Toyota, once known for being well, pretty boring. Former pioneer of the Scion brand (RIP) which was created to bring in younger buyers and experiment with styling. And a company who grew tired of their reputation are trying to rebound and reinvinte it's name. Are they finally headed in the right direction?
Well I'm here to say, things are looking good for Toyota becoming fun cars again with out scraficing quality and reliability. The 2019 Corolla Hatchback is a very good sign for the future of the Corolla. Not since the AE85/86 chassis has a truely fun and appealing Corolla been on the market. Although it may be a different world from the original 86 Corolla, it feels closer to it's roots than ever before. Yet it still works as a modern car that is well equipped and affordable.
Pricing starts at $19,990 and goes up to $22,990 for the XSE. And by adding some optional extra's you can run the price up closer to $30,000 depending on what all you add. The Corlla XSE I purchased (as pictured) had a sticker of $25,570. That includes the following options: Mudguards, Door Moldings, Door Edge Guard, Blizzard Pearl Paint, Spoiler, TRD Air Fliter, and All weather floor mats. Some key standard features are: the IMT 6spd transmission which performs computer aided rev matching. Dual zone climate control with auto feature, Entune 3.0 8" touch screen stero with Apple Car Play, Amazon's Alexia, and Siri eyes free. (don't bother bringing your CD book from 2008 with you, this car does not have a CD player!). You also get the Toyota Smart Key and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 which includeds radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, pedestrian detection, collision detection, and lane assist with auto correction. Keeping with the safety equipment you'll also get 7 airbags to protect your self and passengers. Styling equpiment comes standard with 18" machine faced wheels, wrapped in Dunlop 205/40 tires. LED head lights, tail lights, and fog lights. A few chrome accients touch up the XSE exterior nicely to add some contrast between the piano black and blizzard pearl paint. You also get color matched side mirrors which are heated.
What is it like to drive? Well Toyota has done well here. The TNGA-C (c for compact) suspension feels great. When you are just commuting around in the city it drives great. It's a very comfortable car to drive. However when you start pushing it around some turns, that's where the car comes to life and brings back that old AE86 feel. Where this car really shines is around the corners. The suspension offers great travel and keeps you planted to the road. Once you start pushing it more and more you start to feel the car rotate as it nears its grip limits. It really has a nice balance of sporty and comfortable, something which is hard to do!
With what seems to be the normal for Corolla's and sporty Toyotas in general, the car is underpowered. But don't let that steer you away. All it takes is being in the right gear, at the right time. 168hp isn't a lot by today's standards. But for the Corolla, it's enough. However I will be honest here and saying that the torque (151 ft/lbs) is a little on the low side, and you do wish you had a little more on the bottom end. Although the performance leaves something to be desired, it does deliver on fuel economy with a combined EPA of 32mpg. (28 city, 37 highway)
The interior is a nice place to be as well. The dashboard isn't bland or boring like it is in the current Corolla sedan and the 8" touch screen doesn't block your field of view out the front windscreen. The leather/cloth combination seats are very comfortable as well and the 6 way power adjustments are easy to opperate. They also come with butt warmers and do the job very well! Now that we are entering the chilly parts of Fall, it's a great feture to have.
Overall, I have no problem saying that if you drive this car, you will like it. The styling is safe yet aggressive so that it doesn't stand out nore does it just blend in. It's a car designed to please a large audience of buyers, and in my personal opinion, probably the best all around buy considering all aspects.
There are some things I'd change overall about the car as it's not perfect. These to me were not deal breakers and something that can be addressed as the aftermarket developes for it.
1: Low to mid range torque. A little more grunt on the low end would really bring this car to life. Like I mentioned before in the article, if you aren't in the right gear at the right time, you'll be let down by the way the power builds. The ideal fix to problem would be a supercharger or small turbo. Something I am sure the aftermarket will eventually produce.
2: Steering wheel weight. The electric assist steering is nice and likely makes designing safety features like lane assist easier. However when it comes to driver feedback, the steering wheel is our link to connecting the driver to the car on the road. I feel like if the steering was just a little heavier you'd be able to get a little more feedback of what the cars doing under aggresive or spirited driving. However, the average consumer will not notice the steering wheel feel and overall, that was probably the right move for Toyota. But maybe they could have increased the resistance in the XSE a little bit more.
3: The clutch. If you are new to driving a manual, you'll like the clutch. It's very soft and light. If you get stuck in a traffic jam, the clutch will not be an issue and wear you down slowly. It's very new driver friendly. However, if you're a seasoned vet when it comes to the art of manually banging gears, you'll probably not like this clutch to much, however you can adapt to it very quickly. It doesn't release or grab until you are nearly at the end of the clutch release. Which really isn't bad on 2-6 gear changes. It's just take off from a red light or stop sign is a little weird at first.
4: Shifter throw. Although the gear shifter is smooth, the throw is a bit long. Something that can be fixed with a short shifter upgrade.