2019 Toyota Corolla Hatch Road Test, Launch Review
Since 1965, Toyota Corolla has been a top seller for the company, frequently topping the top ten Australian best seller list too.
TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) promises better performance, better handling, better economy, new engines and transmissions, and a sexier look and feel.
Does it deliver?
The face of Corolla is stunning.
All models have a handsome set of LED headlights. The fresh modern look is best viewed from the 3/4 view either from the front or back.
Toyota design can be quite complex with lines, cuts, and sculpturing everywhere. Corolla manages to make sense of the language. Bulges over the guards and deeply sculptured lower doors make the little hatch look muscular.
Headlights have an auto-on function with smart high beams as standard and look a million dollars.
From the back, Corolla looks like a concept drawing has come to life. Deep folds cross the tail lights and bumper emphasise bright LEDs outlining the clusters. It is quite beautiful.
Indicators and reversing lights are equally bright, and each of the grades has a hybrid model. So, the Toyota badge has a blue highlight and enormous HYBRID badge to signify batteries are on board.
Integrated exhaust outlets and smooth bumper with blackened lower section make the rump look positively petite.
Beneath the doors, a body kit flares slightly adding an extra nod to sporty aspirations.
The rear hatch is made of a composite material and feels very light to lift open.
The side profile doesn’t have quite the dynamic impact of the front and rear, but as a package, styling looks the business.
A lot of time and effort has gone in to making the cabin comfortable without losing function.
We like a soft feel to interior surfaces, and the top of the dashboard looks hard, but is deeply cushioned. The middle dash has a large floating 8” tablet. Top models get upgraded JBL speakers too.
There is no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. However, mirroring function for Android phones provides some of the Android Auto functionality.
The touch screen has fixed buttons on each side with vents below for face level air. All models have air conditioning with the SX and ZR having dual zone climate control with Sync function.
A driver can use thumbs for the steering wheel’s auxiliary controls to activate Radar Cruise control (with sign recognition). When the speed changes, “confirming” will set the cruise speed at the speed limit. Distance to the car in front can be changed by scrolling through the distance options.
Stitching detail on dash and doors looks classy on the material which simulates leather.
I’d like to have seen a digital instrument readout for all driver information, but the part digital dash does a decent job of displaying most of what is needed without having to scroll through menus. A digital speedo can be displayed, and since all Corollas have active lane assist, lane markings can also be shown.
Even on base models, the seating feels comfortable and supportive. ZR gains leather with all models having deep side bolsters.
The front seats have plenty of room and seat adjustment gives a good driving position. Rear seats are supportive but knew room when 4 adults are on board is snug. There are about 5cm between my knee and the seat in front.
Getting in and out is an artform. The rear doors have a low upper edge
meaning you have to duck of you’ll get stuck halfway.
Boot space on cars with spare tyres is a trifle limited, but you could still carry a few decent sized bags. Rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split. ZR has a slightly deeper boot as it doesn’t have a spare tyre.
Good luck with the puncture repair and inflation kit though. I’ve never been able to get one to work.
2-up would be more comfortable on longer trips, with 4 on shorter trips, and 5 at a pinch. You probably need the back seats laid down on a road trip. Perhaps that’s something we should test?
All in all, the cabin looks sensational
See the full list here but here are a few highlights:
- Radar cruise control
- Dual climate control air conditioning
- Lane control with steering function
- Lane change assist
- Hybrid drivetrain option
- Manual in base model (with rev matching)
- CVT with launch feature (torque converter for first gear) with sport mode
- Reversing camera
- “safety sense” safety suite including AEB (autonomous emergency braking)
- Privacy glass
- 18” alloys on ZR
- JBL audio with 8 speakers on ZR
- Head up display on ZR
- $175 fixed price service (12mnth/15,000km) for 5 years
Drive and Engine
2 drivetrains can be had in all grades, with a 6 speed manual with rev matching available on the base model. A new CVT has a 10speed sequential shift function with a mechanical launch gear. It is intended to give the CVT more of a sporty feel, but that might be a claim too far.
Non-hybrid Corollas have an all-new 125kw/200Nm 2.0L engine. It has 15% more torque than the old model. Hybrids have had the once-over too. Improvements in battery and electric motor technologies mean the batteries charge 28% faster. They provide longer output too.
Toyota hybrids don’t require charging from an outlet, so use the petrol engine and regenerative braking to store energy in the battery bank under the back seats. A full EV mode works at lower speeds, but works with the petrol engines at all other times.
90kw is the somewhat modest combined output, but uses a mere 4.2L/100k of 95ron petrol.
Petrol quality has been an issue in Australia for many decades which Toyota says is the main reason for premium unleaded being needed.
All of this matters little if the on-road experience doesn’t live up to claims.
Corolla enjoys a high level of customer loyalty, so they’ll be impressed by the new suspension. Ride is almost luxurious. Corolla has new Macpherson struts at the front, and a redesigned multi-link rear end. Bumps are soaked up and only the coarsest of chip-tarmac bring noise into the cabin.
