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Review: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback SE


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The Toyota Corolla for the past couple of decades has been the poster child of the vehicle that just existed. All it was built to do was go from point a to b without any sort of enthusiasm. But Toyota is wanting to change that with the redesign of Corolla, starting with the new Corolla Hatchback. Has it worked?

The Corolla Hatchback falls in line with recent Toyota models with a shouty design. A sloping front end features massive lower grille, slim daytime running lights, and headlights that looked to be chiseled in. My SE tester lacked the 18-inch alloy wheels and a huge rear wing that is standard on the XSE. But the smaller wheels and wing provide a much cleaner look.

The interior looks more expressive with a layered dashboard design and faux stitching around both the dash and transmission. In traditional Toyota fashion, controls for the various functions are within easy reach. An eight-inch screen mounted high on the dash is standard on Corolla Hatchbacks and comes with the latest version of Entune. As I have noted in other 2019 Toyotas, the updated Entune is noticeably quicker when switching between various functions. Also appreciated is the integration with Apple CarPlay which gives a driver another choice for infotainment. Those with Android phones will need to get their hands on the 2020 model. What I do wish is that Toyota had made the interface slightly more modern and added other colors that weren’t 50 shades of grey. 

If you find yourself riding in the Corolla Hatchback, be sure to nab the front seat. Those sitting in the back will find space for their legs to be quite small. This isn’t helped with the narrow rear door openings. At least no one will have any complaints with the headroom as the hatchback has plenty of it. It gets even worse when you open up the rear tailgate and you’re presented with a minuscule 17.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. The new Mazda3 offers more space at 20.1.

Power comes from a new 2.0L four-cylinder producing 168 horsepower and 151 pounds-feet of torque, a noticeable increase from the outgoing Corolla iM - 137 HP and 126 lb-ft. This has moved overall performance impressions from poor to adequate as the hatchback is noticeably quicker around town. Country and highway driving are still a weak point as you’ll need to jam the gas to get any real movement from the engine. I would like to see either Toyota introduce a small turbo engine or figure out how to have torque readily available at a lower rpm. 

My test vehicle was fitted with an optional CVT; a six-speed manual is standard. This CVT is different from others as Toyota fitted a fixed first gear ratio that it uses when leaving a stop. This reduces the rubber-band-type delay when accelerating and makes it feel more like a conventional automatic.

EPA fuel economy figures for the Corolla Hatchback with the CVT are 32 City/42 Highway/36 Combined. My average for the week landed around 36.1 mpg.

One area that the Corolla Hatchback’s predecessor impressed me was the handling. It felt planted and had surprising reflexes when going through a bend, but the rubbery steering did let it down. The Corolla Hatchback carries this torch as it feels even sharper with less body roll and a nimble feel. Steering is improved as well with a more natural feel when turning. I’ll still put the last-generation Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf as the best-handling models in the class, but Corolla Hatchback isn’t too far behind.

Despite its sporting intentions, the Corolla Hatchback coped very well on Detroit’s shambolic roads with most bumps and ruts being smoothed over. Part of this comes down to the SE having 16-inch wheels, allowing for more sidewall. Road noise is kept out, but there is a fair amount of wind noise that enters when driving on the freeway.

Toyota pulled most of the stops out when working on the Corolla Hatchback and their efforts have paid off. It is the best looking Corolla in quite some time, offers surprising handling characteristics, and comes well equipped for the money. The SE begins at $21,090 and that includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, eight-inch touchscreen, and LED lighting. Where the Corolla Hatchback loses ground is rear-seat space and cargo room which trails competitors by a significant amount. That’s the make or break decision as to whether you should or shouldn’t consider one.

Nevertheless, Toyota has done the seemingly impossible: Made the Corolla interesting.

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

Year: 2019
Make: Toyota
Model: Corolla Hatchback
Trim: SE
Engine: 2.0L DOHC 16-Valve D4S Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: 168 @ 6,600
Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,800 
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 32/42/36
Curb Weight: 3,060 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Toyota, Aichi, Japan
Base Price: $21,090
As Tested Price: $23,639.00 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
SE Preferred Package - $1,400.00
Carpet Mat Package - $229.00


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Nice review. The change in looks on these has really made a difference, and taken it up a few notches, especially in hatchback form.

