By Nauman Farooq
The Toyota Corolla is the best selling car around the world, and is sold in different configurations in different countries.
In Canada however, for the longest time, we only had one body style, the sedan. Over the last two years, there has been a small wagon/hatch version on sale, called the iM, but this vehicle was actually developed for Scion, and when that brand was killed off, the iM was re-branded as a Corolla iM.
For 2019, the Corolla iM is being dropped from the line-up, and in its place we get the new Corolla Hatchback.
So, let’s look at this new model in detail!
Styling: In most people’s opinion, the most boring looking car on the market was the Corolla. Toyota seems to be listening, and as a result, the new Corolla Hatchback looks modern and sharp. From the rear three-quarters, it also looks a bit like a first-gen Mazda3 hatchback – it even has a similar placement to open the rear hatch. I really like the look of this new Corolla Hatchback, and it’ll likely attract a larger customer base who would have gone to Honda or Mazda instead.
Interior: Open the door and you’re greeted by a roomy, well laid out interior. The dashboard is dominated by a large infotainment screen which is compatible with Apple CarPlay, but not Android Auto at the moment – the latter is rumoured to be offered at a later date.
Ergonomically, everything falls at hand, and the seats are comfortable. As an everyday vehicle, it does the job very well – it even has a very usable trunk. My only gripe is, the interior plastics are very dark and have a hard texture. Sure, this isn’t a luxury vehicle, but others have done a better job of disguising the econo-car origins.
Powertrain: Under the hood lies a 2.0L inline-four cylinder motor, that features double over head cams, and 16 valves, along with variable valve timing. As a result, you get 168 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque from this motor – that is quite good, especially since this engine has no turbocharger.
Power is fed to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic transmission – my tester came equipped with the manual. The drivetrain is really very good, not only is the engine quite smooth, the gearbox was also a delight to use – so no complaints in this department, in fact, it was better than I expected.
Driving Dynamics: This is an area the Corolla has always suffered, as it has always been too soft, and too slow in reacting to inputs. Well, the Corolla Hatchback seems to start a new era of Toyota vehicles, as it is sharper than expected. You can actually attack corners with this vehicle, something not often said about the Corolla – honestly, this was a pleasant surprise.
Even the ride quality is a good mix of firm and soft – whereas Corolla’s were always too soft. This new Hatchback is built on Toyota’s TNGA platform, which also includes vehicles like the C-HR and the Prius -not exactly sporty vehicles- but whichever team within Toyota was given the task to sort out the Corolla Hatchback, did a masterful job.
Fuel Economy: Most people who buy cars of this sort, are quite interested in fuel economy. In this regard, the new Corolla Hatchback is good, but could have been better!
In my test cycle (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving) I averaged 8.4 L/100 km – this is not the most efficient vehicle I’ve tested in this category. According to Toyota, with a manual gearbox, the Corolla Hatchback should average 7.5 L/100 km, and the CVT equipped model would average 6.7 L/100 km. I think if Toyota adopts a smaller displacement engine with a turbocharger, the fuel economy figures can be improved upon.
Pricing: Base price for the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is $20,980. That makes it a bit more expensive than the base Hyundai Elantra GT or the current Mazda3 Sport, but less than what Honda charges for the base Civic Hatchback. So, the Corolla Hatchback is priced well.
Verdict: The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is a great daily driver that is also fun in the twisties. If this is a glimpse of all Toyota products to come, I’m all for it.