New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Warm hatch hauls hot pie—and a little ass

JULIAN, California — The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback has officially hatched. Why drive a big, old SUV when all you really need is a hot little hatch? Plus, it’s much easier to park and you can even get one with a spunky six-speed manual transmission that makes it more fun to drive.

We took new one with a stick to the beach and on a quick run up and down the beautiful Cuyamaca Mountains about an hour east of San Diego for the day.

The Corolla climbed the twisty mountain roads with relative ease as we worked the gearbox hard in a tasty run for the best slice of pie, which we found at the Julian Pie Company in scenic Julian. The Dutch Apple Crumble is delicious and highly recommended.

Under the hood, this variant of the 12th-gen Corolla packs a 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder engine with 168 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT that simulates a 10-speed automatic.

It has three drive modes—sport, eco, and normal that turns the Multi-Information Display (MID) from red to blue. Aside from the color change, we found it hard to feel the differences between the driving modes.

The Corolla rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) C platform and entry SE models roll on standard silver 16-inch wheels and extra XSE trims get gray 18-inch ones.

It measures 169.9 x 69.9 x 57.1 inches (L x W x H), making it lower by 0.4-inches, wider by 0.6-inches, and shorter by 0.6-inches than its predecessor, the Corolla iM. Toyota also says that it has a longer wheelbase at 103.9 inches versus 102.4 inches and has wider front and rear tracks.

Up front, the 2019 Corolla hatch sports a rounded nose, Triple-J-shaped LED headlights, and a trapezoidal-shaped mesh grille that resembles a catfish’s mouth. Around back it gets a sporty and rounded rear with a lightweight resin hatch that’s made from a combo of Toyota Super Olefin Polymer and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. The back door is flanked by LED tail lamps and has a chrome diffuser below it.

Inside the snug cabin—Toyota likes to call its design philosophy “Sensuous Minimalism”—there’s decent legroom for the driver and a passenger up to 6’ tall. Rear seats are lacking in leg and shoulder room for adults, but there’s more than enough space for kids, teens, or pets.

Also, the rear doors don’t open very wide and it’s probably easier to load wider hauls through the small hatch. It’s not a vehicle to load band members or gear—think great city car for parking on the streets of Williamsburg or West Hollywood on a Friday night.

SE trim Corollas have a leather shift nob and matching steering wheel, single-zone automatic climate control, electronic parking brake, and electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering.

These Corollas also come with a 4.2-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster and two front USB outlets, one of which is harder to find than Waldo. It is located under the instrument panel dash with an AUX port near the passenger’s left knee. The other one is found in the center console box.

Corolla XSEs get all of the above and leather/fabric heated front seats—eight-way power seats for the driver and a 7.0-inch gauge cluster display.

Inside, the cabin has plenty of sound-absorbing bits, adhesives, and fancy doo-dads, but there’s still lots of noise from below as you take it from the streets to the highway.

Standard equipment includes Entune 3.0 Audio with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay friendly. You can opt for the eight-speaker JBL 800-watt system or go aftermarket and install your own that’s compatible with an Android.

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Later in the day, we swapped out our manual for an CVT-equipped Corolla HSE. To be honest, it wasn’t as much fun to drive, but it was for creeping through through La Jolla during rush hour traffic on the way to the Point Loma Tide Pools and the Cabrillo National Monument.

Cabrillo is definitely worth a visit—and be sure to give yourself plenty of time to hike the trails and pay your respects at the nearby Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The views of downtown San Diego, the Pacific Ocean, and Baja Mexico are also amazing.

The Corolla hatchback’s rear seats fold flat with a 60/40 split and there’s approximately 18 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row to mess with—but we only hauled ass and pie in it, so your hauling needs may vary significantly.

Standard tech goodies include Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which bundles a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, radar cruise control, road sign assist, and lane tracing assist.

Our favorite add-on is the parking hold button feature that’s available with the CVT models. It’s a first for the Corolla and also available in the recently tested Toyota Avalon.

When engaged, it automatically holds the brakes after a complete stop, allowing the driver to remove their foot from the brake pedal and immediately disengages once pressure is applied on the accelerator. Like pulling the e-brake on a manual transmission car, its handy for starting after stops on steep inclines.

The handsome 2019 Corolla Hatchback is available in seven flavors—Blizzard Pearl, Silver Metallic, Midnight Black, Galactic Aqua Mica, Scarlet, Oxide Bronze, and Blue Flame.

It goes on sale this summer and will start at$20,910. The hatchback is expected to reach dealerships by mid-July.

 

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Specifications
ON SALE July
PRICE $20,910 (base)
ENGINE 2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4/168 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 151 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual, CVT
LAYOUT 4-door, 4.5-passenger, front-engine, FWD Hatch
EPA MILEAGE N/A
L x W x H 169.9 x 69.9 x 57.1 in
WHEELBASE 103.9 in
WEIGHT 3,060 lb
0-60 MPH 10 secs (est)
TOP SPEED 110 mph (est)

 

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