Handling is much improved too.
A computer uses the ABS to reduce understeer. Toyota made a big deal of this feature, but it looks like normal old stability control to me.
Have you ever gone in to a corner a little too fast only to have the car scrub tyres furiously because wants to go straight ahead? This system set-up means the car tries every trick in the book to keep you going where you’re pointing the it. As always, look where you want to go (not where you’re going). Stability control has made better drivers of us all.
Toyota has suffered from a dull driving experience in the past, but like new Camry, Corolla steering has livened up no end. There is no local tuning for steering and suspension, but steering no longer has a dead feeling to it. It is responsive with quick turns are a joy.
On the open road, Corolla buzzes along happily and with the cruise control engaged, the driver only has to worry about keeping an eye on things. Corolla will watch the speed for you, and will do its best to keep you centred in the lane. It can be intrusive so you would want to turn it off on those gorgeous twisty bits of road.
Like most of these systems, they’re aids only. You cannot remove your hands from the wheel without getting a stern talking to from the little lady in the dash. She also nags you furiously if you exceed the speed limit, and continues to nag you until you’re back in the limit. Unfortunately the recognition system doesn’t always get the speed right. It can show 60 in an 80 or 100 zone.
I found times when the steering assist was a little too intrusive. I tend to turn lane assist off most of the time, especially in spirit driving in those mountain passes. However, the great Aussie Roadtrip would be a doddle.
Steep climbs found the gap between 2nd and 3rd in the manual to be too large. The engine worked hard in 2nd but didn’t have quite enough oomph in 3rd. Although Corolla happily switched direction quickly, it didn’t have enough power and torque to carry the gears.
Overtaking on open roads needed a bit of planning too, especially when overtaking.
None the less, the drive was perfectly fine for most buyers. Corolla is quiet and the cabin feels well insulated from those annoying day-to-day foibles.
A HUD (head up display) on ZR adds excellent useability. Information is projected onto the windscreen in front of the driver, with speed and directions easily seen without taking eyes off the road.
One final word on the CVT: It has a mechanical launch gear which acts like a conventional automatic transmission at take-off. Once moving, it reverts to normal CVT function. In sports mode it will simulate a 10 speed fixed ration transmission, and feels more like a conventional automatic again.
- AEB– all models
- HUD (heads up display)
- ABS– all models
- Active cruise control with speed sign recognition – all models
- Active Lane control– all models
- Reversing camera– all models
- Sway detection with driver fatigue warning– all models
- Blind spot monitoring
- Auto high beam
- 2 isofix points
AS yet, Corolla has not been assessed for ANCAP, but Toyota anticipates a 5-star rating
- Smooth comfortable ride
- Quality interior, stunning exterior
- Active cruise/speed recognition all models
Not So Good Bits
- No spare tyres on some models
- 3 year warranty only
After many hours in the saddle, a few things became obvious.
For the most part, the drive matched the looks. Driver assist technology is extensive and was easy to use with the exception of the speed recognition. Although the speed sign is displayed in front of the driver on the HUD and in the instrument panel, I wasn’t able to “accept” the recommendation which then set the cruise control to that speed.
It is driver error, but it should be easy, and it isn’t. an owner would quickly work out how it is done.
I particularly liked the audio system, and evidentially, Toyota does too.
They flew JBL executives out from the USA to gives us a rundown on the system functions. After-market audio systems have gone the way of the dinosaurs so the head unit in the car is extremely important.
Like all tablet devices, the bit you see is all there is. In other words, the unit sitting on top of the dash board contains all the brains needed to make the thing work. I still find that remarkable. I also find the lack of Apple CarPlay equally remarkable.
Toyota knows this too.
In fact, Toyota is working to make CarPlay standard in future. They hinted that it might even be an upgrade that can be installed in current cars. Only time will tell, but at least Toyota has seen the light. Smart phone integration is something some of us can’t do without.
Although warranty is only 3 years/100,00km, a 5 year fixed price service of $175 applies to each of the first 5 services. It says Toyota is has confidence in their cars, but with 5 and 7 year warranties become commonplace, can Toyota afford to rest on their laurels?
There is a Toyota for almost every application, and if you include their luxury LEXUS brand, even posh people can have a bulletproof, reliable car from a brand that is rapidly becoming fun to drive.
NEW COROLLA HATCH PRICES
- Ascent Sport petrol manual $22,870
- Ascent Sport petrol CVT $24,370
- Ascent Sport hybrid $25,870
- SX petrol CVT $26,870
- SX hybrid CVT $28,370
- ZR petrol CVT $30,370
- ZR hybrid CVT $31,870
Facts and Figures: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatch
- Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder petrol producing 125kW/200Nm
- Engine: 1.8 four-cylinder hybrid producing 90kW
- Transmission: 6-speed Manual or Ten-speed CVT with launch gear
- Warranty: 3/ 100,000
- Safety: not tested as yet
- Origin: japan
- Price: from $22,890
Author: Alan Zurvas