Toyota did something a bit unusual to debut the 12th generation of one of its most popular models. The 2019 Toyota Corolla arrived first as a hatchback. And while this is not the first subcompact hatchback from Toyota, it is the first to carry the name Corolla Hatchback here in North America – and it’s a good one.
Predecessors to this new model include Matrix and, most recently, iM that was rebadged when Scion was shuttered. The new Corolla five-door hatch arrives on Toyota’s new TNGA C platform that we first saw underneath the C-HR a while back. This is a sporty new global architecture that will be a bit more pleasing to folks who like to feel like they are driving a vehicle. Now, this is still a Toyota, so no rally car here (not yet anyway), but with the availability of a manual gearbox some drivers will be able to experience things we thought long extinct in this showroom. Goodies include new sport-tuned suspension, the aforementioned six-speed manual transmission, and a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. I would love to see a small turbo option in the near future, but one can only hope at this point.
The new Corolla Hatchback is larger in every dimension over the iM from last year. It isn’t much, but an inch or two here and there makes for a more comfortable ride that is better balanced and offers a bit more space. There is a lower center of gravity so drivers will see a more balanced ride with improved handling. My first time behind the wheel was a very pleasant surprise as I could immediately tell Toyota has done its homework in developing the new ride. And honestly, with a hatchback performing this well, who cares about the upcoming sedan version. Vive la hatch!
This new M20A-FKS engine features direct injection and dual variable valve timing with intelligence along with an electric motor on the intake side to control the variable valve timing. This enhances power output and fuel mileage and cuts emissions. The new 2.0-liter engine is given the family name of Dynamic Force with its new technologies as well as higher compression ratio (13:1) and longer stroke. I’ve seen power ratings for this engine at 168hp and 151 lb. ft. torque. While that is considerably better than the engine being replaced we would still love to see some sort of turbocharging offered. Hey, if Volkswagen can do it, why not Toyota? All power is sent to the front wheels via the six-speed manual or, as our tester came with, the new dynamic shift CVT and its simulated 10 speeds in sequential shiftmatic steps. There is also a sport mode and paddle shifters to complete the sportier dynamic in the new Corolla Hatchback along with – wait for it – a launch gear. While we found this new CVT to be one of the best we’ve tested in recent years, we would still love to be able to row our own gears with the manual.
Toyota has recently made the commitment to safety in all of its new vehicles and Corolla is no different. They all come with the Toyota Safety Sense halo of active and passive safety technologies including pre-collision with pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beam. The new Corolla arrives with lane tracing assist as well as road sign assist (in case you forgot what a stop sign looked like). This is all in addition to the standard assortment of safety gear we have gotten used to in new vehicles over the past few years like vehicle stability control, blind spot monitor, and backup camera.
Corolla’s new sport attitude begins with its more stylish looks all around but continues inside the vehicle as well. Ample leg- and hiproom awaits occupants as does very supportive sport seats up front. In addition to a new 8-inch color touchscreen multimedia display is a wireless device charging pad in the lower cubby of the center stack. Trim levels at launch include SE and XSE. Our XSE tester arrived with leather seats with heat up front, multifunction steering wheel, 7-inch TFT driver information display, and Entune 3.0 Audio Plus with navigation, suite of connected services, Wi-Fi connect, Amazon Alexa integration, Apple CarPlay, and a JBL premium 8-speaker, 800-watt sound system.
The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback just went on sale and the model we tested was a pre-production unit, meaning there may be some slight changes in the vehicles that arrive in showrooms. It also means this car did not arrive with a copy of a window sticker. A quick search online found pricing to start at $19,990 for base SE with 6MT transmission and XSE models starting at $22,990. Fuel economy for the 6MT is rated at 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. CVT models see 32 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. The Toyota website shows the XSE is only available with the manual transmission, so that is one of those “changes” I mentioned between pre-production and production units – our XSE tester came with the CVT.
Toyota is just now officially entering the “hot hatch” segment, even though this hatchback needs warmed up a bit. Styling and content are on point with the “fun to drive” factor in the above average range. Bring that Lexus turbocharged motor over here, and we’ll have a real winner. If you are shopping for a hatchback, be sure to stop at Toyota right after Mazda and just before Volkswagen.