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Toyota’s all-new Corolla Hatchback – Shop Small

Car Reviews

Toyota’s all-new Corolla Hatchback – Shop Small

In our extended look at Toyota’s new Corolla hatchback, I’ll open with this, provided by the fine folks at American Express:

Small Business Saturday, Nov 24, is almost here! It’s the annual holiday shopping tradition that gets communities everywhere out in support of their favorite small businesses – when they thrive, we all thrive. Find out how you can get in on the biggest day for the Shop Small® Movement.

Regrettably, when shopping for a car, truck or SUV, ‘shopping small’ just doesn’t resonate like it once did. And if proof is needed (you know, ‘metrics’) you need only look at the number of small cars whose production has either been canceled by their manufacturers, or about to be canceled. Thankfully, Toyota – along with the other Asian OEMs – remains in the game, and if Toyota’s Corolla hatchback is an indication, they are in it to win.

Toyota’s Corolla, of course, is ubiquitous, or – in the parlance of Uber – uberquitous, as fully ½ of the Uber rides I climb in seem to be Corollas. And who’s to argue? The compact Corolla combines room and efficiency with something few small cars reliably deliver: longevity. Designed to operate capably in the Third World, the Corolla checks all the boxes for those wanting to drive their cars well past the payment book here in the U.S. They may not be fun, and rarely visceral, but the compact Toyota has been perfect at playing the long game.

Fast forward (if that’s the term) to 2019, and Toyota has juggled the menu with its Corolla hatchback. The most notable aspect is, of course, the hatch itself. Typically, the Corolla has been offered as nothing but a 4-door sedan. Some time back – like the Reagan years – you could have had a wagon, but most recently it’s been any configuration you want…as long as you wanted a 4-door. And this new 5-door configuration joins a host of other 4-door hatchbacks from the global automotive community, and at least some of them are offered by Toyota.

With its new Corolla, ‘new’ is – thankfully – an accurate descriptive. Sitting atop Toyota’s TNGA C (are you following, here?) platform, the driver and passengers benefit from a light-albeit-strong structure emphasizing both responsiveness and efficiency. Combined with an all-independent suspension and ultra-low center of gravity (especially if your perspective was formed by years in a 4Runner!), the Corolla hatch impresses as a refined, almost sublime way of getting around town. Or, for that matter, getting around Texas.

Under the Corolla hood, whether opting for the base SE or upmarket XSE trim, is a new 2.0 liter, normally-aspirated four connected to either a 6-speed manual or ‘Dynamic-Shift’ CVT. At the Corolla’s press intro last spring we drove both, and came away impressed by both. Our test vehicle, however, was equipped with the 6-speed manual, and given the number of automotive journalists unable to navigate a stick, that speaks to the courage of their press department. We like the 6-speed, while wishing there was just a tad more connectivity in its linkage; the clutch engagement is fine and the overall motion is appropriate, but it should feel a tad more direct.

The Corolla’s new four is everything you’d want in an entry-level powertrain, revving smoothly and pulling cleanly. You won’t confuse what’s under this hood with what emanates from VW’s GTI or (even) Hyundai’s turbocharged Veloster, but then, you weren’t kidnapped by your Toyota rep. The Toyota four is refined to the point you think this is a Lexus with down-market badging, and not the Toyota you purchased; we can all live with the confusion.

Inside, the new Corolla – especially the upmarket XSE – provides a Yin/Yang moment when considered against a similarly priced, $23K Nissan Kicks. The Nissan encloses a bunch of interior room with brittle plastic, while Toyota brings to the table a more constricted interior with soft-touch plastics and an upscale appearance. You pay your money and you take your choice, but we were mightily impressed by the Corolla’s first impression. And last impression.

But let’s get back to the American Express pitch. In a world of land yachts masquerading as personal transportation, there’s something undeniably appealing with the cut-and-thrust capability of a small, well-planted coupe, sedan or hatch. Given the new Corolla’s build quality, long-term reliability and considerable utility, you can be cutting and thrusting for a long, long time. That’s our short take…and our small take.

Also, check out Adam’s video review HERE!

David Boldt

Boldt, a long-time contributor to outlets such as AutoTrader.com, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild, and serves as a board member for the Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA). David is the Managing Editor at txGarage.

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