabin space, a lower outer cowl, and a lower belt line, not to mention repositioned side mirrors.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 106.3 inches
Front Track Width 60.77 inches
Rear Track Width 61.27 inches
Height 56.5 inches

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Interior Design

  • Silver trim, piano black surrounds add class
  • Hybrid offers same interior room as standard model
  • Sedan gets 2.4 inches longer wheelbase
  • More space on rear bench than hatch
  • Armrest is nearly an inch longer than previous model
  • Unique hybrid readouts, such as ECO accelerator guidance
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen as standard
  • Entune 3.0 infotainment as standard
  • Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 as standard
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Interior
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Step inside the 2020 Toyota Corolla hybrid, and you’ll find a simplified and streamlined cabin design, with a broad, sweeping dash that heavily emphasizes the horizontal orientation.

Spicing it up with extra opulence is a selection of high-end trim bits, including silver liners, piano black surrounds, and contrast stitching for the upholstery.

There’s also a noticeable reduction in the number of hard buttons and switches on the center console, which extends down into the digital climate control system. And of course, you can’t forget the cool standup touchscreen display on the dash.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Interior
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Impressively, the hybrid model doesn’t cut down on overall interior space compared to non-hybrid models.

To achieve this, Toyota mounted the battery underneath the rear seat, which still maintains that vital 60/40 split for easy cargo loading and unloading, maximizing rear trunk space as a result.

It’s also worth noting that the sedan body style gets an extra 2.4 inches of wheelbase compared to the Corolla hatchback, which means the rear bench should provide a good amount of space, even for some of the taller, larger passengers out there.

Further updates include an armrest that’s now 0.8 inches longer, and a lower hip point for the driver as well.

Park yourself in the hot seat, and you’ll enjoy the 7.0-inch Multi-Information Display (MID) mounted in the middle of the gauge pod, which comes as standard equipment for the latest Corolla model. On the hybrid model, this screen provides information on how the various onboard systems are working to power the drivetrain. It also includes a speedometer, a tachometer, a hybrid system indicator, a real-time battery charge status indicator, and something called an ECO accelerator guidance system, which is basically a visual indicator that provides feedback on the optimum throttle application required to reach max fuel efficiency.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Interior
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Moving over to the dash, you’ll find a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen as the primary interface for the infotainment system.

The Corolla also comes standard with Toyota’s Entune 3.0 Audio system, which includes six speakers for the stereo, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, the Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect, Safety Connect, Wi-Fi Connect, Scout GPS Link Compatibility, and Siri Eyes Free.

Further infotainment details include an auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 support, voice recognition and hands-free control, Bluetooth support, and weather plus traffic info.

One of Toyota’s major technological developments over the last few years is in the realm of automated safety systems. The latest is called Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), which bundles together a full suite of features to keep you and yours out of harm’s way. Standouts include a Pre-Collision System, Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Road Sign Assist. There’s also a standard backup camera.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is added as standard equipment for the 2020 Corolla, and comes as a complement to the model’s standard eight airbags, electronic vehicle stability control, traction control, brake assist, and smart stop technology.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Drivetrain And Performance

  • 54 mpg city, 50 mpg highway, 52 mpg combined
  • Maximum output of 121 horsepower
  • 1.8-liter inline Atkinson cycle four-cylinder
  • Nickel-metal hybride battery pack
  • Two electric motors
  • Electronically controlled planetary-type CVT transaxle
  • EV mode for short distance all-electric driving
  • “Pre-load” differential operation
  • Electronically Controlled Brake system
  • Smart A/C system
  • TNGA platform underneath the skin
  • MacPherson struts in front, multi-link rear
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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Like the rest of the Corolla lineup, the hybrid model comes with a front-engine, FWD drivetrain layout.

Unsurprisingly, Toyota drew from experience gleaned during development of the latest-generation Prius to properly equip the new Corolla hybrid.

