DEL MAR, Calif. — Hatchback is no longer a dirty word in the auto industry. A number of automakers have developed hot hatchbacks that are doing well. Now Toyota has joined the group. We came here to test drive the new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

It had a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that was smaller but more powerful than the 1.8-liter four-cylinder that it replaced on the old Corolla. The new four-cylinder made 168 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque.

Two transmissions will be available when the car goes on sale this summer. There will be a CVT with an actual first gear and a six-speed manual transmission. Toyota engineers were still tweaking the powertrains so EPA fuel efficiency ratings were not unavailable at the time of the test drive.

The new Corolla uses the company’s Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA. The Corolla had wider front and rear tracks and the wheelbase was longer. The car was one-inch lower; it was 1.2 inches wider and 1.5-inches longer. That may have helped with rear seat space but not by much. The Corolla is a subcompact and they don’t have a lot of space in the rear seats and so it was with this car. But that’s the worst thing I could say about the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatch.

It was a great looking car. Its hood was two inches lower and that provided excellent forward visibility. The passenger cabin had an airy feel, a lot of light got in the cabin and the Corolla certainly did not feel like a small car.

The new frontal styling with a rounded nose and trapezoidal-shaped under grille was a further evolution of Toyota’s Under Priority Catamaran and Keen Look design philosophies, both of which emphasize the Corolla Hatchback’s increased width.

Slim, J-shaped Bi-Beam LED headlamps wrapped deep into the front fenders and accented the front. The front overhang had been cut by 0.8 inches; at the rear, it was 0.8 inches longer. Character lines linked both ends. This was a sharp looking hatchback. And it had sharp wheels too boot; they ranged in size from 16-inches to 18-inches.

The hatch was made from TSOP (Toyota Super Olefin Polymer) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). It was lightweight and fewer pounds will undoubtedly translate into better fuel efficiency.

The tailgate had a steeper angle, 14 degrees forward, for a sportier look. The rear all-LED tail lamps featured a diffusing inner lens designed to highlight the hatchback’s stout stance. And the rear bumper styling echoed the frontal Under Priority Catamaran design with its thin lower lip and chrome diffuser.

There will be two trim lines; the SE and XSE. Both will have LED headlamps and taillights, chrome rear diffuser, and alloy wheels. The XSE gets 18-inch wheels, LED fog lights, chrome front grille surround, and an Adaptive Front Lighting System, available only on the XSE CVT.

“Sensuous Minimalism” was how Toyota described the 2019 Corolla’s interior. That seemed like a stretch to me but the inside of our test car was clean and efficient. The control buttons framed the touch infotainment screen. The seats were comfortable and they were supportive.

The surface of the dash was soft touch, so were the door panels and the center console. That infotainment screen sat like an iPad affixed to the dash and there was nothing else in the center stack; it was a clean design. The instruments were digital and very easy to see.

On the road, the 2019 Toyota Corolla was quick. It had oomph. It handled well and it really was quiet. The route was like every day driving: plenty of lights, stop signs, turns and not a lot of long straightaways before the next turn. I found the Corolla easy to drive; the brakes were good, so was the sound system was good.

The 7-inch TFT Multi-Information Display (MID) showed us the turn-by-turn navigation, and various vehicle settings including Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Blind Spot Monitor.

Engineers used a mixture of adhesives, spot welding, and additional bracing for the benefit of driver controllability and low fuel consumption. On-road feel and fuel efficiency was further refined through the extensive use of aluminum and high- and ultra-high strength tensile steel in the chassis and body. Torsional rigidity was improved by 60 percent compared to this Corolla’s predecessor.

And that showed on the road. This car was solid. It was not that much of a twisting route but the Corolla felt solid. There was little noise, no harshness and vibration was non-existent.

The front and rear suspensions were revised. The Corolla’s front MacPherson strut setup’s geometry was changed including updating bound stopper clearance and stabilizer location. They revised the coil spring rate and damping force, and reduced friction in sliding parts made for a high-quality steering feel, ride comfort, and handling stability.

At the Corolla Hatchback’s rear multi-link suspension with stabilizer bar, responsiveness was sharpened through updated shock absorbers and springs, and like the front, geometry was slightly modified.

