2019 Toyota Corolla — Still King of the Compacts

2019 Toyota CorollaModel Tested: 2019 Toyota Corolla XSE 5-Door Hatchback

Engine: 2.0-Liter, 16-Valve, DOHC 4-Cylinder w/Dual Injection

Transmission: Dynamic Shift Continually Variable Transmission

Horsepower: 168 • Torque: 155 lb.-ft.

EPA Ratings: 30/City • 38/Highway • 33/Combined

Base Price: $24,090 • As Tested: $27,823

Overview: The Toyota Corolla has ruled the compact segment for the dozen generations of its existence. Toyota updated the Corolla for the 2019 model year, adding a stronger powertrain and a new Hatchback body style.

Meanwhile, Corolla sedans carry on with the previous design and powertrain because a new sedan will arrive for 2020. Offering eight trim levels — our test driver was the Elite, XSE Hatchback, on which this review focuses upon.

Walkaround: The generic look of previous Corollas have been abandoned with the hatchback versions. Both front and rear, it’s more dramatic — without overdoing it. The front grille contains more mesh, and is flanked by slender LED headlights. The previous dropped nose is history in favor of the more pugnacious lower fascia.

Interior: The cabin is intentionally simple, however XSE models offer contrasting color schemes, which make the interior seem roomier and brighter. A standard 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Alexa compatibility.

While fit and finish are Toyota’s usual excellent quality, cabin materials reflect the price point, being somewhat mid-level quality, with the XSE combination leather seats seeming a bit thin.

However, the front seats are comfortable ¬- even for long-legged occupants. They slide back and forth quite a distance, but quickly appropriate back-seat legroom.

Like all cars this size, the rear seats are somewhat cramped — not really suitable for adult-sized passengers. Ingress and egress can be impeded by the rather small doors.

The rear hatch is molded from lighter-weight resin composite material, while cargo space is ample – 18 cubic feet behind the back seats, which fold forward, expanding the available room. Luggage/cargo loading is easy, thanks to the wide, lower trunk cutout.

Behind The Wheel: The Corolla hatchback isn’t big-time sporty — in spite of numerous of changes designed to make it so — but it’s still more fun to drive than some competitors.

The new, more powerful 2.0-liter powerplant is certainly more agreeable than its 1.8-liter predecessor. Toyota’s CVT is also improved.

The hatchback feels confident and predictable, with most of its acceleration showing up at higher engine speeds. The ride isn’t particularly harsh, however steering feels rather light.

Bottom Line: Throughout its life, the Corolla has always been a dependable, practical, daily driver. With its new, more powerful engine, the hatchback proves it shouldn’t be viewed as a strictly practical ride any more.