2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback First Drive: As Good As It Looks

– Del Mar, California

Say what you will about the Toyota Corolla, but the fact remains it’s the best-selling car ever built. Full stop. Fifty successful years and more than 44 million Corollas sold have solidified the small sedan’s place atop the leaderboard and ahead of such names as F-150 and Beetle – and the nameplate shows no signs of slowing. With that in mind, the new Corolla Hatchback has all the right pieces to bolster the Corolla sedan’s sales success. It looks good, it comes with all the technology buyers in this segment want, and most importantly, it’s actually fun to drive.

Pricing announced:

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback: First Drive

The car is impressively composed, giving sporty rivals like the Mazda3 and Honda Civic hatchback significant reason to be worried.

Granted, the Corolla is no hot hatchback, no matter how much marketing execs pushed the terminology. The 2.0-liter engine produces 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, which makes it more powerful than the outgoing Corolla iM by 31 horses, but a bit less powerful than rivals like the turbocharged Honda Civic hatch (174 hp). That said, it’s still pretty quick; power is immediate off the line, and the engine is still punchy at higher speeds.

That newfound quickness is delivered by either a six-speed manual transmission with available rev-matching technology, or what Toyota calls a “Dynamic-Shift CVT.” For what it’s worth, I found the continuously variable transmission to b...