Where do you go from the top? It’s a question Toyota has had to ask itself even since the Corolla became not only the biggest selling car in the world, but then earning the title of “best-selling car of all time.”
To their credit, the engineers at Toyota decided that messing with a good thing was just stupid. If people love the Corolla that much, just keep giving them more of a good thing.
Thus, we get to the 2019 version, more than half-a-century after the first Corolla came off the assembly line in the fall of 1966. We’re now into the 11th generation, and it’s no surprise why the little car continues to sell.
In a way, I’m happy to see that Toyota has (so far) refrained from plumping up this vehicle in order to call it a crossover. Nay, says Toyota! It is a hatchback!
Hey, I grew up with a mom who drove an old-fashioned station wagon — wood paneling on the sides and everything — so I like this.
Replacing the mostly-unpopular Scion iM, the Corolla hatchback is a wanna-be-sporty little thing that can zip you around town and carry a few things in the back.
There are only two trim sizes to choose from, the base SE and the XSE. Your other choice would then be automatic or manual.
For one week I drove the XSE with the 6-speed stick.
Front-wheel drive is also the only option, although it’s conceivable that an all-wheel drive could be down the road. No official word from Toyota, but it would surely boost sales in snowy climes.
Although, to be fair, I did drive this on some snowy streets in Denver, and had zero issues. Granted, it was only an inch or two of snow, but still.
The Corolla hatchback isn’t trying to win any beauty pageants, but they’ve done a pretty good job of making it as stylish as possible. The front grill is all Toyota, and the squatty rear end has enough cool lines and interaction with the LED tail lights to give it a modern-ish look.
This is a compact little thing, so interior space is limited. I didn’t feel cramped up front, but I would note that back seat space is a minor challenge for large humans. Medium-sized will work okay. If you have a couple of kids, no problem.
With compact size comes compact storage capability. If you’ve been spoiled by big, deep bins in your car, well, you’re downsizing.
Cargo space in the back isn’t massive either, but with about 18 cubic feet in the way back you can still haul a few boxes.
The seats are comfortable, and you’ll find them as cloth in the SE while the XSE gets cloth/leather. The layout is very good, in a way that I would describe as clutter-free. And listen, that’s not a given with cars anymore.
I did, however, feel at times like the dashboard display was a bit crowded with information. Sometimes I had to search around for the detail I needed.
Those 168 horses helped the hatchback to scoot along pretty well. But, obviously, if you’re buying a hatchback in the low $20k range, you’re not getting a sports car.
Toyota describes the engine with the words Dynamic Force, which may be wishful thinking. I never felt anything dynamic.
But I liked the ride. My manual transmission was smooth and had just enough kick for my taste. Overall get-up-and-go was satisfying if not blow-back-your-hair powerful.
I also enjoyed the feel of the steering on the Corolla.
Kudos to the Toyota engineers for providing a reliable touchscreen that doesn’t require an hour with your nose in the manual. And, at 8-inches, it’s a good size for such a small car.
Even more kudos for keeping the climate controls mostly button-oriented, which will always get high marks from yours truly.
You get Toyota’s Entune system, with handsfree Bluetooth. You’ll also find Apple CarPlay, which always delights. Surprisingly, Android Auto is still a no-go.
The typical USB media port can be found with a traditional USB charging port.
The Bottom Line
I’ve been a Toyota owner in the past, so I understand the appeal of this very reliable brand. The Corolla doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody, having sold tens of millions to satisfied customers.
I don’t expect the hatchback to disappoint fans at all. Toyota has given it a sharp exterior and just enough goods inside to make drivers happy.
And, just to sweeten the offer, you’ll get Toyota’s Safety Sense, a suite of safety and convenience features that bring peace of mind.
All in all, it’s not a car that blows anyone away, but also does enough to keep Toyota fans content. I enjoyed the week.
The Bottom Line
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
2.0-L 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission (automatic available)
Fuel economy: 28/37/31 combined
As tested: $25,123
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer