What it is: The hatchback version of the Corolla is new for the 2019 model year and is based on Toyota’s new platform that is the base of many of their smaller models. A new engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, powers the Corolla with 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. It’s not a performance-oriented car, but it’s at least pleasurable to drive with the power bump.
The interior is sparse, which is expected in a segment where price really matters and there are fewer car buyers looking at actual cars and not crossovers or SUVs. This is the equivalent of an all-new model, so the infotainment is Toyota’s latest and while not my favorite, is perfectly serviceable. The screen’s large 8-inch size dominates the middle of the dash, giving it a very modern feel.
There are two trim levels available, SE and XSE, and one of the most visible differences is the size of the information screen in the gauge cluster. The XSE upgrades from a 4.2-inch screen to a large 7-inch screen which is quite pretty. The $3,000 upgrade from SE to XSE also includes leather-trimmed sport seats, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels, LED fog lights, and several other exterior visual upgrades. I also would recommend the Blue Flame paint, which unfortunately does not include any actual painted flames but is a beautiful shade of blue that fits the car.
One great addition to the new Corolla Hatchback is Toyota’s suite of safety tech called Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning with steering assist. It’s wonderful to see Toyota including these features on a car priced from $20,000.
Your other real choice comes from your choice of transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with a CVT being available for an extra $1,100. Of course, the market for a car with a manual transmission is not exactly enormous, so I would expect most cars at dealers to be the CVT-equipped version. I drove both, and greatly preferred the manual transmission, but I understand most will be skipping the choice of shifting their own gears.
MPG: 32 city/42 highway
Price: $20,140 base price. $23,140 as-tested.
Upsides: Great gas mileage. Serviceable tech.
Wrap-up: Toyota has really packed a positive experience into the Corolla Hatchback for $20,000. I feel that it’s towards the top of its class, but I would be inclined to look at Hyundai as well. I love the visual look of the hatchback over the normal four-door Corolla, and the extra space is certainly nice. If you want to buy something economical and new, the Corolla Hatchback is not a bad choice.