Many Toyota owners complain of the infotainment, but now that it has CarPlay, other than the 50 shades of gray, any other feedback or not memorable?

Use any of the standard safety systems? Beep heavy or noticeable?

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Just now, ocnblu said:

I am going to need to compile a list of all affordable hatchbacks.

It's definitely a smaller niche that it used to be..but still quite a few in the US..

Without looking it up, there is the Corolla hatch, Yaris (is it still around?), Mazda 3, Golf, Spark, Sonic, Fit, Versa Note, Mitsubishi Mirage, Veloster, Elantra GT, Rio..

Though I do prefer larger vehicles, there are couple of 'hot hatches' I'd probably enjoy hooning around in, such as the Golf GTI and Veloster N...

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44 minutes ago, Robert Hall said:

It's definitely a smaller niche that it used to be..but still quite a few in the US..

Without looking it up, there is the Corolla hatch, Yaris (is it still around?), Mazda 3, Golf, Spark, Sonic, Fit, Versa Note, Mitsubishi Mirage, Veloster, Elantra GT, Rio..

Though I do prefer larger vehicles, there are couple of 'hot hatches' I'd probably enjoy hooning around in, such as the Golf GTI and Veloster N...

Yaris hatch is now a Mazda 2 with catfish maw.  Golf is going away in the US with the new generation (GTI only here).  Sonic is done shortly.  Versa Note has been gone all year.

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6 minutes ago, ocnblu said:

Yaris hatch is now a Mazda 2 with catfish maw.  Golf is going away in the US with the new generation (GTI only here).  Sonic is done shortly.  Versa Note has been gone all year.

Yeah, I didn't look up the specifics, going off memory.. too bad about the the Golf, but I haven't seen a non-GTI Golf in ages. 

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10 hours ago, USA-1 said:

Oh good another jellybean! Just what buyers asked for 😂

After all they have to stay on that sugar high as Life is sweet! :P 

  • Haha 1
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    • By William Maley
      There are some cars I will not turn down the opportunity to spend time with again. A prime example is the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a car that brings a smile to my face. This past fall, I had a chance to spend some time in a soft-top version and to figure out whether I would have this or the RF.
      What has changed since our last visit with Miata? Only a few things such as the addition of Mazda's i-Activsense suite of active safety features (automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning) as standard; and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the Club and Grand Touring models. I find myself drawn more to the standard Miata than RF because it looks a bit neater. The hardtop makes the Miata look somewhat bulky.  The 17-inch wheels finished in dark silver help set the car off. The addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes using the MazdaConnect infotainment system a bit more bearable to use. I found myself using CarPlay more due to its easier interface layout and brighter graphics. Power comes from a 2.0L Skyactiv-G inline-four with 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed manual, while an automatic is optional. As I noted in my review of the RF, the new 2.0 makes a dramatic difference to the Miata's performance. Leaving a stop, the engine freely revs and delivers a smooth rush of power. I think this version is slightly faster than the RF, mostly due to it not having the foldable hardtop. The six-speed manual is still one of the sweetest transmissions I have used. It feels smooth and precise when running through the gears. Handling is still one of the Miata's strong points as it eagerly changes direction and shows little body roll. Steering is sharp and provides the right amount of weight when driven hard. Ride quality is slightly better than the RF I drove last year due to the Grand Touring not having as stiff as a suspension setup. Yes, you will still feel several bumps and imperfections. But not at the rate as you'll experience in the Club. The Miata is one of those few cars I find myself still being impressed with every time I get the chance to drive one. It offers a level of driving fun that very few models can match, along with a price tag that won’t break the bank. If you were to ask which Miata I would choose, it would be the soft top. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the MX-5 Miata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Mazda
      Model: MX-5 Miata
      Trim: Grand Touring
      Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 181 @ 7,000
      Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/34/29
      Curb Weight: 2,341 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $31,670
      As Tested Price: $32,790 (Includes $920.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Grey Cloth Roof - $200.00

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