Out from the shadows — Toyota’s 2019 Corolla Hatchback

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(April 1, 2018) The previous generation of the Toyota Corolla Hatchback was called the Scion iM, then Toyota Corolla iM. It was based on the European market Toyota Auris, which itself was based on the Toyota Avensis platform. For 2019, it gets a full name, Corolla Hatchback, and moves to Toyota’s modular TNGA platform.

The switch to a new platform (officially known as TNGA C in this application) sees increased use of aluminum and high-strength steel, additional bracing, more spot welds, and an increase in adhesive bonding.

Enough, Toyota claims, to increase torsional rigidity by an impressive 60%. As can be seen by the chart, it’s also longer, lower, wider, and has a longer wheelbase. The front and rear tracks are wider, and the hood is two inches lower There are detail changes to the front MacPherson strut suspension including updated jounce stopper clearance and anti-roll bar location points, revised coil spring and damper rates, and reduced friction. The multilink independent rear suspension is retained, though with improvements to the spring and damper rates, lower control arm mounting point (to increase high-speed toe-in), and the dampers relocated to improve cargo capacity and low-frequency longitudinal inputs.

Power is supplied by a new Dynamic Force 2.0-liter inline four (known internally as the M20A-FKS) mated to either a CVT automatic or six-speed manual transmission. The new engine has a larger displacement but smaller external size than the outgoing 1.8-liter, lower NVH levels, and a 13:1 compression ratio. It also has a number of interesting features, including a more rigid crankcase with integrated stiffener, a resin cylinder head to reduce weight, ribbed oil pan, direct and port fuel injection, electric motor-driven variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust cams, a lightweight timing chain, and high-strength steel connecting rods.

The new Dynamic-Shift CVT has 10 simulated gears, a Sport mode, paddle shifters, and a physical first gear to improve launch performance. For those who are even mildly coordinated and seek the comfort of physical gears, the new six-speed iMT (intelligent Manual Transmission) weighs a total of 88 lb. (-15 lb.), is 0.94 in. shorter than before, and has rev matching on downshifts.

Weirdly, Toyota refers to the rounded nose/trapezoidal grille opening as a further revolution of its Under Priority Catamaran and Keen Look design philosophies. A look, it should be noted, that is repeated in the rear fascia.

If that’s not enough, the design theme for the Corolla Hatchback was Shooting Robust with a goal of Agile. Helpfully, Toyota’s press release mentions that Shooting references the car’s sport coupe traits, though it might just as well have described the suicide method used by the poor hack who had to write this tripe.

The 0.8 in. cut from the front end has been grafted onto the rear, and LED lighting is used front and rear on both models (SE and XSE). Adaptive front lighting is available only on the XSE fitted with the CVT, though you’d think Toyota would have offered it on manual-equipped models, as choosing that gearbox suggest a more sporting driver who might like headlights that turn to illuminate the next apex.

At least the interior designers had words that made sense when they sat down at their desks: Sensuous Minimalism. Apparently this means pairing high gloss materials with matte elements, having available contrast stitching, reducing the gaps between switches and buttons, adding room for 24-oz. (front) and 16-oz. (rear) bottles in the door pockets, placing the HVAC controls below the infotainment controls, making an 8.0-in. touchscreen standard, and adding a tray ahead of the shift lever that can be outfitted with Qi wireless charging.

That minimalism extends to a pair of standard USB outlets in the front cabin, one-touch up/down windows, Entune 3.0 audio, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa integration, and more. Step up to the XSE and you add unique stitching on the instrument panel and door panels, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, Entune 3.0 Audio Plus, and more. Yep, minimal.

On the safety front, the Corolla Hatchback comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. This features: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Protection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beam, and Lane Tracing Assist. The last item is the newest, and — when the radar cruise control is in use — can recognize white or yellow lane markings or follow the path of vehicle ahead if they are temporarily unavailable while providing steering assistance to track the center of the lane.

Seven airbags and a backup camera are standard, as is Toyota’s Star Safety System. This includes: Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, ABS, and Smart Stop Technology. In addition, Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) is standard on XSE and available on SE, but neither includes Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. 

The Virtual Driver