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2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback: First Drive Review

Look out Honda Civic, Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra GT, coming this summer: the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback. Replacing the Corolla iM, which was, in essence, an orphaned Scion iM, the redesigned Corolla hatch touts a new engine, new transmissions, new architecture, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 and, wait for it, Apple CarPlay. Yes, Apple CarPlay!

Relegated to the ash heap along with much of the rest of Toyota’s great attract-young-male-buyers experiment Scion (the Yaris iA lives on, as does the FR-S in the guise of the 86), the Corolla iM is no more. Let’s face it, the Yaris iA notwithstanding, the iM simply didn’t fit with Toyota nomenclature. The name needed jettisoning, and what better time to do that than a major overhaul?

Approaching 45 million in total worldwide units sold since its introduction in 1966, the Corolla remains king of the nameplate-sales hill. We think the new hatchback version will further elevate the Corolla’s showroom success. It’s a clearly better car than the iM, pushing forward both the Toyota and Corolla legacies. We spent a day driving the 2019 Toyota Corolla in and around Del Mar, CA at its national media launch in April, and, although we think it’s better than the outgoing iM in every respect, it didn’t elbow its way to the head of the compact hatchback class.

Deuces Wild

If you have the Corolla on your mind in July, head into your local Toyota showroom and check out the SE and XSE. Toyota doubled the number of grades offered by the iM. Apparently in an effort to keep us on the edge of our seats, Toyota has yet to announce pricing; but the current Corolla iM with a 6-speed manual transmission opens the bidding at $20,485, including factory delivery charge. We guess the prices of the two 2019 grades will bracket that amount by within a grand or so.

Every 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback will come with alloy wheels, seven airbags, blind spot monitoring, a backup camera, automatic climate control, a leather shift knob, paddle shifters for the CVT, SmartKey, two USB ports, an Entune audio interface with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa and the second-generation Toyota Safety Sense.

I’m Givin’ Ya All She’s Got, Cap’n

Powering the Corolla hatch is an all-new 2.0-liter Dynamic Force 4-cylinder engine. Dynamic Force is a bit of an overstatement for this 168-horsepower 4-banger that also produces 151 lb-ft of torque. And, that peak number doesn’t arrive until 4800 rpm. When the light turns green, it doesn’t exactly explode off the line. It is, however, more robust than the 137-hp 1.8-liter mill in the iM it replaces. It does get rolling with some degree of enthusiasm — more so with the 6-speed manual transmission than the CVT, despite the CVT’s fixed first gear. Not only is the manual gear box smooth, but it also benefits from rev matching that further evens out transitions between cogs both during up shifts and down shifts. Both transmissions are all-new for 2019.

Like its suggested retail price, the newest Corolla Hatchback’s EPA-estimated numbers remain a mystery. New engine. New transmissions. Almost 60 days from being on-sale. Not surprising.

Put on a Happy Face

Grandma would have called the face of the Corolla Hatchback, a poo-eating grin. Actually she was too much a lady to even say, poo, but you get the idea. Clearly someone on Toyota’s exterior-styling staff decided there is less work involved in designing a vehicle’s front end if you just make the whole thing one big, grinning grille. At least in the case of the Corolla hatch, it only covers the lower two-thirds of the snout. Having said all of that, the new Corolla may not be the belle of the ball, but neither will it scare buzzards off a meat wagon. It’s good-looking enough and certainly looks better than the outgoing iM.

The overall shape is about the same as the iM, but the nose is flatter. The biggest improvement is to its backside with its wind deflector, where the nicely sculpted hatch meets the roof. Translating the lift gate’s design into reality required molding it out of lightweight resin (plastic). Headlights and taillights are LEDs.

Providing the foundation is the recurring TNGA or Toyota New Global Architecture. It’s the platform for just about every new or updated Toyota vehicle. It’s versatile enough to accommodate everything from the Prius to the Avalon. At 169.9 in, the overall length is about half an inch shorter than the iM.

Take a Load off

No one expects a vehicle in this price range (affordable, we might call it) to treat its guests to a cockpit boasting the highest-end materials. But, don’t mistake affordable with cheap. Well-constructed, the cabin is uncluttered and surprisingly comfy. The front seats (cloth in the SE and leather/cloth in the XSE) are nicely bolstered, providing plenty of support. They are 6-way manually adjustable in the SE and 8-way power adjustable in the XSE.

Clean, simple lines characterize the dashboard, dominated by an 8-in touchscreen sitting upright at its center. Most of the buttons are on the steering wheel, controlling the cruise control and audio system. Otherwise, switches, buttons and knobs are kept to a minimum. Save for hard acceleration, the cabin is pretty-darn quiet.

Tech and Connect

Although Toyota continues ironing out some wrinkles with Android, it has finally reached an accommodation with Apple, featuring Apple CarPlay in the Corolla’s Entune audio interface systems. The SE gets the Entune 3.0, and the XSE gets the Entune 3.0 Plus.

Both grades come standard with the second generation of Toyota Safety Sense, including a precollision system with pedestrian detection, Dynamic (adaptive) Radar Cruise Control and lane-departure warning with steering assist and automatic high beams. Also standard are two new systems. Lane-Tracing Assist can not only recognize the white and yellow lane markers, but can also use the path of a preceding vehicle to center itself in the road. Road Sign Assist identifies common road signs, such as Stop and Yield, as well as speed limits. It provides both visual and audible alerts.

Cut and Wrap

We weren’t bowled over by the new 2019 Corolla Hatchback, but we like it. Whoever the Corollas of the past appealed to (and there have been tens of millions of them), will be even more likely to drive the new hatchback home. It doesn’t set a new bar in the compact-hatchback segment, but it’s very competitive. With Toyota’s reputation for reliability, competitive is good enough.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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