2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Toyota did not use the H-word. When its new body style debuted for the 1976 model year on the Corolla, it was a Liftback. But that was almost 43 years ago, when new oceans boiled with the first stirrings of amoebic life. Today, Toyota has matured beyond euphemisms and embraced reality. Here is the 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback.

Not Crossing Over

Jack a hatchback up on its suspension, add some wheels and tires that look tough, and the result is a crossover. But Toyota has resisted that temptation, at least with this newest Corolla. (The same cannot be said for Ford and its next-gen Focus.) It’s a hatchback in the purest Volkswagen Golf sense of the word—a front-wheel-drive box with four wheels set out toward the corners, exactly what it appears to be. Sold as the Auris in Europe, it’s not sporty, it’s not luxurious, and yet it’s pretty good-looking.

Toyota is putting big, toothy grilles on everything it makes, and the Corolla hatchback gets one, too. But as toothy Toyota grilles go, this is among the best of the breed. There’s a demarcation between the upper and lower portions that gives the front end a distinctive face that’s kind of blunt. But blunt seems to be the new sleek.

The tail is better. It’s a shapely rump with a liftgate made of polymer resin compound that is framed by LED taillights. The Corolla hatch’s flanks are nicely sculpted, and the profile has an eagerness in its tail-high attitude. Exciting? Let’s not go that far.

Beneath the wrapper is Toyota’s now ubiquitous new platform, the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which underpins practically all of Toyota’s new cars and crossovers. While the TNGA is flexible enough to accommodate everything from the Prius to the new Avalon and RAV4, it’s a conventional front-drive structure with a pair of struts holding up the nose and a multilink independent suspension supporting the tail. The 103.9-inch wheelbase is a scant 0.1 inch longer than a Golf’s, while the 169.9-inch overall length stretches 2.4 inches beyond that of the VW. The Corolla hatchback’s wheelbase also is 1.5 inches longer than that of the Scion-refugee Corolla iM it replaces in the Toyota lineup. Size-wise, the Corolla hatch is right there alongside the competition.

Even in base SE trim the front seats are well shaped and manually adjustable six ways. In the fancier XSE, the seats are covered in leather and fabric, and the fronts are heated and offer eight-way power adjustment for the driver. The rear seat in both is split to fold 60/40.

While the accommodations up front are swank for the class, the rear compartment is less generous. Unlike the outgoing Corolla sedan, which has extraordinary rear legroom for a compact, the hatch is more intimate, along the lines of the Golf. If keeping the Uber customers happy is what matters, you may want to get the current sedan or hold out for the new one (which has yet to debut as of this writing).

Drives Like a Corolla

Toyota is finally getting the hang of electrically assisted power steering, and the Corolla hatchback’s sensitive and quick system reflects that. This is a composed small car that rides well, communicates accurately with the driver through its leather-covered steering wheel, and is (barely) powerful enough to be entertaining.

The last Corolla iM we tested, which was equipped with a CVT, traipsed from zero to 60 mph in a languid 9.1 seconds. The new Corolla hatch should be about a half-second quicker than that—and even better with the six-speed manual transmission. EPA ratings are still pending, but they should at least match the outgoing iM’s 27 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.

There’s potential in this car that remains potential. The TNGA platform is flexible enough to accept all-wheel drive, and a turbocharged version of the 2.0-liter engine could be zesty. Yeah, it’s just a dream. But if you’re going to dream, dream big.

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