FIRST LOOK: Toyota Corolla hatchback is fashionably late

New platform, fresh new Corolla hatch signals Toyota move away from Scion

Published: July 2, 2018, 5:30 PM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 4:06 PM

2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback - Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA-C) platform contributes to the Corolla hatchback’s low centre-of-gravity seating position, more interior space and comforts, and allows a new powertrain.

TORONTO – Toyota’s connection to Scion may be no more, but it lives on in the Corolla iM, which used to be the Scion iM. In early August, the iM nameplate is officially dropped when the latest Corolla hatchback hits dealerships (eliminating much confusion for all involved) with an all-new platform, engine, transmission and interior design.”

What’s new for 2019?

To talk about what’s new with the Corolla hatch, one must start with talking about Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA-C) platform, C is for its compacts; K for its larger vehicles. According to Toyota, a low centre-of-gravity seating position, more interior space and comforts, as well as a new powertrain are all made possible due to its restructured and rigid platform that uses a mixture of aluminum, high- and ultra-high tensile steel, adhesives and spot welding in its chassis and body.

Once seated inside, passengers quickly notice the lower seating position and a hood that’s 40 mm lower. The new configuration improves all-around visibility and straps you in for a sportier ride, aided by waist-hugging sport seats. The cockpit is simpler and open in nature, focusing one’s attention on its standalone 8-inch high-resolution infotainment screen with Entune 3.0 Connected Services and Apple CarPlay (for the first time in a Corolla). In the top XSE trim that comes with in-car navigation, occupants can now choose between three different navigation services.

Under the hood: a new direct-injection 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder engine powers the hatch with a maximum of 168 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, a 31-hp boost from its previous iteration. This whole system is mated to either a standard 6-speed manual transmission with rev matching on downshifts or a Direct Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) with simulated 10-speed sequential steps controlled through available paddle shifters.

Additional changes occur in its suspension setup with a revised MacPherson strut for better steering feel, ride comfort and handling stability; while its multi-link rear suspension has sharpened its responsiveness through updated shock absorbers and springs.

A quick spin

A full grasp of the ride couldn’t be found in this sneak peek spin of the soon-to-market hatch, but not much was needed to realize the exciting and nimble nature of this new Corolla. Our chariot was the top-of-the-line XSE that only comes with a CVT. Its bold physique and lower stance seems to mirror that of the current-generation Honda Civic. Corolla has been stretched out in width and length, but that doesn’t appear noticeable when firing off from its direct-injected engine.

The enthusiastic nature of the hatch is apparent upon initial acceleration, thanks to a world’s first launch gear in a passenger CVT. If you’re looking for a more spirited ride, use the paddle shifters to get a little more grunt in the lower gears, as well as a few startling reactions from bystanders.

The biggest takeaway comes down to its handling prowess and balance on a twisty stretch of road. For a hatch that’s only front-wheel drive, the Corolla stays planted with minimal steering input needed as it swings away at some feisty corners.

When you’re not attempting to make a scene and cruising like an average driver, the hatch exudes a quiet and calm spirit thanks to improved NVH. According to Toyota Canada, fuel economy has been improved with both transmissions, but those numbers haven’t been revealed as of this writing. What we can report was a realized 7.8 L/100 km combined on the short drive that was on the more aggressive side.

Final thoughts

Toyota has needed to juice up its compact offerings, and the 2019 Toyota Corolla hatch seems to fit the bill, especially for a younger generation that crave a little more exhilaration. With excitement comes worry, and Toyota eases that stress from parents or spouses by adding its Safety Sense 2.0 suite of technology (this is the first Toyota vehicle to receive the 2.0 version in Canada) as standard equipment. It includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection in daytime or nighttime, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and a new Lane Tracing Assist that can identify lane markers made temporarily unavailable.

Going simply with the Corolla name appears to be a solid decision, especially in Canada where hatchbacks reign supreme. Pricing for the 2019 Corolla hatchback should be available closer to its launch in early August 2018. Expect it to be similar to current iM pricing, but according to a Toyota spokesperson, there’s apparently a “good surprise” in store. We will have to see what comes of that.