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Quick Drive: 2020 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e and Corolla Hatchback XSE

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Have you ever wondered what it would be to add all-wheel drive to a Prius? What about adding slightly more sport to a Corolla hatchback? Wonder no more as I can tell you some thoughts on the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e and Corolla XSE hatchback.

Prius XLE AWD-e

  • The Prius AWD-e powertrain is mostly the same as you'll find in the standard model - a 1.8L inline-four paired with an electric motor to provide an output of 121 horsepower. But, the e-AWD adds a second electric motor producing 7 horsepower and 40 pound-feet onto the rear axle. This provides extra traction and helps with initial acceleration (up to 6 mph).
  • The other change deals with the battery as Toyota swaps the lithium-ion pack for a nickel-metal hydride. Toyota says the nickel-metal hydride chemistry has better resilience in extremely cold temperatures.
  • Does the addition of a second electric motor make the Prius any faster? Not at all. It feels the same as the standard Prius; fine in stop-go driving, but struggling during hard acceleration such as merging onto a freeway.
  • The AWD system is very unobtrusive, you don’t notice come on when one of the front wheels loses traction. There is an important caveat to note; this system only operates up to 43 mph. This is likely due to Toyota wanting to keep somewhat high fuel economy figures.
  • As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the Prius AWD-e at 52 City/48 Highway/50 Combined - the lowest of any Prius model. My average for the week was a slightly disappointing 47 mpg.
  • Handling characteristics are the same as the standard Prius. It's slightly fun to drive on winding roads with minimal body roll, but the steering is lackluster. Ride comfort is excellent with most bumps being ironed out.
  • The AWD option does make the Prius a more appealing option for those living in the snow belt who still want excellent fuel economy.

Corolla XSE Hatchback

2020 Toyota Corolla XSE.jpg

  • Toyota wants to make it clear the XSE is the sporting version of the Corolla Hatchback and it shows on the exterior. There is a distinct rear wing, 18-inch wheels with black inserts, and a body kit that makes the hatchback stand out from the plain-jane SE.
  • Power comes from the same 2.0L inline-four found in the SE, producing 169 horsepower. In my tester, I had the standard six-speed manual. The CVT is an option.
  • I was hoping for a slight improvement in overall performance with the manual, but it’s similar to the CVT. The engine feels more suited around town where it can get up to speed pretty quick. But it does show some signs of struggling when trying to reach higher speeds.
  • The manual transmission is a mixed bag. The throws are a bit too long for any sort of enthusiastic driving and it is slightly difficult to slot into the next gear due to the vague feeling gate. But, the clutch is very easy to modulate.
  • Despite having a sportier tune for the suspension, I couldn't tell any difference in the handling between this and the SE hatchback I drove in 2020. Both feel agile and composed when driven on a curvy stretch of pavement. I will say the SE does a better job of minimizing impacts from bumps and potholes with smaller wheels.
  • The only reasons I see picking the XSE over the SE is for the more aggressive looks and additional standard equipment (dual-zone climate control, 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster, and power-adjustable driver seat). Otherwise, the SE offers the same driving dynamics, manual transmission, and a slightly better ride for less money.

Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2020
Make: Toyota
Model: Prius AWD-e
Trim: XLE
Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Four-Cylinder, AC Synchronous Motor
Driveline: ECVT, All Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 96 @ 5,200 (Gas): 71 @ 0 (Electric Motor 1): 7 @ 0 (Electric Motor 2): 121 (Combined)
Torque @ RPM: 105 @ 3,600 (Gas): 
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 52/48/50
Curb Weight: 3,220 lbs
Location of Manufacture: 
Base Price: $28,375
As Tested Price: $31,757 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Advanced Technology Package - $800.00

Year: 2020
Make: Toyota
Model: Corolla Hatchback
Trim: XSE
Engine: 2.0 DOHC 15-Valve D-4S with Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,600
Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
Curb Weight: 3,060 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Aichi, Japan
Base Price: $23,240
As Tested Price: $26,450 (Includes $955.00 Destination Charge)

Black Roof, Spoiler, and Side Mirrors - $500.00
Adaptive Headlights - $415.00
Rear Window Spoiler - $375.00
Carpet Mat Package - $249.00
Door Sill Protectors - $165.00
Black Emblem Overlays - $129.00
Mudguards - $129.00
Door Edge Guard - $125.00
Rear Bumper Protector - $89.00
TRD Air Filter - $79.00

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Better than the bland SE, but still a very weird styling for a hatchback.

Over all a sporty looking commuter car with no real get up and go it would seem

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