Toyota’s New “Hawt Hatch” Turns up the Heat

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatch: Small But Mighty

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback might be small, but it’s a big player! On sale this summer, it’s loaded with new features and brings more comfort, safety and technology. While it will attract everyday buyers, it’s sure to be a magnet to enthusiasts that will upfit this new platform for increased performance and more sports-minded styling. And, it comes with both auto and manual versions. So, it comes as no surprise that is was just named the 2018 Compact Car of Texas at the Texas Auto Writer’s Association annual Auto Roundup, where automotive experts evaluated it on a track against its competitive set. We drove it recently and it won points in our personal evaluation.

The new hatch replaces the outgoing Toyota Corolla iM, which originally started its life as a Scion (before the brand was retired early 2016), and will be joined shortly by a redesigned Corolla sedan. Scion models were known for being available in one basic trim level, but now that Corolla Hatch has become a full-fledged Toyota, it not only offers more tech but also comes in more trims, and with more options.

Ever since it was launched in Japan in 1966, the Corolla has had a well-earned reputation as a dependable, low-priced car — features that have helped make it the best-selling nameplate in the world. Built on the automaker’s New Global Architecture C chassis shared by Toyota’s Euro-market Auris hatch, the friendly little five-door will be available in SE and XSE trim levels.

Outside, the new model is longer, lower, and wider than its predecessor, and features svelte J-shaped LED headlamps, LED taillights chrome rear diffuser, restyled 16- alloy wheels, lots of shapely lines, and a rakish, more steeply slanted tailgate with a big wing on top of the hatch. The most obvious novelty is its lower hood and seats, which promise better visibility and increased security. The XSE trim adds LED fog lights, chrome front grille surround, 18-inch wheels, and an available Adaptive Front Lighting System that focuses lighting to match the vehicle’s speed and steering angle. Bright color choices include the new-for-2019 color Rival Blue, as well as Blizzard Pearl, Silver Metallic, Midnight Black, Galactic Aqua Mica, Scarlet, and Oxide Bronze.

Inside, a more spacious space and well-bolstered sport seats give the driver a more comfortable driving experience. Aesthetic minimalism is the norm, with matte elements and some high-gloss accents. A standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system perched high on the center of the dashboard dominates the interior. Standard Siri Eyes Free and hands-free phone connectivity includes Apple CarPlay capability and Amazon Alexa integration. Two front USB ports are standard, and Qi wireless charging is available. The XSE trim adds dual-zone climate control, higher-quality seat materials, heated front seats, and an eight-way power driver’s seat. Apple Watch compatibility, which lets you lock, unlock, and start the car remotely, is also available.

Under the hood is a 168-horsepower 2.0-liter engine. Smaller, lighter, and quieter than 1.8-liter engine it replaces, it lowers the Corolla hatchback’s center of gravity and improves the car’s balance. Shoppers may choose between a six-speed “Intelligent” manual transmission with automatic rev-matching for smooth shifts or the all-new Dynamic-Shift CVT with 10 simulated steps, Sport Mode, and paddle shifters, as well as a launch gear that improves launch immediacy and smoothness — the world’s first in a passenger vehicle CVT, according to Toyota.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which introduces features that enhance protection in an objective of zero casualties, is standard. This suite of features includes automatic pre-collision detection with emergency braking and pedestrian detection (as well as cyclist detection and improved low-light capabilities), intelligent cruise control, lane departure alert with road edge detection, and even auto high beams. The updated system adds lane-tracing assist, which offers steering assistance to the driver with his or her hands on the wheel; and road-sign assist, which can identify and warn the driver about stop, yield, and do not enter signs. With these improved security features, Toyota says the new Corolla hatchback also provides a better, more powerful driving experience. Blind-spot monitoring is standard on top-trim XSE and optional on SE models.

Our favorite takeaways? We liked its looks, roomy and utilitarian interior and the manual transmission that has shifts well and feels snappy and fun. We like the stock version. But being the enthusiasts we are, we’d love to upfit it for SEMA and we’re sure it will be one of the top models at this year’s show for upfitters.

More information regarding pricing and fuel economy will be available closer to its on-sale date later this summer.

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Sue Mead
Sue Mead’s automotive career began as a freelance evaluator for Four Wheeler Magazine in 1988, on the first team that included women as testers. Today, she travels the globe test-driving cars and trucks, and working as a photojournalist/feature writer for dozens of publications, specializing in 4WD and adventure. Mead has been an auto editor and 4WD editor for CNN/fn. Her books include Monster Trucks and Tractors; Off Road Racing, Legends and Adventures; and Rock Crawling. She has been to 70 countries; driven enough off-road and 4WD race miles to have circumnavigated the globe twice! Mead won the Open Production class at the 2011 Dakar; and is an inductee into the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.