The powertrain is from Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive family, and is estimated to return upwards of 52 mpg combined in the Corolla, as well as 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway. Figures like that make the Corolla hybrid a leader for the eco-conscious in this segment. It’s also worth noting that the 2020 Toyota Corolla hybrid is the most fuel-efficient model to ever wear the nameplate in its 50+ year history.

With the Synergy Drive powerplant at full chat, the Corolla hybrid produces 121 horsepower.

That might not sound like a lot, but given a hybrid system’s penchant for really laying on the low-end torque (electric motors create 100 percent of available twist at 0 rpm), it should feel quite a bit beefier than it really is.

As for technical details on the powerplant itself, displacement is rated at 1.8 liters, with an inline four-cylinder setup that’s paired to a duo of electric motor/generators and an electronically controlled planetary-type continuously variable transmission transaxle.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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The ICE part of the equation is designated as the 2ZR-FXE, and was designed specifically for a hybrid application. Standout features include an Atkinson combustion cycle, a high 13.0:1 compression ratio, and lower friction around the piston skirts, as well as lower friction for the various rotating parts and the oil pump.

On the electric side of things, one motor helps to juice the drivetrain, while both motors take turns in charging the battery pack.

The electric motors are juiced by a nickel-metal hybrid battery pack, which is a bit old school compared to modern lithium-ion packs.

That said, Toyota’s technology development keeps the packs at the cutting edge of the segment all the same. What’s more, the Ni-MH pack is most likely much cheaper to produce than the lithium-ion alternative, which keeps the final MSRP down as a result.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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Toyota also points out that its latest hybrid system now includes a new technology dubbed Hyper-Prime Nickel, which boosts the battery’s performance while keeping overall size and weight at a minimum, thus maximizing interior room and keeping the center of gravity close to the ground.

Drivers are sure to appreciate the hybrid’s dedicated EV mode, which offers all-electric, zero-emission driving over ‘short distances.’

Toyota suggests this mode is best suited for parking lots and indoor parking garages. And even though it might be driving in near silence when set to the EV mode, the Corolla hybrid comes with a Vehicle Proximity Notification to make sure pedestrians are privy to the vehicle’s presence.

The Corolla hybrid also includes a Normal and Eco drive mode, as well as a Sport drive mode that actually boosts power and throttle response. Meanwhile, Normal balances power with economy, while Eco mode prioritizes fuel mileage by limiting power output and softening the throttle response

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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As you might expect, those impressive mpg figures are the result of several small gains implemented across the powertrain.

For example, there’s an electric water pump that helps to cut back on parasitic loss, as well as a high-efficiency air conditioning system that smartly controls airflow based on the current temperature setting, outside temperatures, sunlight intensity, and which seats are actually occupied by passengers.

Low-rolling resistance tires help boost mpg as well.

The Toyota Corolla hybrid also comes with an exhaust heat recirculation system to get the engine up to operating temperature more quickly, therefore reducing fuel consumption and emissions. If you’re in colder climates, you’ll appreciate the electric heating provided by the Positive Temperature Coefficient system.

Extra battery charging is accomplished by the Corolla hybrid’s Electronically Controlled Brake system. This basically syncs the braking force created by the regenerative electric motor with the steel hydraulic brakes in the corners, providing solid stopping power and even more electrons for the battery pack.

Meanwhile, the hydraulic brakes use an active hydraulic brake booster to improve overall pedal feel and feedback for the driver. There’s also a brake hold feature that will keep the vehicle stationary after coming to a stop. The system will then automatically release when you go to the throttle, thereby reducing fatigue in stop-and-go traffic.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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Another interesting feature of the Corolla hybrid’s drivetrain is its differential, which comes with a “pre-load” feature that distributes torque between the right and left wheels at low engine loads and low differential rotation, providing enhanced handling. Then at mid-range and high engine loads, the differential acts like an “open” differential.

