2019 Toyota Corolla Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
May 26, 2018

The new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is really a European-market model with American license plates.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla is one of the longest-running small cars in America because of its dependable name and no-nonsense approach to commuting.

This year, the Corolla is due for a new model and the hatchback is the first to arrive in July. Although it will be outsold by the sedan that’s due later, the hatchback sets the table for a Corolla that doesn’t aim to be a simple appliance.

We give the Corolla a 6.0 for now, with two big caveats. First, the Corolla hasn’t yet been rated for fuel economy nor safety, which likely will raise its score. Second, the Corolla sedan likely will be more popular with buyers and we haven’t yet driven or rated that car. We’ll update this space with those figures once they become available. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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For now, the Corolla hatchback is here and it’s a good look for the 12th-generation model. The front and rear are more expressive—without being exhaustive—and its body sides are more interesting. The Corolla hatchback initially will be available in SE and XSE trim levels, which are both sportier trims for Toyota. The hatchback features small touches such as an available spoiler and “hero” blue colors that help distance the new Corolla from its milksop predecessors.

Under the hood, a new 2.0-liter inline-4 powers the Corolla with 168 horsepower, which is a dramatic improvement over the outgoing engine.

A 6-speed manual is standard or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional. Both have tricks to help the Corolla feel sportier: the manual has rev-matching downshifts, the CVT has a dedicated first gear for quicker takeoffs.

The manual is the best way to extract performance from the new engine, predictably. The CVT is improved from other CVTs in Toyota’s range, although it’s not enough to keep our interest for long.

Inside, the Corolla hatch is spacious up front and in the cargo area, which sports 18 cubic feet of room. Rear-seat passengers pay the price for both, the door cutouts are a little small and long legs won’t fit back there for long.

Alongside a new standard 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility and Amazon Alexa integration, the Toyota Corolla features standard advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control.

Toyota hasn’t yet said how much the Corolla will cost when it goes on sale in July, nor how fuel efficient they think it will be. We’ll update this space when we know both.


2019 Toyota Corolla


The 2019 Corolla’s new looks are expressive without being exhausting.

With the 2019 Corolla hatchback, Toyota finally rights some of its most recent wrongs.

Although the small car’s exterior moves follow the larger trend at the automaker for expressive looks, the hatchback doesn’t go overboard. Its front grille isn’t overworked, and the rear and body sides don’t look lifted from anime.

We give the Corolla hatch a point above average for its handsome looks, made better with a few sporty touches. It gets a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Its success could be in its origin story anyway. The Toyota Corolla hatch is more popular in Europe, where it’s called the Toyota Auris. The continental styling skips some of Toyota’s busier designs that they’ve unleashed on consumers stateside, including the recent Camry and Mirai.

The front grille skips the plain jane, milksop look of the last generation and adds more mesh and squintier LED headlights for a sharper look. The dropped nose is gone this year, replaced with a more menacing lower fascia.

The body sides get subtle creases for more interest, and the iM’s rearmost window is gone this year, which makes the Corolla hatch look shorter than its predecessor.

In back, we see Mazda influences in the rear hatch—especially the hatch door itself—and its taillights are sharp without being overwrought.

Its most expressive element may be available colors, a new sky blue is subtle like a neutron bomb.

Inside, the Toyota Corolla hatch is minimalist and simple, especially in standard cloth. Sportier XSE trims can have color-contrasting schemes to brighten the interior and make it feel bigger than it is, although we’re not sure how it’d hold up with everyday tasks.  

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2019 Toyota Corolla


The 2019 Corolla has a sportier side, but it requires a manual transmission to bring it to life.

Last year’s penalty econobox is gone. This year, the 2019 Toyota Corolla hatch is motivated by a new 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes more power, gets more gears, and it’s in a package that weighs the same.

We’ll stop short of calling it sporty, but the 2019 Corolla is certainly more alert than before. On our performance scale, it gets a point for a thoughtful manual transmission that extracts the most performance from its engine—it’s the Corolla hatch’s best life. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Under the hood of the Corolla hatchback is a new 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 168 horsepower (up from 132 hp last year). It’s a global powertrain that we expect to see in the Corolla sedan, although Toyota hasn’t yet detailed that model.

The engine is paired to a slick 6-speed manual as standard, or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) as an option. Both transmissions have unique features that skew toward sporty driving. The manual features an intelligent mode that matches revs on downshifts and can smooth out upshifts with small throttle adjustments for a better ride during aggressive drives. The features are noticeable and effective, and dramatically improve the transmission’s behavior, although they need to be engaged with a small button near the center console. It’s good enough that we just wish it were on all the time.

Similarly, the CVT features a fixed first gear for better takeoffs that helps alleviate one of our gripes with CVTs—they’re lazier than Sunday afternoons, sometimes. The CVT is better for it, but it’s still not our pick for better behavior. Paddle shifters are standard, although there’s only a narrow window for control: the transmission will automatically upshift in higher rev ranges and the Corolla is programmed to click out of manual control after just a few seconds.

Regardless of transmission, the 2.0-liter inline-4 shows promise. Its power delivery may be hamstrung somewhat in the CVT version, so the manual version may be the best barometer of the engine’s future.

The inline-4 makes most of its power high in the rev range (around 6,500 rpm) and it builds revs in a predictable way. It’s not turbocharged like others in its class, but it’s no less fun than similarly powered units. The small Toyota engine feels willing—albeit somewhat hamstrung in CVT configurations—and its sounds are mildly entertaining. The bad news? It needs to be wrung out for the most fun, and that requires the manual transmission and an acceptance that the Corolla hatch may not be as frugal with fuel as others in its class over the life of the car.

