G. Chambers Williams

Toyota rolls out new Corolla Hatchback for 2019, with prices starting at $19,990

There’s a new hatchback version of the popular Toyota Corolla now on the market for 2019, with all-new exterior styling that previews the look of the restyled Corolla sedan coming for 2020.

Prices start at $19,990 (plus $920 freight) for the base SE model with a six-speed manual transmission, or $21,090 for the SE with a continuously variable automatic. The uplevel models are the XSE six-speed manual ($22,990) and XSE CVT ($24,090), which is the one we tested for this report.

The new Corolla hatch replaces last year’s Corolla iM, and is 0.6-inch shorter, 0.6-inch wider, and 0.4-inch lower than the iM. It also has a 1.5-inch longer wheelbase and wider track. Its hood is two inches lower, and it features a rounded nose and trapezoid-shaped under grille.

Under the hood is a new 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 168 horsepower and 151 foot-pounds of torque. Unlike some competitors, the Corolla Hatchback is available with the manual gearbox in all models. It has front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is not offered.

The continuously variable automatic has paddle shifters that simulate a 10-speed sequential-shift transmission, and includes a Sport Mode with what Toyota says is the “world’s first launch gear in a passenger-vehicle CVT.”

The hatchback’s engine has Dual VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing-intelligence), with VVT-iE (Variable Valve Timing-intelligence by Electric motor) on the intake side and VVT-i on the exhaust. VVT-iE uses an electric motor instead of oil pressure to control the valve timing, enhancing power output and fuel mileage, and reducing harmful emissions, the automaker says.

We had plenty of power in our tester, and the CVT seemed to shift more like a conventional transmission even without using the included manual paddle shifters.

Among standard features across the board are Toyota’s Entune 3.0 connectivity system with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa connectivity; a revised sport-tuned suspension and new underpinnings based on the Toyota New Global Architecture; and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. Surprisingly, though, the audio system does not support Android Auto, which supportd Android smartphones, the most-popular phones on the market worldwide.

J-shaped “Bi-Beam” LED headlights wrap into the front fenders. At the rear are LED taillights, a chrome diffuser, and a hatch made of lightweight plastics.

Alloy wheels come in two sizes: 16 inches for the SE models, and 18 inches for the XSE models like our test vehicle, which also had 225/40R18 tires.

Among other standard features on the XSE model are LED fog lights, a chrome front grille surround, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, and available Adaptive Front Lights (only on the XSE CVT). The Bi-Beam headlights move vertically and horizontally to provide optimal light output by analyzing steering angle and vehicle speed, Toyota says.

Our XSE tester came in the beautiful new Blue Flame exterior color. Other color choices include Blizzard Pearl, Silver Metallic, Midnight Black, Galactic Aqua Mica, Scarlet, and Oxide Bronze.

Inside, there are front bucket seats and a three-person rear bench. The instrument panel includes a high-resolution eight-inch multimedia touch screen that stands above the center dash. The center stack screen gives access to vehicle settings, audio and navigation controls, and smartphone and Entune 3.0 apps. The climate controls are beneath the touch screen.

The center console is wider and longer, and includes a center tray in front of the shifter to accommodate smartphones and wallets, or the optional Qi wireless device charger. A 5.5-inch smartphone can fit inside the center console box.

There are contrasting high-gloss and matte trim elements, with silver accents and optional contrast stitching. Front door storage pockets include cupholders big enough to hold 24-ounce bottles. Rear doors have cupholders that can handle 16-ounce bottles.

SE models have single-zone automatic climate control, a leather shift knob, and paddle shifters for the CVT behind the steering wheel. Also included are an electronic parking brake, three-door SmartKey system, automatic up/down windows and two front USB outlets.

XSE models come with dual-zone climate control, combination leather (leather with mélange-like fabric) seating, heated front seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, and the special stitching. Our XSE model came with the Moonstone leather interior; black is also available.

Behind the steering wheel on the XSE is a seven-inch TFT Multi-Information Display with vehicle information, turn-by-turn navigation and vehicle settings, including those for the Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Blind Spot Monitor.

The SE has the standard Entune 3.0 Audio with eight-inch touch screen and six speakers; Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility; Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect; Safety Connect; Wi-Fi Connect; Scout GPS Link Compatible; Siri Eyes Free; an auxiliary audio jack and USB 2.0 port with iPod tand control; AM/FM; MP3/WMA playback capability; Voice Recognition training and tutorials; hands-free phone capability; voice recognition and music streaming via Bluetooth; a customizable home screen; and weather/Traffic info via Entune 3.0 App Suite.

The Entune 3.0 Audio Plus comes standard on the XSE, but is also offered on the SE CVT model. It brings HD radio and weather/traffic info; SiriusXM with Cache Radio; Entune 3.0 Connected Services; Service Connect; and Remote Connect.

Available on XSE CVT models is the Entune 3.0 Audio Premium JBL system with eight speakers, 800-watt amplifier, Clari-Fi, Dynamic Voice Recognition, Dynamic Navigation, Dynamic POI Search; and Destination Assist Connect. It was not included on our XSE tester.

Standard is the second generation of the Toyota Safety Sense system, with new active-safety technologies. They include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection day or night (night is new), or daytime bicyclist (new), It alerts the driver (audible and visual warnings). It can apply the brakes to help mitigate or avoid a collision, using Forward Collision Warning, Brake Assist, and Automatic Emergency Braking. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is standard on all Corolla Hatchback models.

Also included are Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; automatic high beams; and Lane Tracing Assist. The new Road Sign Assist can identify Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter and Speed Limit signs and display visual and audible alerts. Alerts vary based on the sign type, and are displayed on the Multi-Information Display screen, Toyota says.

There are seven standard air bags and Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, antilock brakes and Smart Stop Technology.

Blind-spot monitoring is standard on the XSE and optional on the SE. All models have a backup camera.

While there is room for up to five people, the rear bench seat is more comfortable for two rather than three, and our rear passengers said they had adequate knee, leg and head room. A middle armrest with two cupholders can be pulled down for the outboard passengers when no one is sitting in the center position.

The front bucket seats are more comfortable than those of some compacts I’ve driven recently, and were even suitable for a long weekend drive.

We did some shopping and were surprised to find the rear cargo area relatively roomy, with 18 cubic feet of space even with the rear seatback up. With the seatback folded, space expands to 23.3 cubic feet.

Our 2019 Corolla Hatchback XSE with the CVT came with no options. Total sticker price was $25,065, including freight, which brought us a well-equipped vehicle that was fun to drive along with being quite practical.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

The package: Compact, five-door, five-passenger, four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive hatchback.

Highlights: Toyota has rolled out its all-new Corolla Hatchback for 2019, with new styling that suggests what the redesigned 2020 Corolla sedan will look like, minus the hatch. Besides having great new styling and decent fuel economy, this is a roomy and comfortable vehicle that seems more like a small luxury car than the affordable compact it is.

Negatives: All-wheel drive is not offered.

Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder.

Transmission: Six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic with physical first launch gear.

Power/torque: 168 HP./151 foot-pounds.

Length: 169.9 inches.

Curb weight: 3,060 pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock, with electric park brake.

Cargo volume: 18 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 23.3 cubic feet (rear seatback folded).

Air bags: Front; driver knee; front seat-mounted side; roof-mounted side-curtain for both rows.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Fuel capacity/type: 13.2 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 28 mpg city/37 highway/31 combined (SE manual); 32/42/36 (SE, CVT); 30/38/33 (XSE, CVT).

Major competitors: Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus.

Base price range: $19,990-$24,090, plus $920 freight.

Price as tested: $25,065, including freight (no options).

On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.