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2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback: New Car Review

Not satisfied to simply rename its iM, Toyota created the all-new, ground-up 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback to be worthy of wearing its top-selling Corolla nameplate. Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) is well-named. It’s the new platform providing the foundation for an array of new or redesigned Toyota models from the Avalon to the C-HR. In the Corolla Hatchback, it’s joined by an all-new engine and two new transmission choices. As other car companies dither over the fate of passenger cars, Toyota seems to be doubling down on its car investment with the all-new Corolla Hatchback and redesigned flagship Toyota Avalon.

Arguably the least significant aspect of the introduction of the 2019 Corolla Hatchback is that it brings Toyota one step closer to laying its great Scion experiment to rest. You see, the all-new Corolla Hatchback replaces Scion holdover iM in the brand’s lineup. That really leaves only the Yaris iA to remind us of Scion. Toyota will no doubt soon remedy that.

What’s New for 2019?

The Toyota Corolla Hatchback is all-new.

What We Like

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 with its suite of safety/driver-assist technologies comes standard on both grades; LED headlights and taillights come standard on both grades; rear-end styling; raised cargo floor

What We Don’t

Front-end styling; lackluster acceleration; no Android Auto; blind spot monitoring only standard on the XSE CVT

How Much?

$20,910–$25,010

Fuel Economy

Beyond choosing between two trim levels, the biggest decision a Corolla Hatchback buyer will make is whether to opt for the standard new 6-speed manual transmission or add $1,100 to the bottom line by choosing the CVT with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Delivering marginally better estimated fuel economy, the CVT will probably be the choice of the green crowd. Those more concerned with driving dynamics will probably pick the manual. Each has its own fairly unique feature. The CVT has a fixed first gear for slightly more aggressive launches from a standstill. The manual tranny provides downshift rev-matching for smoother downshifts.

Regardless of the transmission choice, the only available engine is the all-new 2.0-liter Dynamic Force 4-cylinder engine. It’s lighter and somewhat more powerful than the 1.8L 4-banger it replaces. Dynamic Force overstates what this 168-horsepower engine’s capabilities are. With a peak torque of 151 lb-ft that doesn’t arrive until 4,800 rpm, this hatchback doesn’t exactly explode off the line. But, in typical urban or even expressway driving, Corolla performs adequately.

Making a choice between the two available trim levels affects fuel economy. The base SE delivers better fuel economy than the XSE. Government estimates for the SE MT are 28 miles per gallon city and 37 mpg highway. Opting for the SE CVT increases mileage to 32 mpg city/42 mpg highway. At this writing, mileage for the XSE MT is an unknown, but the XSE CVT is 30 mpg city/38 mpg highway.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Toyota Corolla comes in SE and XSE grades. Opting for the CVT adds $1,100 to the cost. Prices are for versions with the 6-speed manual transmission and include the factory delivery fee.

Standard in the Corolla Hatchback SE ($20,910) are 16-inch aluminum wheels, LED headlights, LED taillights, heated outboard power mirrors with turn-signal indicator, full power accessories, 4.2-inch multi information display, 60/40-split folding rear seat, tilt-telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, seven airbags, Bluetooth connectivity, Safety Connect with emergency assistance, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, dynamic cruise control, two USB ports, 8-in color touchscreen, 6-speaker Entune 3.0 audio system with Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa capability and voice recognition. Options include blind spot monitoring (CVT) and Entune 3.0 Plus.

Moving up to the XSE ($23,910) builds on the SE with 18-in aluminum wheels, LED fog lamps, 7-in multi information display, leather seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat and Entune 3.0 Plus. CVT options include wireless smartphone charging, 8-speaker JBL audio system and a navigation system.

Opting for the CVT adds full-speed range Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane-Tracing Assist, blind spot monitoring (XSE) and automatic high-beam assist with adaptive lights (XSE).

Safety

No third party has yet to crash test the Corolla Hatchback. The Corolla Hatchback provides seven airbags, as well as the full spectrum of passive safety technologies, such as stability control and traction control. Regardless of grade, it comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, auto high beams, road sign assist and daytime/low light pedestrian/cyclist detection. In the XSE CVT it also includes blind spot monitoring.

Behind the Wheel

It’s too soon to predict if Toyota has bigger things in store for the Corolla Hatchback. It screams for a turbo. As it stands now, however, it’s a bit anemic in the acceleration department. The 6-speed helps a bit. Even with its fixed first gear, the CVT won’t etch a smile on the face of anyone in search of a sporty hatchback. Whining about the acceleration aside, in every other performance aspect, this small hatchback holds its own. Steering is responsive and it corners with confidence.

Quiet enough, the comfy cabin is tidy and user-friendly. Carmakers have a dilemma when it comes to touchscreens. We clamor for ever-larger touchscreens, but there’s nowhere to put them. In the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the 8-in screen sits upright in the center of the instrument panel like a gravestone. It’s easy enough to operate and, obviously, it’s easy to read.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Honda Civic Hatchback — No discussion of small hatchbacks is complete without mentioning the highly versatile Civic. It offers something for nearly everyone.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT — Offering the turbo that the Corolla Hatchback currently lacks, the Elantra GT is a blast to drive and it’s packed with standard features.

2018 Mazda3 Hatchback — Sporty and fuel efficient, the Mazda3 is not only fun, but it offers an array of standard features and available technologies.

2018 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback — Often overlooked in a hatchback hunt, Cruze provides lots of high-tech goodies and an available Diesel engine.

Autotrader’s Advice

Until Toyota crams a little more performance under the hood, we don’t think it matters much which transmission you choose. Sure the 6-speed manual is a bit more fun, but for those looking for the most in the way of safety/driver-assist technologies, the manual may be too big of a trade off. This is especially true if want blind spot monitoring. Because of the extra safety technologies that come with the CVT, we’d opt for the SE CVT.

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