Power168 HP / 151 LB-FT
TransmissionCVT w/ 1st-Gear Launch
Cargo18 / 23.3 CU-FT Seats Up / Down
MPG32 City / 42 Highway
As Tested Price$21,000
The 2019 Corolla is powered by 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated inline-four making a respectable 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. That's nearly as much as some of the turbocharged competition. Power is sent to the front wheels through a trick CVT that uses a regular first gear to make off-the-line acceleration a bit smoother. Our test car was the SE trim. It came equipped well equipped with LED headlights, keyless entry and ignition, automatic climate control and in-car wifi. It also comes with standard safety features like pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warnings and full-speed adaptive cruise control. All that for $21,000.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore — The Toyota Corolla is one of the standard-bearers for the compact car segment. When you think of a small, reliable car, you think of the Corolla. The problem is the most recent execution of Toyota's warhorse is middling. The Honda Civic, Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3 and maybe the Hyundai Elantra are all more fun-to-drive, have nicer interiors and/or better styling. It's a competitive segment and Toyota earns more than its share of sales, but that's largely based on the company's reputation for quality. The hatchback we tested is pretty cool looking (Scion would have loved this).
The infotainment is solid, colorful and has a nice blend of buttons and touchscreen elements. The powertrain is a little raspy and the chassis is a bit harsh, but middle of the pack for the segment. It's not particularly zippy to drive or tight handling, either. Give me a Golf any day, especially in those two areas. The interior was fine, but some of the structural elements were oddly shaped. Overall, it is a decent car. Others, however, manage to be cheap and more cheerful.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder — I got into the Corolla Hatchback expecting to be unimpressed. Turning the car on and fiddling with the infotainment, my expectations were already bearing true. The touchscreen was exceedingly slow to respond, and pairing my phone proved to be a pain in the ass. Furthermore, I struggled to find a halfway decent seating position.
Then I put the car in gear and started to head home. As I focused on the driving — making my way across four lanes of Woodward Ave to get to my favored route to the highway — my mood started to change. Against all odds, I was actually enjoying this car. It was quicker than I expected, and the CVT mostly stayed out of the way. Getting up to highway speed was surprisingly easy and smooth. Darting through gaps in traffic was a cinch. I was able to carry a surprising amount of speed through the curves.
In the morning, on my commute back into the office, I pressed the Sport button. I didn't notice much of a change in behavior, but the revs stayed higher and, thus, noisier. Seems unnecessary. Another gripe: this thing really drifts around in its lane at highway speeds, requiring a firm, constant, two-handed grip and a lot of attention and adjustments. Still, for a car I expected to bore me, I was pleasantly surprised.
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale — Ever since I saw the new Corolla hatch at the New York Auto Show, and especially after learning it would have a 6-speed manual, I've been excited to drive it. When it was dropped off, I took a couple minutes to go downstairs and check it out. And of course the example we got was the SE with the little wheels and equipped with a CVT. Thanks, Toyota. At least it had the optional rear wing that made look a bit more exciting.
The good news, though, is that even with the CVT, the Corolla hatchback is the first Corolla in years that I wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen in. While I will gripe about the drab color (our tester was Blizzard Pearl white) and little wheels, the design of the Corolla is actually still strong. The glaring headlights, the planted stance – it's a looker. On the inside, this base model had leatherette trim on the dash and doors with actual stitching, a modern-looking infotainment screen, and geometric designs stamped in the cloth upholstery.
More important than all of that, though, is that it's actually pretty good to drive. Even the CVT is good. It avoids maxing out the revs when more poke is called for, and in manual mode, it locks in ratios and changes them quickly and smoothly. The 168-horsepower engine actually feels gutsier than the numbers imply, and the smooth, responsive power delivery of the naturally aspirated unit is welcome in our increasingly turbocharged world. Handling is solid, with eager turn-in and fairly neutral feel. It does lean a fair bit, though, and the steering feels a tad too light and numb.
Overall, the Corolla hatch is a strong compact entry. It's still not as sporty nor as good all around as the Mazda3, VW Golf and Honda Civic, but it's closing in. And it's certainly nice that someone looking purely for Toyota resale and reliability will be able to get something with a bit of character again.
Associate Editor Reese Counts — I'll keep this relatively short since the other editors have summed up my feelings pretty well. The new Corolla is the best Corolla in years. Decades even. It has interesting styling (though I'm not in love with that maw) both inside and out and doesn't feel like it was assembled using the plastic from recycled milk jugs. The powertrain is smooth and relatively powerful considering it lacks a turbocharger. This is the engine Toyota should have stuffed into the C-HR. The new CVT is decent, though I would like a go in a manual-equipped car. The list of standard equipment is respectable, too.
That said, the infotainment is still a disaster. It's also not nearly as fun to drive as something like a Honda Civic hatchback or a Volkswagen Golf. Those two have better interiors and engines, too. I like the new Corolla and wouldn't hesitate to suggest one to a friend. It's just not the hatchback for me.