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Speed Academy X 2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Jan 10, 2020

 Modification Experiment- The 2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

If you’re anything like me and Pete from Speed Academy, then you enjoy modifying your car and taking it to the race track for some spirited driving in a safe and controlled environment.

So when Toyota Canada was kind enough to loan us this 2020 Corolla Hatchback XSE with a 6-speed manual transmission, we were excited to test it on the streets and around Toronto Motorsports Park's 11-turn road course before doing some light tuning.

2020 Corolla hatchback XSE

The mission was to improve its performance at the track without overly compromising its comfort or practicality as a daily driven road car.

This much fun can’t just happen all at once though! That’s why we’ll be uploading 4 episodes on Toyota Connect over the next few weeks. Plus, if you don’t have time to watch the episode this second, we’ll post a quick recap to get you hyped up.

You’ll have to wait for the next update to see what modifications we chose to make to the Corolla, but in the meantime please enjoy Part 1 of our 4 part video series, where we give this Blue Flame coloured XSE hatchback a full evaluation in showroom floor condition.


Episode 1:

Watch Full Video below

In this episode, we get our first impressions. Toyota has done an outstanding job calibrating the suspension, which delivers a sporty and responsive feel on the street without any loss in ride comfort.

We also experiment with the steering and shifting action, finding it pleasingly light and precise, making the 6-speed manual transmission a great option for driving enthusiasts. It’s a surprisingly fun and engaging car to turn a hot lap in, and with a few minor modifications we’re confident it’s only going to go faster.


Episode 2:

This episode is all about improving our lap time while adding a little more style to this already handsome hatchback. We think the car looked fantastic after all is said and done, but judge for yourself by watching episode 2 of this four part series!

Watch Full Video below

Having taken this 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE hatchback to Toronto Motorsports Park and clocked a best lap time of 1-minute 33.19-second, we found it to be a very willing and enjoyable machine thanks to its slick shifting manual transmission, stiff chassis, and smooth revving D4-S engine.

Speed Academy modification

When it comes to car modifications, we felt a stickier summer tire and a more aggressive set of brake pads were the best places to start. For brake pads we turned to Hawk Performance's HPS 5.0, a compound with a more aggressive initial bit and a higher temperature range. Plus this pad is low on dust and easy on the rotors so remains a very civilized choice for street use.

We also decided to make a bold statement by installing a set of Hyper Gold form-forged Volk Racing TE37 SL wheels, which we which wrapped in 255/35R18 ultra-high performance Continental ExtremeContact Sport summer tires.

corolla experiment

As a result we not only gained a wider, higher grip contact patch (the original all-season tires are 225/40R18), which should translate to higher cornering speeds and faster lap times, we also shed 14-lbs at each corner of the car thanks to the incredible lightness of the Volk Racing wheels and Continental tires.

To further enhance on-track performance, we also installed a set of RS*R Sports-i coilovers, which will let us dial in the handling balance while also adjusting ride height, all of which means less body roll in the corners and less nose dive on the brakes.

Corolla tires speed academy

In the style department we installed the Toyota optional rear spoiler along with a lip kit from Fly Motorsports. You can order this lip kit in carbon fiber, but we opted for the more affordable fibre glass version, which we had 242 Customs paint in a high gloss black to match the front bumper fog light surrounds.

corolla tire modification

Overall, we can tell you it was turning heads on the street the second we drove it out our shop door and it sounded sportier too thanks to the Vibrant Performance muffler we installed.

But the real question is: will the Corolla go any quicker around the race track and will it still be a comfortable and practical daily driver? Stay tuned for Parts 3 and 4 of this blog series to find out!


Episode 3:

Just one week after our initial track test in the 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE hatchback, Peter and I took the now lightly modified (with lightweight forged wheels, wider and stickier summer tires, a stiffer coilover suspension, a rear spoiler and lip kit, a TRD air filter, and a sportier sounding muffler) back to Toronto Motorsports Park for a follow-up test to see just how much quicker it would go around this tight and technical 11-turn road course.

Blessed with very similar weather conditions as our initial run, the added grip and reduced body roll paid immidiate dividends on the lap timer. After just three hot laps, this sexy hatchback was on pace with more powerful and more expensive sport compact cars, ticking off a best lap of 1 minute and 29.73 seconds.

We'll let you see for yourself in episode 3 below:

That’s a 3.5-second lap time improvement thanks to the modifications we made. We know from experience that it takes approximately 50-hp to decrease lap times by 1-second at this circuit, so we would have to double the Corolla’s 168-hp to shave that shave 3.5-seconds off its lap time by using power alone.

Clearly we made significant improvements to the Corolla's on-track performance, but how did it fair on the street? To our surprise, the lip kit survived a week of daily driving without a scratch. We were also very impressed by the RS*R coilovers ride quality on the street, which added very little ride harshness thanks to the relatively mild increase in spring rate and the rubber isolation of this kit.

Best of all, the Vibrant Performance muffler gives the exhaust a very pleasant growl when accelerating hard, but is just as quiet as the original muffler when cruising at light throttle positions.

As you'll see in the video above, we're fully stoked on how this 2020 Corolla hatchback performs and looks with the car modifications we chose. In part 4, we have a Corolla owner joining us at the race track to test this car versus his unmodified hatchback, plus he take our car home for a week to use as his daily driver. and so we can get his unbiased opinion on the modifications we made.


Episode 4:

In part 3 of this 4 part series, Peter and I from Speed Academy proved the effectiveness of the modifications we  made to this 2020 Toyota Corolla XSE hatchback on the street and at the race track. Plus we think you'll agree the Hyper Gold Volk Racing TE37 SL Wheels, lowered ride height, rear spoiler and lip kit give the already sporty looking hatchback an even bolder appearance.

Rather than patting ourselves with total victory, we wanted an unbiased opinion on the car modifications so we could confidently say that we’d improved the Corolla’s performance without compromising its comfort or practicality as a road car.

Part 4 is all about proving it. You be the judge.

Watch Full Video Below

Enter our friend Jason, whose personal daily driver is the completely unmodified 2019 Corolla SE hatchback. Jason is a hardcore car enthusiast with a passion for high-performance driving.

Once the young Padawan, Jason is well on his way to becoming a driving Master with regular practice at Toronto Motorsports Park.

We started our day at the track with Jason by having him turn some hot laps in his bone stock Corolla. We could see he was having a blast and pushing the car really hard in the corners, perhaps too hard since his best lap time of a 1-minute 35.74-seconds was a full six seconds slower than I went in our modified Corolla.

Jumping into our Corolla, Jason quickly proved just how effective our modifications were, posting a blistering fast 1-minute 28.72-second lap time, beating my best time by a full second. I may be the advertised “fast guy” at Speed Academy, but clearly Jason drove the wheels off our Corolla, with the end result being an improvement of 7 seconds compared to his best lap in his own car.

Episode 4

As you’ll see in Part 4 of the video series, Jason was extremely complimentary of the modifications we made to our Corolla, and having spent a week driving it on the street, he also thoroughly enjoyed it as his daily driver.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post and video series, which we think goes a long way to proving that you can have a ton of fun with a front-wheel drive compact car. Especially if it's a car designed and engineered as well as the 2020 Corolla hatchback. With a few carefully chosen, high quality modifications you can enhance performance and style without compromising comfort and daily practicality.