Toyota engineers dropped the 2019 car’s hood by two inches versus the previous generation car. (image: Toyota)

2019 Toyota Corolla injects sport, adds hatchback

The five-door-hatchback variant of the new 12th-generation Toyota Corolla could earn the 52-year-old nameplate new labels - including 'exciting'.
There are three good reasons why Toyota’s compact Corolla overtook the original VW Beetle, the VW Golf and even the Ford F-Series to become the top-selling vehicle nameplate ever built: It’s sold virtually around the globe and it owns a reputation as being affordable, reliable and efficient.
But in those 52 years of Corolla history, very few iterations of the car have been sexy or exiting. Yet this new five-door hatchback variant of the 12th-generation E170 Corolla borders on both. Launched in Japan earlier this year as the Corolla Sport, it replaces the iM hatch in the U.S. that donned a Toyota badge when the Scion brand was waxxed in 2016. Except for its gaping bottom-feeder mouth, it actually looks pretty sporty. And the underpinnings are engineered for improved dynamic performance: the new hatch rides on a lighter, stiffer TNGA ‘modular’ platform with a sport-tuned suspension.
Power is delivered by a lively dual-injected (direct and port) 2.0-L four from the 2NR-FKE family mated to a choice of either a 6-speed manual or a “Dynamic-Shift” CVT transaxle.
That new larger-displacement engine—physically smaller, lighter and quieter than the 1.8-L 2ZR-FAE four it replaces—uses “intelligent” variable valve timing with an electric cam phaser on the intake side rather than a hydraulic unit. With a 13.0:1 compression ratio, the engine generates a claimed 168 hp (125 kW) and 151 lb·ft (205 N·m). Power output increases by 30 hp (23 kW) versus the previous 1.8-L engine.
EPA fuel efficiency is rated at 28/37/31 mpg city/highway/combined for 6-speed-equipped SE models; that improves to 32/42/36 mpg for the CVT-equipped SE. The CVT-equipped XSE is rated at 30/38/33 mpg.
The CVT has 10 simulated sequential “Shiftmatic” steps, a sport mode, paddle shifters and what Toyota claims is the world’s first launch gear for improved performance from a full stop.
Offered in SE and XSE grades, the Corolla hatch offers standard Entune 3.0 connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility (but not yet Android Auto), and the first North American application of Toyota Safety Sense 2.0.
Both trims sport alloy wheels and LED head-/taillamps, and the XSE boasts LED fog lamps, a chrome grille surround, 18-in alloy wheels and available (with the CVT) adaptive front lights that react both vertically and horizontally to steering angle and vehicle speed.
Inside are more supportive sport seats, an eight-inch multimedia touchscreen, standard automatic climate control. The XSE trim level adds a dual-zone climate system, combination leather/fabric seating, heated front seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, a seven-inch TFT multi-information display and available JBL eight-speaker audio.
Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) 2.0 brings a full and rare-in-class suite of driver-assist and safety features including seven airbags, a backup camera, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control (full-speed-range with the CVT), lane departure warning with steering assist, auto high beams, new (hands-on) lane tracing and road sign assist (standard on XSE, available on SE) and blind spot monitoring.
Our well-trafficked city and rural test drives during the car’s U.S. media launch demonstrated that this new Corolla Hatchback (pricing TBD) is noticeably quicker, quieter and more athletic than the iM it replaces.
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