Orford, QC. The Toyota Corolla is the Kleenex or Frigidaire of the car industry. I don’t mean to say it’s a one-time use item then throw away – Corollas are notoriously reliable and long lasting. I’m not saying either that it’s an appliance, or maybe I am… But seriously, the Corolla is about as household a car as Martha Stewart or Oprah Winfrey once were household names.
The reason why this is stems from the car’s reputation, and the fact that there are well over 40 million of them locked in the passing lane doing 86 km/h… Ok, enough with the jokes. The reality is that Toyota’s in the midst of reimagining its image with the help of the company’s President Akio Toyoda’s guiding light. He is well known for his love of driving and was closely involved in the promotion of the Lexus LF-A and IS F. His vision and desires are making their way across Toyota’s line-up as proven by the new 2019 Corolla hatchback (HB).
Toyota introduced their brilliant new Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA platform with the C-HR. While that decision did not have the desired impact, the fact that the new Camry, Avalon and Corolla Hatchback are underpinned by this highly advanced, modular and flexible building block will be noticed.
The magic of bigger styling and TNGA
The all-new 2018 Camry launched last year, is currently the best car in the still-popular midsize sedan segment. The equally all-new 2019 Avalon is without a doubt the best option in the large sedan segment, better even than what some luxury car manufacturers have on offer. The once more all-new 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback has hoisted the nameplate further up the scale but it won’t get the title of best-in-class from me.
On top of the TNGA, Toyota’s dropped the most dynamic Corolla bodyshell ever been seen in North America. This provocative body work was done in the hopes of refreshing the Corolla’s overall image more than anything else. A new Corolla sedan is planned for some time next year and expect it to be far more conservative. You see, the Corolla hatchback is not designed for the typical Corolla buyer. This explains why it sports such strong character lines, aggressive front and rear fascia to go with the available oversized rear spoiler.
Beyond the exterior design, the near absence of utility and useable interior space also hints at the fact that this car is not for aunt Gertrude who loves to attend fairs on weekends to sell knitting supplies. It was created however for Mike and Liz who love to take to the road on a whim with scarcely a pair of backpacks and sleeping bags for gear. You see, the Corolla hatchback’s greatest failing is its miniscule boot.
Where’s the trunk?
The cabin has otherwise moved into the 21st century. Base equipment includes a 4.2-inch multi-info gauge display and an 8-inch touchscreen. Entune 3.0 is part of the deal (Entune App Suite Connect including -Traffic, Weather, Slacker, Yelp, Sports, Stocks, Fuel and NPR One), as is Apple CarPlay. Toyota’s still working on Android Auto. You can also purchase a dashcam, developed and built in Canada, for about $450 including installation.
Room up front is fairly good but the rear is tight compared to its main competitors but will accommodate two passengers. What’s unfortunate is that the new hatchback is 30mm wider/40mm longer with a 40mm longer wheelbase and 25mm lower than Corolla iM. None of these increases make a difference on the inside.
A Corolla for the drive?
In a strange yet planned twist, the new 2019 Corolla hatchback has become one of the best driving compact cars in the country. The rigid TNGA allows the suspension to do its damping job without having to make up for a “softer” structure. The car not only handles impressively well but the level of overall refinement is nothing short of remarkable.
The only engine currently offered with the 2019 Corolla hatchback is an all-new 2.0-litre 4-cylinder Dynamic Force engine. On paper, it is considerably more powerful than the sedan’s and it’s better on fuel. With the 6-speed manual gearbox, the hatchback consumes the same amount as the automatic sedan. When equipped with the CVT, 6.5L/100 km is a real possibility.
Output is rated at 168-horsewpower at 6,600 rpm and 151 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm, but don’t think this makes the Corolla a quick car. The new manual transmission is a breeze to operate but it’s the direct-shift CVT that’s truly dumbfounding. The transmission has a physical 1st gear that hands over acceleration to the belt and functions like a normal CVT. In other words, gone is rubbery acceleration from a dead-stop and unpleasant engine whine.
Try it, love it but consider your options
The 2019 Toyota Corolla is really good. Despite that, it’s more eye-candy and aspirational than actually a truly useful car. The next Corolla sedan is the Corolla Corolla lovers will want. In the meantime, Toyota will soon drop an all-new RAV4 which will surely deliver on all accounts.
Today however, the Corolla hatchback competes hard with the Volkswagen Golf, the Subaru Impreza/Crosstrek, and soon to come all-new Mazda3. Pricing for the base S 6M starts at $20,980. The top-line XSE CVT goes for $27,980 and the SE CVT, the volume leader and the best bet, retails for $23,580. The cars are rolling into dealerships now.