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Reviews First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

23:50  10 august  2018
23:50  10 august  2018 Source:   driving.ca

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Built on Toyota 's TNGA platform and riding on a sport-tuned suspension, the 2019 Corolla hatch has moves that place it in another class of responsiveness and fun above the American-market sedan. It's no Civic Type R, of course, nor is that the Corolla hatchback 's mission.

a red car parked on the side of a road© Provided by Driving.ca

ORFORD, Qc – Pity Toyota’s hatchback. Once beloved as the Matrix — you remember, the once popular all-wheel-drive hot hatch — the poor dear first got sentenced to Scion, then when that folded returned to the Toyota fold as the Corolla iM and now is back as the Corolla Hatchback. Along the way, it (slightly) frayed the relationship between head office and dealers — the Matrix was very popular so Toyota franchises weren’t exactly happy that it got pulled from their floors — then ignored (the newly iM wasn’t specifically ignored; everything from Scion was) and finally returned with the some sort of bastardized hyphenated name like the oft-incestuous British royalty seem to love (Corolla iM). In other words, it’s been a long circuitous journey for the little hatchback since 2014, but, at last, one of the best vehicles in Toyota Motor Corporation’s lineup is back where it should be.

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And a surprising resurrection it is. Up 31 horsepower from its predecessor, the 2.0-litre “Dynamic Force” — yes, with  168 horsepower on hand, that moniker is just a tad precious — inline four further distinguishes itself by being the quietest non-luxury four-banger I’ve ever tested. Running along at a steady buck-twenty, the engine is indeed so silent that one really notices wind noise.

It’s also fairly torque, the new engine boasting 25 more pound-feet of torque than the previous Corolla iM, most of it at surprisingly low rpm. Mated to Toyota’s new CVT that keeps the, again Dynamic Force, engine revving in the meat of its powerband, the package is pretty peppy. And, unlike most other CVTs, Toyota’s is not annoying. For one thing, the company’s engineers built 10 “steps” or ‘gears’ into its calibration to emulate a real automatic and not have the engine drone on like a portable generator. For another, Toyota’s Direct Shift CVT incorporates a physical first gear, which is, for lack of a better term, an “underdrive” which lowers the overall transmission ratio for more pep off the line (as opposed to the classic overdrive that flattens the overall gear ratio for less rpm on the highway). It works seamlessly and the CVT-equipped Corolla truly is quite sprightly.

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Nonetheless, Corolla will also be offered with a six-speed manual. Toyota Canada even has a campaign — Save the Manual — promoting the three-pedal transmission and hope that about one in ten Corolla hatches will be so equipped. It’s a rev-matching affair so even luddites can manage shifting gears their own selves as long as they can manage the concept of using their legs and arms simultaneously. Who would have though that “beige” Toyota would be the most assiduous defender of the driver-centric manual transmission? Maybe hell will indeed freeze over soon (though, yes, Elon will blame it on global warming).

a close up of a car© Provided by Driving.ca

Said powertrain was also admirably efficient and a amazingly in tune with Transport Canada’s rating. We averaged, for instance, 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres in the six-speed manual, exactly matching its official rating. With the CVT, it was 7.0 L/100 klicks, slightly above the 6.7 L/100 km the government lists for the automatic version but I may have had my foot in it a little more, playing with that Direct Shift thingie. Either way, it’s entirely realistic to average less than 8.0 L/100 km in real world driving conditions.

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The Corolla’s handling is also improved, dare I even call it sporty. Hatchback versions of the Corolla get an independent rear suspension that base Corolla sedans do not (though Toyota Canada cannot confirm whether that delineation will continue once the sedan gets its upcoming revisions) and with this generation Corolla hatchback a little lower and wider than the previous iM, it feels a little more glued to the road. Oh, the steering still feels a little numb, but no longer is the Corolla a mom-and-pop take on the hot hatch concept. It almost feels, well, youthful.

a motorcycle parked on the seat of a car© Provided by Driving.ca

The new interior is likewise très moderne. The plastic touches feel upscale, the seats are firmly comfortable and the gauge set, at least on the top of the line XSE version I tested — lesser versions get a diminished gauge set — was useful and attractive. The standard infotainment system uses an eight-inch touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay — which we used extensively — is also part of the standard equipment. One thing that is not — and this one is a real head-scratcher — is that Sirius satellite radio is only available on the very topline XSE trim; even the mid-priced SE model has to do without Howard Stern. One thing the new Entune system does have is an emergency SOS feature, which allows one button calling of emergency service. Of course, it also makes the call on its own if the air bags are deployed. The Corolla HB even gets an (optional) attractive rear spoiler, which makes it look almost sporty. Mazda3, look out!

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  First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback © Provided by Driving.ca

As for nits to pick with the Corolla Hatchback, besides the aforementioned dearth of ’80s on 8, rear seat legroom is a little tight, even by compact standards. And though the base version of the six-speed costs $1,770 less than the 2018 Corolla iM, the new hatch isn’t exactly cheap. Yes, that base stripper costs $20,980, but the full-zoot CVT XSE will set you back no less than $27,980. That’s encroaching on the $30,000 mark, a significant barrier for any compact not having Type R in its nameplate.

Toyota Canada says in response that, compared with Corolla sedan intenders, Hatchback buyers are both younger and more affluent and therefore more willing than traditional sedan buyers to pony up for the luxury. There’s no question they’re getting a much better car than the old iM. Hell, it may even supplant the Matrix as the most popular Toyota hatchback. More importantly, the Mazda3 has a new challenger for the hearts and wallets of hatchback intenders.

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