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2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback: Starter Kit

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The current compact Toyota hatchback - the Corolla iM - is a car that's said to be fallen behind its competition. Reviewers note a cheap feeling interior and lethargic engine as its main culprits. Ten years ago we would've accepted it because its post-optioned pricing always landed south of $22,000. Today, cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic have shown we don't need to compromise on luxury or cheerful handling as much as the price suggests. And the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback aims to bring the Corolla name back to the top of the value hunter's consideration list.

The Corolla Hatchback redesign starts with its platform. It now uses Toyota's New Global Architecture (TNGA) so it's lighter and more rigid. Compared to the Corolla iM the 2019 model is 1.5-inches longer, 1.0-inch lower, 1.2-inches wider, 1.5-inches longer in wheelbase, and sports a wider front and rear track. Toyota was also able to reduce front overhang by 0.8-inches while adding that length to its rear overhang. The rear hatch, built from a mix of Toyota Super Olefin Polymer (TSOP) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), is lighter with a 14 degree steeper angle.

Visually the Corolla Hatchback is shaped to look more sporty and aggressive. Its single Sarlacc pit grille now stretches well into the edges of the front valence, and the rear end houses chrome exhaust tips with a protruding rear bumper. Standard LED lights are provided for both trims (SE and XSE) though only XSE CVT Corollas can optionally equip an Adaptive Front Lighting (AFS) package that enables multiple front lights to illuminate sequentially in reaction to the car's current speed and turning angle. Basically allowing the Corolla to direct its headlights in corners without needing to physically rotate any bulbs or projective material. Its wheels are alloys across the board and can be sized from 16- to 18-inches.

Under the hood the 2019 Corolla makes use of all three new Toyota parts announced late February, 2018. Its M20A-FKS 2.0-liter inline-four engine is smaller and lighter than the old 1.8 and features direct injection with port fuel injection, variable valve timing by electronic motor (instead of oil pressure), longer stroke, 13:1 compression, additional oil jets, pistons with laser pit skirt, and laser cut seats on cylinder heads. If you're confused all you need to know is this new engine has less emissions and higher fuel efficiency than the old one. It produces 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque.

Transmissions choices are either K120 CVT or EG60 6-speed manual. The defining technology for the K120 CVT is its single launch gear which the Corolla will use for off-the-line acceleration before switching to belt operation. Toyota says use of a launch gear will provide faster response and quicker ratio shifts as a result of a smaller pulley with lower belt angle. Toyota is confident enough to compare the K120 CVT's performance to that of a dual-clutch transmission. If you like weight savings and simplicity the EG60 6-speed manual is, according to Toyota, the world's smallest transmission. At 88 lbs and 14.6-inches long the cable-operated unit has support for rev-matching upshifts and downshifts for smoother daily driving. We're curious how both transmissions perform as these technologies are not usually seen in cars at this price bracket.

Inside, the Corolla Hatchback comes standard with 8-inch Entune 3.0 touchscreen, six speakers, Apple CarPlay, Siri Eyes Free, Amazon Alexa support, Wifi-connectivity, Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack, 2 USB ports, single-zone climate control, and voice commands. Upgrading to Entune 3.0 Audio Plus (Optional on SE, standard on XSE) adds navigation, service connect, remote connect, weather info, and (for XSE CVT) optional Entune 3.0 Audio Premium pack which consists of a JBL 8-speaker 800-watt sound system. XSE trims gain dual-zone climate control, leather seating, heated seats, power seats, 7-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster, and additional safety tech options as standard.

Toyota put in a great deal of effort to make day-to-day and spirited driving as enjoyable as possible. These efforts include added sound dampening around drivetrain parts for less interior noise, insulating panel gaps, redesigned front and rear seat cushions for more comfortable long-distance driving, optional Qi wireless phone charger (in front of gear lever), forward-shifted shock absorbers for reduced noise and more rear cargo space, lower front seating hip-point, and a completely revised suspension. This new suspension, consisting of a front strut with rear multi-link geometry, adds sharper steering response and high-speed stability through lower arms (for more toe-in) and a 40% reduction in rear suspension friction. According to Toyota the 2019 Corolla is more balanced and composed than ever before, and its 0.8-inch lower ride height will make drivers look forward to winding roads.

All Toyota Corolla Hatchbacks are pre-packed with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. This safety suite involves full-speed adaptive radar cruise control capable of working from zero to 110 mph, lane departure assist, lane trace assist (finding lanes when markers aren't available using the car in front), automatic high beams, forward automatic emergency braking, optional blind spot monitor (standard on XSE) and backup camera. Crash safety shouldn't be a concern as the Corolla has seven airbags and its underlying structure is built from aluminum with high-tensile steel.

Toyota hasn't released any information about its power figures or performance yet but we're excited to see what this compact hatch is made of. If the Camry underwent a drastic improvement moving onto the TNGA platform, the Corolla Hatchback should be a valuable homerun.

Sales for the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback begin Summer, 2018.