• 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Road Test: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE

Toyota’s All-new Compact Hatchback

Toyota says the 2019 Corolla Hatchback is its “most technologically advanced small car” and proudly says “the Hatch is back!” So, what’s the big deal about this being hatchback? Well, forever Toyota has shied away from the “H” word, calling its previous five-door small cars a “liftback.” Remember, the Scion iM and the Corolla iM, which the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback replaces, may have been liftbacks to Toyota (as are most members of its popular Prius family), but a hatchback to the rest of us. Nice they are now onboard as there is nothing to be afraid of.

One Engine, Two Transmissions

The front wheel drive 2019 Corolla Hatchback has a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine putting out 168 horsepower and 151 pounds-feet of torque. All three of these are increases over the 2018 Corolla. Running on unleaded regular, our test car had a 10-speed Dynamic-Shift CVT automatic with paddle shifters, a Sport mode and an actual conventional first gear. A six-speed manual transmission with rev matching, is standard, and could add a bit of excitement. The EPA fuel economy ratings at 30 city/38 highway/33 combined, are all improvements over last year’s Corolla. If you opt for the SE trim level, the fuel estimates are a bit higher at 32/42/36, mostly due to smaller tires than came on the XSE model being tested by Clean Fleet Report.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Another entrant in the 40 MPG Club

In 371 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving we averaged 33.4 mpg. However, in two 100-mile highway runs, with the dynamic cruise control set at 65 mph, we achieved 40.1 mpg. So, settle back, crank-up the radio and let the 13.2 gallon fuel tank take you more than 500 miles down the road.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The unique CVT, with the fixed first gear, allows for a more responsive launch from stop before the 10 preset ratios of the CVT take over.  Toyota was attempting to eliminate two common CVT complaints: the rubber band feel during “shifting” and the droning sound. After driving the Corolla hard, slow, fast and on-and-off the accelerator, I can report that Toyota’s engineers accomplished their goals. So far, so good, but how is the performance? Zero-to-60 times right around 8.5 seconds is a bit quicker than the outgoing Corolla, but certainly not fast. The engine has a nice note to it when pushed hard, but on the highway all you hear from the engine is…nothing.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla’s electric power-assisted steering was not programmed to be too light, actually providing good feel and communication to the driver. Turning the Corolla hard into a tight corner results in a bit of manageable understeer, but the Yokohama Avid GT 225/40R tires, on 18-inch aluminum wheels, were up to the task of keeping the Corolla planted. With this said, the sport-tuned suspension helps greatly, but the Corolla looks more sporty than it is. To be fair to Toyota, they do not market the Corolla as a sports car, something they will leave to the wonderful 86.

Stopping was straight with no fading from the power-assisted front ventilated and rear solid disc brakes, assisted by the four-wheel anti-lock brake system, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, and Smart Stop technology.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Toyota’s big on grills these days

Toyota is into big grills these days, and the all-new 2019 Corolla got a whopper of one. For this car, it seems to work as the hawk-like LED headlights and the full chrome trim balance the gaping grill nicely. Toyota says the Corolla Hatchback has “flair extraordinaire” and “emotive lines, creases and surfaces.” What we see is a sharp-looking hatchback with some unique design cues. The biggest of which is the high stance of the tail, with what has to be the largest spoiler on the market. The LED taillights and twin chrome exhaust tips finish off what is sure to be a popular design for Toyota.

Driving Experience: Interior

Toyota obviously spent extra time on updating the interior, adding soft materials and accent top stitching. The simple, cleanly designed interior had both matte and high gloss surfaces, including piano black accents. Our Corolla front seats were leather trimmed in black with very stylish gray fabric inserts. The driver seat was eight-way power adjustable with lumbar. There was plenty of room up front, but the rear seat is tight. Putting the three adults that Toyota says can sit back there might work for short jaunts. Otherwise, to keep your passengers on friendly terms, limit the rear occupancy to two. The back seat really shines when the 60/40 split, reclining and fold-flat seats are laid out, providing for good storage space. It will not be surprising if most Corolla Hatchback owners keep those rear seats in the down position.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

The interior’s nicely upgraded this year

The optional eight-speaker JBL Premium infotainment (information and entertainment) system that came with Toyota’s Entune and their App Suite was controlled through the 8.0-inch, high resolution touch-screen. Entertainment was through SiriusXM/FM/CD/HDAM with MP3 playback capability. There is an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology, Siri Eyes Free and Apple CarPlay. Clean Fleet Report was pleased to see channel and volume knobs as well as larger control wheels for the dual zone automatic climate system.

Safety and Convenience

The 2019 Toyota Corolla came with the Toyota Star Safety Sense system that included seven air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, pre-collision system, lane departure alert, traction control, ABS brakes and stability control. The 2019 Corolla Hatchback has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), but its sibling the Corolla sedan has earned Five Stars, its highest rating.

Pricing and Warranties

Base price for the 2018 Toyota Corolla hatchback is $18,850 with the six-speed manual transmission while with the seven-speed CVTi-S automatic transmission it is $19,590. Our test XSE had optional equipment totaling $2,813 for an MSRP of $26,903. All prices exclude the $920 freight and handling fee.

The 2019 Corolla comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain  Six years/60,000 miles 
  • Basic             Three years/36,000 miles       
  • Corrosion     Perforation Five years/Unlimited miles
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

A new badge

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback comes in four trim levels, with base pricing of:

SE Manual             $19,990

SE CVT                   $21,090

XSE Manual           $22,990

XSE CVT                 $24,090

Observations: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE

If you have driven any of the previous generation Corolla models since it was introduced in 1966, you owe it to yourself to take a test drive in the all-new 2019 Corolla. Old school impressions of the Corolla were that it was an inexpensive econobox. Frills and excitement need not apply. Fast forward to 2019, and the fit and finish, especially the interior, is a step-up from previous versions, making a strong case for the Corolla to be considered as a top value in the compact car category.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

A compact contender with five doors

Price should not be the only thing to be concerned with though. Performance, high fuel economy, a comfortable ride, sharp styling and standard equipment need to play an important part in the purchase consideration. Considering these, the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback stands strong. Then for five-door aficionados, the hatchback is a must see.

When at your local Toyota dealer, take the Corolla Hatchback for a lengthy test drive. Find some highway on-ramps for hard acceleration, and tight corners to judge for yourself if the Corolla Hatchback ticks off enough boxes to be parked in your garage.

Ed. note: The Corolla also has a hybrid version coming that will offer even better fuel economy, so if that’s your top concern, you might want to check when your dealer will have that in stock (it’s a 2020 model so it may be later this year).

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Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

2 thoughts on “Road Test: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE

  1. Alan Clarke
    January 4, 2019 at 5:03 am

    Here in Australia, this latest Corolla arrived with a hybrid version for each of the 3 grades, and I read recently that it’s selling roughly 30% with hybrid.

    I had a look at one – I own the current PRIUS, close to 3yrs old – but the Corolla wasn’t anything like as good in comparison with the PRIUS. The back seat is far smaller, and the boot/trunk/luggage space is ludicrously poor. Without measuring it, it looked smaller than the YARIS which was nearby.

    I didn’t bother driving it as I wouldn’t be “upgrading” from my PRIUS to one in 6 months time.

    To give it a positive point – the Corolla front seats seemed more comfy than the quite average PRIUS front seats.

    • January 4, 2019 at 10:48 am

      @Alan Clarke,
      Thanks for the report from Down Under. Side-by-side comparisons are the best way to sort those things out. The only missing piece of information is pricing differential. Here the Prius is more expensive than the similar-size Corolla, but we haven’t seen prices on the hybrid yet. –ed.

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