Toyota Corolla Hatchback (2019 - ) review
Toyota’s Corolla is a generously equipped hatchback that competes in the same class as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Renault Megane.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The Toyota Corolla represents a fine choice in the competitive family hatchback segment. It looks distinctive, has a high-quality cabin, it drives well and has the appeal of two different hybrid systems that help make it a very solid financial proposition. It can’t live with its best rivals for practicality or performance, but otherwise, the Corolla is a very well-rounded package, and well worth your consideration.
Reasons to buy
- Attractive styling
- High quality interior
- Smooth ride
Interested in buying a Toyota Corolla?
How good does it look?
Extravagant styling is the hallmark of the Corolla, with Toyota’s designers clearly having put in a lot of effort to make the hatchback distinctive. Upswept light clusters, a wide front grille and the option, on higher-spec models, of having a two-tone paint scheme – with a black contrast roof – go a long way to ensuring that the Corolla should attract plenty of customers to Toyota showrooms on the strength of its appearance alone. In the family hatchback market, it is certainly one of the most distinctive offerings there is.
All versions come with alloy wheels, front fog lights and LED headlights, with the entry-level Icon model rolling on 16-inch wheels and the Design upgrading to 17-inch versions and adding LED versions of the front fog lights as well as tinted privacy glass on the rear windows. The Excel model has 18-inch wheels and more powerful bi-LED headlights.
What's the interior like?
One of Toyota’s better cabins, the interior of the Corolla perhaps lacks the showiness of the related C-HR crossover, but it more than makes up for this with a degree of solidity that is found through everything you touch and feel. All of the switches and the major controls are pleasant to operate, while the seating position is very good indeed and there’s a slick 7.0-inch digital screen set into the instrument cluster, as well as a wide head-up display (HUD) in the driver’s line of sight. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that base specifications make do without the HUD and employ a simpler 4.2-inch colour screen. If we have any gripes about the cabin, they relate to the Corolla’s mediocre infotainment system, which doesn’t come with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and the clunky rocker switches for the heated seats.
How practical is it?
Truth be told, the Corolla is not the most accommodating car in the hatchback class. Rear legroom is average for the class and no more, while the chunky, almost sports-like seats up front limit space for the feet of passengers sitting in the back. The boot on the 2.0-litre Hybrid model holds a mere 313 litres, which is pretty poor for this class, although the 1.2 petrol and 1.8 Hybrid gain a slightly larger 361-litre space that is more competitive. While the rear seats fold down easily, there is a drop down to the boot floor from the loading lip.
What's it like to drive?
The Corolla has a smooth and comfortable ride, ably abetted by very little wind and/or tyre noise. Treat the Hybrid models’ throttle pedals gently and their part-electric propulsion systems are quiet and smooth, which also helps make the Corolla a pleasant vehicle to travel in, be that in town, on open country roads or while pounding along a motorway. What’s more, the handling is also impressive, with smooth and well-weighted steering, lots of grip and a nicely balanced feel in the corners.
How powerful is it?
The entry point to the Corolla’s engine range is a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 116 horsepower, but no more than 10 per cent of sales will be for this model. Interestingly, the company won’t offer any diesel-powered Corollas, and is instead focusing on hybrid power. The 1.8-litre, 122 horsepower Hybrid is familiar from other part-electric Toyota products, although extra sound-deadening and a more satisfying response from its continuously variable automatic gearbox (CVT) to full-throttle inputs makes it a little more palatable than in some other Toyotas. Performance, though, is only adequate from the 1.8, so it’s well worth considering the 2.0-litre Hybrid, which delivers a maximum output of 180 horsepower. This makes the Corolla feel suitably brisk and the 2.0 is also a little quieter and smoother than the 1.8 is.
How much will it cost me?
Compared to some non-hybrid rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Honda Civic, the hybrid version of Corolla is expensive to buy when you match trims and power, thanks largely to the extra technology in the Toyota.
But that reaps dividends when it comes to overall costs. Much better fuel economy, cheaper service, maintenance and repair bills and a superior resale value for the Toyota mean that we'd expect the Corolla to be considerably cheaper to run over several years. This is a car where it's really worth remembering that there's more to a car's cost than the purchase price.
How reliable is it?
Toyota has an enviable reputation for reliability and years of excellent performance – as a manufacturer – in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, which suggests the Corolla will be a dependable family run-around. One reason the company fits the often-criticised CVT gearbox to its hybrids, beyond the fuel-economy benefits, is that CVTs are highly dependable, with very few reported to go wrong.
However, here is a slight worry caused by the 2019 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study, which saw a dramatic slide by Toyota in the overall standings, with a below average score for the industry. Here's hoping that's just a blip on an otherwise excellent record.
Toyota includes a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty, giving potential Corolla customers added peace of mind.
How safe is it?
The Corolla scored the maximum five stars in crash tests by safety organisation Euro NCAO, and offers a superb level of standard-fit safety equipment across the board. All Corollas gain Toyota Safety Sense, a tech bundle that loads in a pre-collision warning system, adaptive (radar-controlled) cruise control, lane trace assist to help the driver remain in the correct lane, automatic high-beam lights and traffic sign recognition. Rear parking sensors are also standard from next-to-base trim upwards, and all of these items are often cost options on equivalently-specified rivals. On top of this, the Corolla has a tough, rigid, impact-absorbing bodyshell, a pedestrian impact protection system incorporated in the bonnet structure and seven airbags – driver and front passenger front and side airbags, a driver’s knee airbag and full-length curtain-shield airbags.
How much equipment do I get?
The Corolla’s trim grades are Icon, Icon Tech, Design and Excel, with Icon Tech likely to take the most sales. Basic Icon specification gets you 16-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate-control and a reversing camera, as well as a 4.2-inch colour instrument display. The Icon Tech adds into that generous specification with satellite-navigation and voice control, as well as the attractive seven-inch digital instrument cluster. The Corolla Design has 17-inch alloys, LED fog lights and privacy glass, while Excel brings in keyless entry and go, 18-inch alloys and sports seats with partial leather trim. We think Icon Tech is more than competitive when compared with rival products, while it provides a good level of equipment for the asking price.
Corolla is the best-selling nameplate in the history of automotive manufacturing and this model is sure to continue that long-held success. The Toyota is an interesting machine to look at, has a really good interior and a choice of two good hybrid systems. Throw in impressive driving manners and high levels of comfort, and it’s clear to see the Corolla is one of the leading lights in its particular market segment.