All this good stuff fits in quite well thanks to the latest Toyota platform under the skin, specifically the Toyota New Global Architecture shared across multiple model lines. To keep it shiny side up, the Corolla features a MacPherson strut suspension setup in front, as well as a new multi-link in the rear, with the latter upgrade helping massively with the overall ride quality and handling.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Pricing

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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We have yet to hear anything official as far as pricing is concerned, but the 2020 Toyota Corolla is expected to slot in between $22,000 and $25,000 when it finally goes on sale. Look for it in dealers in the Spring of 2019.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Competition

Honda Insight

2019 Honda Insight Exterior
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Although it may have grown a bit with the latest third-generation changeover, the Honda Insight is still a solid competitor for the more compact Corolla hybrid. Offering loads of space in the cabin, as well as standout tech goodies like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD digital traffic info, and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen that’s mounted flush with the dash, the Honda Insight has everything you’d expect when it comes to comfort and entertainment. It also looks pretty understated outside, which is critical for those hybrid buyers uninterested in announcing their more eco-conscious vehicle choice. Speaking of eco-conscious, the Honda Insight is equipped with a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a duo of electric motors, which combine to create a Corolla-beating 151 horsepower. Combined fuel returns sing to the tune of 48 mpg. Pricing starts at $22,830.

Read our full review on the 2019 Honda Insight.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Exterior
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With a funky hatchback style, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid certainly makes its presence known in a crowd. Optional Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection, and Lane Keep Assist keep it safe, while features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Qi wireless smartphone charger keep you connected on the move. Power is derived from a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder and electric motor combo, with a combined net horsepower rating of 139 ponies. Combined fuel returns range as high as 58 mpg. Pricing starts at $21,650.

Read our full review on the Hyundai Ioniq.

Final Thoughts

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Exterior
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Toyota first unveiled the Corolla in 1966, and since then, the nameplate has sold some 46 million units. That makes it the best-selling vehicle of all time, and this latest hybrid model is sure to bolster sales even further.

The 2020 model year will mark the first-ever hybrid Corolla for the U.S. market, and with gas prices sure to rise sometime in the future, another hybrid model on the roster is never a bad thing.

Indeed, Toyota has been busy bolstering its hybrid offerings quite a bit in the last few years, with notable additions like the RAV4 hybrid and Avalon hybrid adding to the number of green choices, and even occasionally breaking new ground in a given segment.

Much of Toyota’s success in this area can be attributed to the development of the Prius, and now, that technology is making its way into all kinds of vehicles.

Long story short, the 2020 Corolla Hybrid looks like a very solid choice for someone who wants all the goodies you’d expect from an entry-level hybrid, like high-tech features and fantastic fuel mileage, but without the spaceship exterior aesthetic or five-door body style. If it’s a quiet, comfortable, easy-commuting four-door that you’re after, minus several trips to the pump, then give this one a test drive.

  • Leave it
    • Not exactly exciting
    • 121 horsepower
    • Competition is quickly growing

Further Reading

Toyota Brightens Its 2020 Lineup with a Redesigned Corolla That's More Powerful and Safer Than Ever Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Toyota Corolla.

Watch Out Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf Fans - Toyota has a New Corolla Hatchback Heading to the New York Auto Show Exterior
- image 775063

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Actually Looks Great With A Huge Grille Exterior
- image 778813

Read our full driven review on the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

2014 Toyota Corolla High Resolution Exterior
- image 509686

Read our full review on the previous generation Toyota Corolla.

2019 Toyota RAV4 - Driven
- image 805563

Read our full driven review of the 2019 Toyota RAV4.

2019 Toyota Avalon Exterior
- image 778152

Read our full driven review of the 2019 Toyota Avalon.

Jonathan Lopez
Jonathan Lopez
About the author

With its bumper-to-bumper, wheels-to-roof transformation, the 2020 Toyota Corolla was already big news in sedans for 2019. And now comes the ultimate “But wait, there’s more!” bonus: a new hybrid model that achieves at least 50 mpg combined fuel economy (projected). That makes the 2020 Corolla Hybrid the most fuel-efficient model to ever wear the model name that debuted more than a half-century ago.

