Pros-Racier look. More power. Economical. Lively. Sharp handling. Supple ride. Safety items. Well-equipped. Cons-Small trunk without seat backs flipped forward. Rather tight backseat. Very low front end.
Bottom Line-Sporty and practical.
Over the years, the Toyota Corolla has become a familiar sight, being practical, thrifty, dependable and affordable. The new 2019 Corolla Hatchback XSE is a major leap forward for this model, both physically and mechanically.
The Hatchback XSE costs $22,990 with a six-speed manual transmission that automatically adjusts engine revs when changing gears. The car costs $24,090 with a CVT automatic transmission that has a clever Dynamic Shift feature that has the first launch gear put in an auto CVT. It uses gear drive when starting from a full stop, providing fast acceleration and ending the momentary sluggish feel previously felt during CVT accelerator operation. I tested the Hatchback XSE with the CVT.
The new front-drive, two-door Corolla Hatchback XSE has racier styling. It's slightly lower, wider and about a half inch shorter than its predecessor, the Corolla iM. It also has wider front and rear tracks and a longer wheelbase at 103.9 inches. Shorter drivers will appreciate the fact that the hood is two inches lower than before than before, allowing them better forward visibility.
The new frontal styling has a rounded nose and large grille that almost looks as if taken from a classic 1950s Ferrari race or fast touring car. However the front end is very low. The new rear styling with its rounded physique is supposed to provide an "athletic presence." The rear hatch of my test Hatchback XSE was extremely light because it's made from Toyota Super Olefin Polymer (whatever that is) to make it easier to open with an arm full of stuff. The front area is spacious with very supportive seats, but the rear seat area is tight for a 6-footer with long legs.
My test car had rather shocking Blue Flame paint, which really made it stand out.
Door open wide to the upscale-looking interior for easy entry. There are easily read backlit gauges, leather-trimmed heated front seats with a power driver's seat and manually adjustable passenger seat. There's also a tilt/telescopic wheel with system controls, push button start, dual-zone air conditioning, an integrated backup camera and power windows.
A 7-inch multi-information display shows vehicle information, turn-by-turn navigation and various vehicle settings, including those involving lane departure alert, lane tracing assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and blind spot monitor. Safety items include pre-collision with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control (for highways/freeways only), dynamic radar cruise control (manual-transmission only), lane departure alerts with steering assist, lane tracing assist and new road sign assist. There's also color-keyed outside power mirrors with turn signals and a Blind Spot Monitor
Seven airbags help protect in a collision, and there also are enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, anti-lock brakes and smart stop technology, blind spot monitor and a backup camera.
The audio system has 6 speakers and includes an 8-inch touchscreen and an AM/FM radio. The center stack screen provides access to vehicle settings, auto controls, navigation, smartphone and Entune 3.0 apps. Climate controls are located below the multimedia portal. CarPlay is standard, but there's no Android Auto, at least for now.
Front doors have unique stitching and large storage pockets, and the center console is longer. There's a center tray ahead of the gearshift that can hold small items such as as a smartphone. The deep center covered console box can hold a 5.5-inch smartphone. Front cupholders can handle 24-ounce bottles. Rear seats use updated cushioning to improve comfort, and there's the large rear center armrest with sturdy twin cupholders. .
However, with no hatch release in the cabin, it generally took me a lot of tries to open the hatch with my finders, probably because my test Hatchback XSE was a pre-production prototype vehicle that wasn't fully sorted out. At least the inside of the hatch has two convenient inner door recessed areas to help close it.
Cargo room is mediocre, but is spacious when the rear seat backs are flipped forward.
Powering the Hatchback XSE is a smaller, lighter 2-liter four-cylinder with a longer stroke, dual overhead camshafts, 16 valves and dual injection. It generates 168 horsepower and 151 pound/feet of torque at a rather high 4,800 r.p.m. The 0-60 m.ph time of the approximately 3,060-pound car is about 7.5 seconds. This is no fireball, but highway cruising and passing are easy.
Estimated fuel economy with the manual transmission is 28 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on highways. The figures are 30 and 38 with the CVT. Only 87-octane fuel is required to fill the 13.2-gallon tank despite the engine's sky-high 13:1 compression ratio.
The Hatchback XSE steering is a bit firm, but quick, even when the car is stiffened a bit when a driver puts it in "Sport" mode. The Hatchback XSE is best left in "normal" mode for daily driving. Handling is much improved over earlier Corollas, thanks partly to revised front and rear suspensions. On-road feel is refined though much use of aluminum and high- and ultra-high tensile steel in the lighter-weight chassis and body. Torsional rigidity is improved a massive 60 percent, compared to the auto's predecessor. My test car's grip was improved with its standard 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels with P225/40R18 tires.
The new Corolla Hatchback XSE provides fun and practicality. It shows that a Corolla no longer needs to be just a base economy car.