2019 Toyota Corolla XSE Hatchback Test Driving Review and Features Explanation, Oxmoor Toyota, Louisville, KY 40222

The 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback’s interior controls are straightforward and the instrument cluster displays are easy to manipulate with buttons located on the steering wheel. Simplicity is key; there are no buttons on the dashboard that anyone really needs. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon the driver's preference. But simplicity is what has defined this nameplate for decades, and Toyota is sticking to that tried and true formula.

There are no gimmicks with the car's familiar automatic transmission shifter, and the climate control system contains few, if any, surprises. The audio system has knobs – a dead horse issue I feel hasn't been flogged to death yet. It's good to have knobs in case you don't feel like messing around with menus and steering wheel buttons while you're driving. So thanks for that, Toyota.

Toyota generously doles out active safety features for the Corolla, regardless of trim. Pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane-tracing assist, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control are all standard features. Blind spot monitoring is optional on the base-level SE trim (albeit only with a continuously variable transmission). It comes standard on the XSE.

In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Toyota Corolla Hatchback aced everything except headlight performance, resulting in a “Top Safety Pick” rating.

Kudos to Toyota for hanging on to naturally aspirated engines. It does them well. The front-wheel-drive Corolla hatch comes with a 168-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers solid fuel economy and decent acceleration. Unfortunately, you have to wait until the engine winds up to 4,800 rpm to reach peak torque, and 6,600 rpm to realize its full horsepower potential.

What that means in practice is that stomping the go pedal to the floor creates a buzzy drone that doesn't really compel the car to move in an overly sporty manner. It's OK – not at all bad. The engine works well when you're already at speed. But it's not great at moving the car's nearly 3,100-lb. bulk quickly away from a position of rest. The turbocharged engines many other manufacturers are leaning on for their small-displacement engines do a better job of delivering the goods to drivers looking for seat-of-the-pants driving fun.

I haven't had a chance to drive the 6-speed manual version of this car, but I've heard good things. The Corolla's new Dynamic Shift CVT works better than those in most cars thanks to a physical gear that helps to launch the car, but it really doesn't do much to work around the engine's limitations. If you’re so inclined, you can engage in a semblance of shifting aided by a pair of gear-selector paddles mounted ever-so-sportily on the steering wheel.

The car handles and stops well, thanks in no small part to its tidy dimensions and the 15-inch brake rotors mounted at all four corners. The electric steering is responsive, if a bit wooden with regards to road feel. But Toyota's secret weapon is called active cornering assist, a computer aided system that controls braking and drive output to counter the effects of understeer often felt during hard cornering.

Limitations aside, the little Corolla hatch is fun to drive when small size and nimble handling give the driver an edge over slower-moving traffic. Where the Corolla hatchback really shines, though, is in the fuel economy department. Among similarly equipped versions of the Civic Sport, Mazda 3, and the VW Golf, the Corolla hatch has the highest EPA fuel economy rating.

On my test loop, I got 34 miles per gallon, which is a little higher than the EPA's combined city-highway average.

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8003 Shelbyville Road
Louisville KY 40222
(502) 426-1200

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