The design isn’t the only thing electrifying about the Corolla Hybrid. This high-efficiency model adapts the latest Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive from the new-generation Prius, already proven as an MPG winner. Only Toyota offers such a distinct choice of hybrids in this vehicle segment, thus catering to customers who have different tastes in design but the same desire for maximum fuel efficiency.

The 2020 Corolla Hybrid, like its gas-powered siblings, delivers a highly-satisfying driving experience, along with the brand’s latest advances in comfort and multimedia technology. As on the 2020 Corolla gas models, the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety systems comes standard.

The 2020 Corolla Hybrid is yet more evidence of Toyota’s indisputable global hybrid leadership, which began more than 20 years ago.

Fit for a Hybrid

The hybrid powertrain and battery were a natural fit for the new Corolla because of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform. There’s no compromise in cabin roominess, for example, when choosing the Corolla Hybrid versus a gas model.

The new hybrid system combines a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with two motor/generators through an electronically controlled planetary-type continuously variable transmission (CVT) transaxle. Combined system output of 121 horsepower yields decidedly responsive performance.

The nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack employs a newly developed technology called Hyper-Prime Nickel™ to boost battery performance in a smaller and lighter package. The battery’s smaller size and flatter shape allow it to be packaged under the rear seat, rather than taking up trunk space, and also allowing a 60/40 split folding rear seatback to expand cargo capacity. The battery location also contributes to the vehicle’s lower center of gravity, a boon to agility.

The engine, working in concert with the electric motor (MG2), assures responsive performance, while exemplary energy efficiency is achieved by using both electric motors (MG1 and MG2) for hybrid battery charging.

Driving the Corolla Hybrid

The Corolla Hybrid’s linear acceleration response may take some by surprise. When pulling away, the battery provides a subtle power boost in order to put less strain on the engine and eliminate the “rubber band” effect experienced with some hybrids.

A preload differential adds to the confident acceleration feel. During low loads and low differential rotation, differential-limited torque is distributed to the left and right wheels, yielding excellent handling stability. At mid-range and high engine loads, the preload differential functions as an open differential.

Corolla Hybrid has EV mode, which allows the vehicle to be operated as a pure electric vehicle for short distances, depending upon certain conditions, such as battery charge level. This mode is useful for operating the vehicle in parking lots or indoor parking garages, for example. The Vehicle Proximity Notification feature alerts pedestrians of the vehicle’s presence when running in battery mode.

Along with the expected NORMAL and ECO drive modes, a SPORT drive mode setting allows for an increase in power for stronger acceleration response when desired.

NORMAL mode: Allows the hybrid system to achieve an ideal combination of fuel economy and vehicle acceleration. The accelerator opening amount changes linearly in response to accelerator pedal operation.
ECO mode: Improves hybrid system efficiency by limiting power in response to light to moderate accelerator pedal input.
SPORT mode: Available power is increased, allowing for improved acceleration response.

Stopping the Corolla Hybrid

Another boost to efficiency comes from the Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB) system, which coordinates operation between the regenerative braking force of the electric motors and the hydraulic braking system force to provide optimal stopping power. By proactively using the electric motors to recover as much electrical energy as possible from the regenerative braking system, this extremely efficient cooperative control helps to maximize fuel economy.

An active hydraulic booster on the conventional (non-regenerative) braking system improves pedal feel and feedback for the driver. Critically, should there ever be a malfunction in the ECB system, the conventional hydraulic braking system can stop the vehicle.

Brake Hold, when engaged, is a convenient technology that reduces driver effort while waiting at a traffic light or while driving in heavy traffic. When the driver presses the accelerator, Brake Hold releases instantly.

How the Other Half Works

The other half of the Hybrid Synergy Drive team, the gas engine, is no less impressive than the electric side. The 2ZR-FXE 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine was designed specifically for a hybrid application. The long-stroke configuration employs the Atkinson cycle, which uses a very high compression ratio (13.0:1) along with a shorter intake stroke and longer expansion stroke than the Otto cycle. The Atkinson cycle extracts more energy from the fuel, and the electric motors compensate for reduced low-end power (versus the Otto cycle).