Lower arm locations were moved for improved toe-in angle during high-speed maneuvering, as has shock absorber placement moved forward for better cargo capacity and reduced longitudinal low frequency input.

Overall, front and rear suspension friction was reduced by 40 percent and the 2019 Corolla’s center of gravity was lowered 0.8 inches.

The Dynamic-Shift CVT has simulated 10-speed Sequential Shiftmatic steps, Sport Mode, and paddle shifters. It featured a number of innovative elements, including the world’s first launch gear in a passenger vehicle CVT.

The all-new six-speed manual with downshift rev-matching control was 15 lbs. lighter and it was shorter, Toyota said making it one of the world’s smallest transmissions.

The 2019 Corolla Hatchback had Toyota’s latest safety equipment.

Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection:

Capability to detect a preceding vehicle or pedestrian in daytime or nighttime (nighttime is new), or daytime bicyclist (new), and alert the driver (audible and visual warnings) and/or apply brakes to help mitigate or avoid the collision in certain cases using Forward Collision Warning, Brake Assist and Automatic Emergency Braking.

Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control:

For highways/freeways only. Full-Speed Range DRCC is standard on all Corolla Hatchback models, except those equipped with a manual transmission. Those having a manual transmission are equipped with DRCC. Full-Speed Range DRCC is an adaptive cruise control that is designed to function at speeds between 0 to 110 mph and enables low-speed speed matching, stopping, and acceleration/deceleration relative to a preceding vehicle traveling at a slower speed. Speed, cut-in, and distance control enhanced, as well as Turn Signal Linked control added, for a more natural response.

Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist:

Newly added to LDA w/SA is the capability, under some circumstances, to detect the road’s edge, in addition to the pre-existing capability to detect visible lane markers and the vehicle’s position in the lane. If unintentional lane deviation is detected, the system alerts the driver with audible and visual warnings. Steering Assist provides small corrective steering inputs momentarily to help the driver prevent the vehicle from unintentionally leaving its lane.

Automatic High Beam:

Capability to automatically activate and deactivate high beams based on driving environment and preceding vehicle’s lights.

Lane Tracing Assist:

For highways/freeways, only and can be enabled when using DRCC. It has the capability to recognize white or yellow lane markings or the path of a preceding vehicle if lane markers are temporarily not available; to identify and actively track the center of the lane by providing steering assistance to the driver via a hands-on, driver-assist system. Reduces driver burden and supports safe driving, especially in traffic congestion or long highway trips. The LTA system can be turned on/off.

Road Sign Assist:

Capability to identify certain Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter and Speed Limit signs and display a warning; visual and audible alerts. They vary based on sign type and are displayed on the Multi-Information Display.

Toyota told us that the Corolla Hatchback will be aimed at buyers 35-years-old or younger. In a word that means connectivity will be of the utmost importance.

For SE, standard Entune 3.0 Audio will include an 8-inch touchscreen; six speakers; Apple CarPlay; Amazon Alexa integration; Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect; Safety Connect; Wi-Fi Connect; Scout GPS Link Compatible; Siri Eyes Free; Auxiliary audio jack and USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control; AM/FM; MP3/WMA playback capability; Voice Recognition training and tutorials; Hands-free phone capability; voice recognition and music streaming via Bluetooth; Customizable Home Screen; and Weather/Traffic info via Entune 3.0 App Suite.

Entune 3.0 Audio Plus, which is standard on XSE and optional on SE CVT, adds HD Radio and Weather/Traffic info; SiriusXM with Cache Radio; Entune 3.0 Connected Services; Service Connect; Remote Connect. Topping the range is Entune 3.0 Audio Premium that’s optional on XSE CVT. The system includes a JBL 8-speaker 800-watt system with Clari-Fi; Dynamic Voice Recognition; Dynamic Navigation; Dynamic POI Search; and Destination Assist Connect.

Although prices had not been finalized at the time of the test drive, I have no doubt Toyota will be aggressive enough that the 2019 Corolla Hatchback becomes an instant player in the hot hatch segment of the market.

Frank S. Washington is editor of

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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