Toyota returns with a fully redesigned, five-door Corolla for the #SaveTheManuals crowd.
It's been two years since Toyota decided to cull ailing youth brand Scion, yet its descendents live on. Toyota made quick work of the boxy xB and tC coupe by jettisoning them into the sea. Meanwhile, the Japanese automaker still saw fit to keep three of Scion's offerings for itself. Toyota renamed the FR-S as the 86 and gave the iA a Yaris nameplate to slot in as its subcompact sedan. The iM hatchback was the third car to survive Scion's death, and it's seen enough success for Toyota to give it another go.
At the 2018 New York Auto Show, Toyota gave us our first look at the brand-new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, an immediate descendant of the now-gone Scion iM the company had introduced to America in 2015. Like many of the youth brand's model, the iM wasn't naturally born a Scion. Instead, it was a rebadged Toyota Auris—a European model engineered to satiate decidedly European tastes. The new Corolla Hatchback continues that tradition as a twin of the Auris, which also debuted earlier this year, but at least Toyota will offer American buyers different powertrain options to quench our thirsts for raw, gasoline-derived power.
Replacing the anemic 1.8-liter four-pot found in the previous iM is a brand-new TNGA 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for the new Corolla Hatchback. Toyota didn't detail output for the car's new Dynamic-Force M20A-FKS mill in New York, though we can derive some numbers from the same engine used in the new 2019 Lexus UX, which Toyota quoted as producing up to 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque in non-hybrid guise. Expect about the same—maybe a little less—for the new hatch, meaning it could pack an extra 31 hp and 25 lb-ft of torque to push a car that may weigh a bit less than the outgoing model. It won't be a pocket rocket, but it won't be a slug, either.
Power is sent exclusively to the front wheels by way of two all-new transmissions: a standard six-speed iMT manual and a Dynamic-Shift continuously variable unit with 10 simulated gears, Sport Mode, paddle shifters, and a launch gear that allows the box to have a wide effective gear ratio of 7.5. Toyota claims that last bit is class leading for the 2.0-liter segment, though—in real terms—it makes launches smoother and more immediate than a typical CVT. If you'd rather swap cogs on your own volition with the six-speed manual, the Corolla Hatchback will adjust its engine speed to better match that of your chosen gear between shifts. The unit is also smaller and lighter, which Toyota claims contributes to some fuel-efficiency gains.
Toyota is deep in the midst of a wholesale, generational product change—and the Corolla Hatchback is no exception. As with nearly every new vehicle the company has revealed since 2015, the new five-door migrates to Toyota's modular TNGA platform for 2019. Its modus operandi is simple: set a fit distance a between the front axle and dash, but allow engineers and designers to change virtually everything else. That means TNGA is as at home underpinning the Corolla Hatchback as it is the Lexus LC500 coupe and Toyota Prius hybrid. It's a marvelous bit of engineering that gives the car a longer wheelbase and wider track, paired with MacPhearson strut and multi-link rear suspension setups.
Unfortunately, much of TNGA's magic will be lost on the typical consumer; the Corolla Hatchback's new design will define the car in the eyes of most. Up front, the hatchback wears an evolved version of Toyota's slim grille with a protruding nose sporting the corporate emblem. Beneath that sits a much larger lower grille, like the mouth of Loud Howard, trimmed in chrome and bookended by two, small fog lamps. Headlights gain some daytime LED illumination in the shape of hockey sticks—three Js in each lamp. Viewed straight on, the Corolla Hatchback looks like a thoroughly unique offering, but the story changes when you peek at it from the side or rear.
In profile, you'd be forgiven for thinking the newest Toyota is a next-generation Mazda3. With lines so similar, so familiar, it makes me wonder if Mazda's designers have either influenced or defected to Toyota's team. Toyota said the hatch's front wheels have been further pushed to the corners and the rear gains some overhang, but it looks like there's still a fair bit of snout here. A kicked-up rear windowline and some of the side sheet metal flourishes scream KODO. A rounder, more aggressively raked rear finishes the look with two boomerang-shaped taillamps housing composed entirely of LEDs. A spoiler over the rear glass gives the Corolla Hatchback a sporting touch.
Inside, the Toyota is all new and looks to go against the company's typical plasicky-but-durable interior game. Instead of textured, dull composites, the Corolla Hatchback is festooned with high-gloss black trim and stitched, leatherette surfaces. The center console is wider. Its dash is lower. And affixed to the top of it all is a new 8-inch touchscreen running Toyota's latest version of its Entune infotainment system, now at version 3.0. Apple CarPlay is standard, but you won't find Android Auto here. Still, the typical assortment of connectivity features—Bluetooth, USB, voice recognition—along with some more exotic extras, such as Amazon Alexa integration, shouldn't leave you wanting for much. Entune Audio Plus brings an upgraded 800W stereo, too.
The all-new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback will be available later this year. The automaker has not yet announced pricing, but expect it to land within close proximity of the current Corolla iM's base price of $18,850. We'll have more detail and driving impressions on the redesigned model in late April.