Manual transmission version is fun to drive.
Performance lacks in a few key areas, however.
Those wanting a compact car with attitude should take a look at the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback. If you want a safe compact car, the Corolla gets a suite of safety features not typically found in this segment. Add in a dash of the Corolla’s excellent fuel economy and its high resale value, and you have all the ingredients for a car that will please budget-conscious consumers.
Over the weekend, we drove the top-trim, 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE.
What’s New For 2019
The redesigned Corolla debuts in a new hatchback body style and comes with improved interior design and materials. Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa are standard.
Features & Options: XLE Trim Offers Enough
The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE ($22,990) is the sportier Corolla. It comes standard with 18-inch machined wheels, unique front-end styling, a rear spoiler, steering-wheel paddle shifters (for CVT automatic models), sport front seats, SofTex upholstery with cloth inserts, and a sport-style gauge cluster.
Also included are the XLE’s upgraded headlights, bumper-mounted LED daytime running lights, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The XSE is the only trim that can be had with a manual transmission, which brings with it keyless ignition and entry, plus an upgraded infotainment system. The XSE also adds heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, and full SofTex upholstery.
This XSE tester came with the optional adaptive headlights, rear window spoiler, and protective package. MSRP including destination: $25,123. By comparison, the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback starts at $19,990.
Interior Highlights: Tech-Focused
We slid into the XSE Hatch and saw the most up-to-date cabin yet for Toyota’s compact car. It features a stylish dashboard, a sporty steering wheel, and a six-speed gear shifter that fit perfectly into our hands. We particularly liked the traditional audio and climate controls unlike some that are put in difficult-to-use touchscreen menus. When we did need to use the eight-inch touchscreen, it offered up large buttons, clear graphics, and quick responses.
It could be one of the easier infotainment systems to operate in this class.
Various connectivity features came courtesy of the Entune App Suite with services like Bing, Facebook, Yelp, Pandora, and real-time traffic data.
Interior Highlights: Comfortable But Less Cargo Space
The sport seats hugged us from behind and provided excellent support, particularly with the firmer bolstering found in the XSE. We adjusted the telescoping steering wheel, came up with a comfortable driving position, and were able to see the gauges perfectly. In the rear, there’s more legroom than most small compact sedans and headroom is a plus for taller passengers.
Unfortunately, the Hatchback’s shorter length means the cargo area is a bit smaller. Maximum storage behind the rear seat is 18 cubic feet.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The Toyota Corolla Hatchback is powered by a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft. of torque. Our tester came mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, although an automatic is available.
EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 28/37 city/highway and 31 combined. When compared to the competition, the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback holds its own in terms of fuel economy.
- Related: The Toyota Corolla sedan receives a number of improvements for 2020.
Driving Dynamics: Lacking Some Luster
The Corolla’s four-cylinder engine is bulletproof when it comes to reliability, but it does lack in the performance department. We pushed it hard at altitude but were asking for more power as we tried to pass slower traffic. This is not a hot hatch like the Honda Civic Si, but it’s still fun-to-drive and works well for an urban commuter with the extra versatility of a five-door hatch.
As expected for a friendly commuter car, the manual’s clutch pedal is light with an engagement point not too far from the bottom of the stroke. The manual also features automatic rev-matching for smooth downshifting, though the shifter’s throws are a little long.
However, the Toyota Corolla Hatchback is perfect for zipping around the city. We were able to park in tight spots and the extra safety tech is helpful in traffic.
- Related: An in-depth look at the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.
Conclusion: Ideal For Toyota Fans
The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback comes with lots of standard features. Driving enthusiasts might be disappointed with the lack of performance, but most buyers will be pleased by this new Corolla’s expressive styling, vastly improved cabin, and comprehensive list of advanced safety features.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Gallery
Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
*Additional models shown.