2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE Review

One really great not-so-hot hatch

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: Fun to drive, great to look at, comfortable to sit in, efficient, the right move to make Corolla less than totally boring.
Negatives: Cramped back seat, infotainment system only slightly improved
Bottom Line: The Corolla Hatchback shows off what Toyota can do really well, which is make an excellent small car that's reliable, great to toss around, and actually pretty damned attractive. There's enough power here to be fun, and the manual transmission is really the only way to go, even though the CVT is good. Those who don't crave a hot hatch will find the right formula here.
The Corolla iM is gone, replaced by the Corolla Hatchback. The new car is based on the European Toyota Auris, and it gets more of everything in terms of looks, refinement, power, and handling. The result is Toyota's only truly worthy small car that's worth a damn when it comes to driving and aesthetics. It's actually the opposite of the Corolla sedan, which we really don't like much. We got to drive the sport XSE trim for a week to see if we liked it as much as we did on the press drive from a few months ago. Read on for the full review.

Driving Experience



Horsepower goes up from the iM's meager 137 to a much healthier 168 in the Hatchback. What the new Corolla does have in spades is driving fun without needing 200+ horses to make it so.The TNGA platform that underpins many other Toyotas gives it compsure, too.

Ride Quality: It's on the firm side, but the Corolla hatch never felt abrupt or harsh over bumps.

Acceleration: The 0-60 time of mid-to-high eights won't set your hair on fire, but it's enough to pair with the connectedness of the car to make things fun. The CVT has an actual first gear and paddle shifters, which helps tremendously.

Braking: Brakes are nice and progressive with good stopping power. It certainly helps that the hatchback is light-ish 3,100 lbs.

Steering: The electrically assisted power steering is sharp and precise, making the car very enjoyable to drive.

Handling: The chassis is taut, and body roll is minimal. The car felt balanced, too.




Tech hasn't been Toyota's strong point for a long time, if ever. Though their safety tech, which we'll discuss later, is impressive, their in-car tech lags. They had a chance to knock the new Entune system out of the park and failed. It's better, but just by a hair.

Infotainment System: The screen is clear, but the system lacks style and good functionality. Menus are still not great, and the look is almost too basic. At least now there's Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto yet), which is far easier and better looking.

Controls: The small silver buttons are hard to actuate while driving, and the small audio knobs are hard to grab since they're too shallow. It's still too easy to hit a screen function while using the radio. The tuning knob is also still too hard to reach while driving.




Toyota pretty much nailed the Corolla Hatcbhack's look. It's easily one of Toyota's most stylish vehicles, and we think it actually comes across more cohesively than the new Avalon, which is far pricier. It has hot hatch looks without being extreme, a nice balance.

Front: The big grille is nicely split by a body colored strip of a bumper. The knife/hatchet style headlights are excellent. It's not busy, but it's definitely eye-catching.

Rear: The taillights mimic the headlights, and the roof spoiler adds some nice visual drama but might overstate the car's power.

Profile: The side view of the car shows a nicely proportioned small car that doesn't look boring. Nice rear haunches and a protruding bumper give it some visual heft.

Cabin: We were surprised by how much we liked the simple, well laid-out cabin. Material look and feel are a couple of steps up from the old Corolla.




For a compact hatchback, the Corolla hatch is pretty good for the front occupants. It's visually pleasing and airy, but the back seat is for kids and shorter adults only.

Front Seats: Good support and cushioning with some handsome seats, but the headrests aren't adjustable in terms of angle and are canted a bit too far forward.

Rear Seats: Legroom is tight, but there's a decent amount of headroom. The middle position is almost usless for adults since the seat cushion is too high.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Like all Toyota's the hatch well-built with no errant noises, only the sound of the engine when the car is pushed hard.

Visibility: Sightlines are good, and the back isn't too bad even though the pillars are on the thicker side. The sloping nose in front helps place the car in tight spaces.

Climate: The climate system is good, though the vents could be bigger for more air movement.




The Corolla Hatchback is a truly safe small car that happens to match scores with its sedan counterpart. Every single model of the 2019 Corolla Hatchback comes with standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), as well.

IIHS Rating: It earned the Top Safety Pick, just missing the top score due to only "acceptable" headlights. It nailed every other category.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: Standard TSS 2.0 comes with Automatic High Beams, Road Sign Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Road Edge Detection.

Optional Tech: In XSE trim, the Corolla hatch also comes with a Blind Spot Monitor.




Storage space is just ok in the little Corolla, as is the cargo space. If you're single, it should be plenty of space to haul around most of your stuff. Just don't try to move any furniture.

Storage Space: Aside from the center console's cupholders, the small armrest, and a shallow cubby in front of the shifter, there's not much for gear in the cabin.

Cargo Room: It's small back there, with only 18 cubic feet in the hatch area and 23.3 with the seats folded. The Mazda3, by comparison, does 20.2 and 47.1, respectively, a huge difference. The Honda Fit does 16.6 and a whopping 52.7.

Fuel Economy



The Corolla's CVT certainly helps it in the mileage department. A car this size should get 30+ combined, and the Corolla hatch doesn't disappoint.

Observed: 31.7 mpg.

Distance Driven: 155 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove it equally on local roads and on highways. Combined mileage is rated at 33, and we tend to drive hard, so our figures are pretty good.




The 6-speaker system is by no means premium, but since there isn't an upgrade available, this is what you get. It's decent, but the sound is by no means full and clear, and there's really not much bass to speak of.

Final Thoughts

We like what Toyota is doing. As much as we love hot hatches, they're certainly not for everyone. The Toyota Corolla Hatchback toes the line between hot and economical about as good as anyone. It's a blast to drive, though we'd certainly take a base VW Golf TSI or a Mazda3 5-Door over it, and both of those have more space inside. That being said, the 5-door Corolla is way better than its sedan counterpart in terms of looks, comfort, tech, and driving fun. It's a great new entry in the segment, but we're waiting for Toyota to infuse it with a turbo mill and turn it into a performance-minded S trim model.

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