Friction created by the piston skirts, rotating parts and oil pump is reduced, and an electric water pump eliminates the parasitic losses with a conventional belt-driven pump. Toyota sought efficiency gains in every system. The highly-efficient air conditioning system, for example, uses S-FLOW control, which automatically optimizes airflow throughout the cabin according to the temperature setting, actual cabin and outside temperatures, sunlight intensity, and occupied seats.

Getting the engine up to operating temperature quickly is critical to conserving fuel and reducing emissions at start-up. In the Corolla Hybrid, an exhaust heat recirculation system speeds up engine coolant warm-up. That in turn allows the hybrid system to stop the gas engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it’s not needed, for example in low-power-demand city driving conditions.

The PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) heater quickly provides cabin heat electrically in cold temperatures.

Hybrid Exclusives

The Corolla Hybrid rolls on 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels with low-rolling resistance tires. As on the Corolla gas models, the new multi-link rear suspension improves both handling agility and ride comfort compared to the previous-generation Corolla Sedan.

The instrument panel uses a high-grade meter with a 7-inch Multi-Information Display (MID). The MID shows the speedometer, as well as a hybrid system indicator/real-time battery charge status indicator. ECO accelerator guidance, also shown in the MID, can provide a guideline for maximizing fuel efficiency by coaching the driver on optimal accelerator pedal operation to match driving conditions. Drivers who like the visual appeal of seeing engine rpm can choose to display a tachometer.

Multimedia Mogul

The 2020 Corolla Hybrid’s multimedia offerings start with the standard Entune™ 3.0 Audio system that includes: 8-in. touchscreen display; six speakers; Apple CarPlay compatibility; Amazon Alexa; Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect; Safety Connect; Wi-Fi Connect; Scout GPS Link Compatible; Siri Eyes Free; auxiliary audio jack and USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control; AM/FM; MP3/WMA playback capability; voice recognition training and tutorials; hands-free phone capability; voice recognition; music streaming via Bluetooth; customizable home screen, and weather/traffic information via Entune 3.0 App Suite.

The Corolla Hybrid features eight standard airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Anti-lock Braking System, and Smart Stop Technology. All Corolla models come equipped with a standard backup camera.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0

Significantly, all 2020 Corolla models are equipped as standard with Toyota Safety Sense™ 2.0, an advanced suite of integrated active safety features.

PCS (Pre-Collision System): Is designed to automatically activate the brakes to help avoid a collision or mitigate the impact force. PCS is able to detect a vehicle or pedestrian in day and low-light conditions, as well as a bicycle during daylight.

Full-Speed DRCC (Dynamic Radar Cruise Control): Designed for highway use, designed to maintain a set vehicle-to-vehicle distance and is also capable of low-speed following up to speeds of about 24 mph. The Corolla can stop when the vehicle ahead comes to a stop, maintaining an appropriate distance to it.

LDA (Lane Departure Alert) w/ Steer Assist: Designed to give the driver audible and visual warnings and, if necessary, provides steering assistance if it detects the possibility of leaving the driving lane. It also detects excess weaving within the driving lane that might indicate driver distraction, inattention or drowsiness.

LTA (Lane Tracing Assist): LTA is enabled when LDA and DRCC are both on and active. LTA employs a lane centering function that will make constant steering inputs to help the driver keep the vehicle in its lane. LTA is designed for uses on relatively straight highways to preemptively avoid unwanted lane departures and reduce driver fatigue.

AHB (Automatic High Beam): When enabled, detects the headlights of oncoming vehicles and taillights of preceding vehicles and automatically switches between high and low beams as appropriate.

RSA (Road Sign Assist): Designed to recognize speed limit, Stop, Yield, and Do Not Enter signs and display them on the vehicles MID to help assist the driver.

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