• Car Review

Driven: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review

By David Undercoffler | June 15, 2018

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Yes but...*
Price range: $20,910 - $25,010, including destination

Key takeaways

  • Redesigned for 2019.
  • Formerly known as the Scion iM and then the Toyota Corolla iM.
  • Great styling and interior comfort.
  • Ho-hum handling and performance can’t match the exciting looks.

What is it?

The Toyota Corolla Hatchback is a redesigned model for 2019 that also comes with a new name.

Previously, it was the Scion iM -- Scion being Toyota’s now-defunct economy car brand aimed at younger buyers. When Toyota folded Scion in 2016, all models from 2017 on became Toyotas. At that point, this car was known as the Toyota Corolla iM.

Though this new Corolla Hatch shares a name with the Corolla sedan, this isn’t merely a hatchback version of the regular Corolla. This hatchback model is aimed at a younger, more enthusiast-oriented crowd, hence its sleek styling and more performance-oriented engine and transmission combos.

The Corolla hatch comes with one engine choice: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. A slick, six-speed manual transmission is standard -- it’s slick because it comes with rev matching -- a feature that makes you sound and feel like a pro when shifting through the gears.

The CVT automatic transmission is a $1,100 option on both the SE and XSE.

There are two trim levels for the Corolla hatch: SE and XSE. The base SE starts at $20,910, while the XSE starts at $23,910.

The car is a smidge shorter than its predecessor, but its wheelbase is longer. This means the wheels are closer to the corner of the car than before, giving it better handling.

The Corolla Hatchback competes against a variety of fellow hatchback models, including the Volkswagen Golf, Kia Forte5, Hyundai Veloster and Elantra GT, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Chevy Cruze and Ford Focus.

What’s good

TLDR: Quality inside, style outside, great seats

Quality stuff. The build quality of the Corolla Hatchback is impressive. Toyota used an abundance of soft-touch and upscale materials and construction throughout the car’s cabin so that it doesn’t feel like a lower-cost economy car -- it feels like something the brand’s Lexus division would dream up. This was a nice surprise and gave the car a more premium feel than most of its rivals.

The seats. We don’t always single out the seats of a car for praise, but they’re worth mentioning here. While the Corolla Hatch may be marketed towards younger buyers, anyone with a bad back (or who just likes comfort) will quickly come to appreciate the ones in this Toyota. The side bolsters are robust, the lumbar support is excellent and the best part? Even the rear seats are great, despite this being a place where automakers often skimp on materials and design.

Hey good lookin’. Toyota did a nice job giving the Corolla hatch a sporty exterior design that’s attractive and edgy without being alienating or weird. Even the base SE model looks good -- no need to feel compelled to spend the extra money on the XSE to get a handsome version (though we recommend it for the other goodies that come with the upgrade).

What’s bad

TLDR: Underpowered and under-sporty

Light on power. While the Corolla Hatchback certainly looks the part, its actual performance can’t quite live up to the promise of the exterior. The car feels like it could use more power; 168 horsepower is certainly competitive on paper versus its rivals, but the car never felt eager or thrilling during our test drives.

Light on sport. While enthusiasts will love the slick rev matching feature on the Corolla’s manual transmission, they’ll find the rest of the driving experience to be merely OK. The CVT automatic transmission too strongly favors fuel economy over performance, the handling itself is middle of the pack, the steering could use more feedback. It’s certainly a fine car for your average shopper, but it just doesn’t deliver the excitement you might expect given its look or Toyota’s inevitable marketing of the car.

5 stars of execution

Safety? YES

  • Toyota does its consumers a favor by including an impressive suite of active safety tech as standard equipment on all Corolla Hatchback models. This includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning.
  • This 2019 model had not yet been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at the time of publication.

Value? YES

  • The Corolla Hatchback does a nice job of packing together a reasonable amount of content for the price, which starts at $20,910 for the SE model.
  • Some of our favorite standard features include an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay compatibility, the pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and taillights, an electronic parking brake and a backup camera.

Efficiency? YES

  • The 2019 Corolla hatch is rated at 32/42/36 mpg city/highway/combined for the SE with the automatic transmission. The XSE drops those numbers to 30/38/33 mpg.
  • Those numbers for the SE put it well above most of its peers, and even the XSE numbers are better than most.

Driving experience? NO

  • Make no mistake, the Corolla Hatchback is perfectly suited to be a comfortable daily driver for a wide variety of consumers.
  • But given the car’s competitors, its younger target audience and its styling, we found the overall performance of this Corolla to be uninspiring.

Execution? YES

  • Despite the middling performance, the rest of the Corolla Hatchback is well-executed. It’s safe, comfortable, efficient and priced right.
  • It also splits the difference between practicality, style and comfort, with the interior being a particular highlight.

Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The Corolla Hatchback in the SE trim starts at $20,910 for models with the six-speed manual transmission.

Standard features on the base SE include a backup camera, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay compatibility, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and taillights and an electronic parking brake.

SE buyers can add the $1,400 Preferred Package, which includes satellite and HD radio, remote connectivity and blind spot monitoring.

The XSE starts at $23,910 with the manual gearbox; this would be the model and transmission we’d choose. It adds items like 18-inch alloy wheels that really suit the car, LED fog lights, dual zone climate control, partial faux-leather seats that are heated up front, power driver’s seat, a seven-inch digital display screen in the instrument panel and blind spot monitoring.

The XSE Preferred Package is $1,600 and adds to this an eight-speaker, 800-watt JBL sound system, navigation and wireless smartphone charging.

A CVT automatic transmission is a $1,100 option on both models.

Also consider

The Mazda3 Hatchback won’t overwhelm you with its power, but it’s one of the best-handling and best-looking models in its class. It should be at the top of your list in this segment.

Hyundai’s second-generation Veloster is a little less practical than this Corolla but a lot more fun to drive. We’re big fans; check out our full review here.

Volkswagen’s Golf has long been a standout in this segment for its combination of European refinement and everyday practicality and is certainly worth a look.

Honda’s Civic Hatchback is a standout in this segment, but its exterior design can be a turnoff to some buyers.

The Subaru Impreza is plenty competent but not particularly exciting.

*Final thoughts

As we’ve already said, we like this new Toyota Corolla Hatchback as a practical, youthful, stylish and affordable vehicle. We have no qualms recommending it. BUT, for buyers who want their car’s handling and performance to match its looks, there are better options.