From a standstill, the Corolla launches confidently and spins up to 60 mph informally in around 7.5 seconds. Passing requires kicking down two gears to get the engine on boil—there’s more power higher in the rev range—from the slow highway simmer that efficiency prefers.

The Corolla hatch returns with four-wheel independent suspension all the way around (the sedan skipped that last year) with a competent ride geared toward comfort. The SE features 16-inch wheels with more sidewall give than the pricer 18-inchers on XSE versions, but neither feels flinty or unnecessarily harsh on the road.

The small hatch steers easily—the wheel is nearly too light—but lacks road feel, which is common among the class.

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2019 Toyota Corolla

Comfort & Quality

The 2019 Toyota Corolla hatch is comfortable up front and spacious in the cargo area, but rear-seat riders bear the brunt of its shorter size.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla will be available in sedan and hatchback body styles. The hatchback will be first, and it goes on sale in July.

Although the hatchback likely will be less common than the sedan, we’re rating on the hatchback first with the caveat that this score may change later. The hatchback earns a 5 out of 10 on our comfort scale thanks to a generous rear cargo area but a stingy rear seat. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

From nose to toes, the Corolla hatch is 172 inches long, which is shorter than rivals such as the Honda Civic and Mazda 3. The sedan likely will be longer, but Toyota hasn’t yet detailed dimensions for that car.

Up front, driver and passenger ride in relative comfort with base cloth seats that feel durable in SE trim levels. Upgrade to XSE and those cloth seats are replaced with power-adjustable, heated seats that look good, but feel a little thin. The good news is that the stitching and gather of the material in both trim levels looks solid and up to typical Toyota standards.

The seats slide fore and aft far enough to give tall legs plenty of room up front, but they cut deeply into rear-seat room. The 8.0-inch center touchscreen dominates attention in the front dash, while the rest of the materials seem convincingly mid-grade—despite the car’s relatively low cost.

In back, the door cutouts are smaller than we’d like and rear seat leg room is wholly dependent on how generous front passengers feel. Our 6-foot-3 editor had difficulty sitting behind himself without sacrificing comfort up front, or in back.

The shorter length also cuts into rear cargo room this year, which is down to 18 cubic feet behind the second-row seats, from 20 cubes in the Corolla iM. The difference isn’t readily noticeable, and the rear seats tumble forward for more interior space. The cargo cut out is wide and low, which makes loading the Corolla simpler compared to small crossovers.

This year, Toyota molded the rear hatch out of a resin composite material that makes the rear door lighter and easier to lift open—especially with arms full of groceries or gear.

Review continues below

2019 Toyota Corolla


It’s too early for complete crash data for the 2019 Toyota Corolla.

The 2019 Toyota Corolla hasn’t yet been crash tested by federal officials, although the IIHS says it's a Top Safety Pick. Without full data, we can’t officially rate it here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

There’s good news for shoppers, however.

The 2019 Corolla hatch is equipped with a bevy of standard active safety features including forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, active lane control, adaptive cruise control (automatic-equipped Corollas include stop-and-go cruise control), road sign detection, and automatic high beams.

Blind-spot monitors are optional on automatic-equipped SE versions and standard on XSE hatchbacks with an automatic transmission.

The Corolla hatch rides atop a new frame that’s shared with the Prius and other Toyotas, and has scored well on the full NHTSA crash-test batteries.

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2019 Toyota Corolla


The big news for the 2019 Corolla is an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay.

When it goes on sale in July, the 2019 Corolla hatch will be available in sporty SE and XSE trims starting at about $21,000.

We give the Corolla a 7 for features with the caveat that its score may change soon when pricing is announced. For now the Corolla hatch’s impressive, and standard, 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility, and standard equipment earn points above average on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The hatch is available starting at the SE trim level, which offers 16-inch wheels, cloth seats, a 4.2-inch driver information display, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, a six-speaker audio system, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, and a 3-year/36,000-mile comprehensive warranty.

The Corolla hatch XSE trim level adds fog lights, 18-inch wheels, a 7.0-inch driver information display, leather-trimmed seats, power adjustable heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot monitors, and satellite radio. Navigation, wireless cellphone charging, an eight-speaker audio system are optional extras.

Most hatchback shoppers would be best suited at the SE trim level, which includes many of the same safety features and infotainment features that pricier versions will get, including Apple CarPlay (sorry Android owners).

Review continues below

2019 Toyota Corolla

Fuel Economy

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is a fuel-sipper—at least in certain configurations

We rate the 2019 Toyota Corolla at 7 out of 10 for its fuel economy, with a bunch of asterisks attached to that score. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For one, Toyota hasn't announced fuel economy for the Corolla sedan, which shares little with the new-for-2019 Hatchback.

Picking the thriftiest Corolla requires narrowing down your choice to just one model: the SE Hatchback with the CVT, which is rated at 32 mpg city, 42 highway, 36 combined. That compares favorably to the 28/37/31 mpg rating for the SE with the manual transmission.

The XSE's larger wheels and slight curb weight dent its fuel economy figures to the tune of 30/38/33 mpg with the CVT. Toyota hasn't announced ratings for the XSE manual.

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September 9, 2018
2019 Toyota Corolla SE CVT (Natl)

I really enjoy my 2019 corolla hatchback SE. improved styling, engine, fuel economy. It’s a win/wins

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Love the styling inside and out. Available apple car play is awesome. The engine is a huge upgrade from previous models. Fuel economy is improved as well. The new CVT is much nicer with the new launch gear... + More »
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Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 5
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Features 7
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