Pedro Arrais review: Toyota Corolla Hatchback aimed at Canadian buyers

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Canadians are defined by their love of the double-double, universal medical care and hatchbacks. To satisfy their automotive cravings, Toyota recently introduced the 2019 Corolla Hatchback.

While the popularity of the SUV/crossover segment goes on unabated, for many Canadians they are too big and too expensive for their needs.

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The five-door hatchback has for years been the default for frugal and practical working people. They are generally easy on the pocketbook, versatile and use less gas than a larger SUV.

Vehicles are generally less expensive (and fuel consistently cheaper) south of the border. That, combined with higher wages, has meant that Americans have usually sought out larger vehicles.

That matters to Canadians, because it is cheaper for manufacturers to make one model to serve the two countries. If the vehicle is not popular in the U.S., there is little incentive to bring it in exclusively for the Canadian market.

Toyota has always had a hatchback in the mix, with the discontinued Matrix a popular model throughout its life. Recently, with the demise of the Scion brand, one of the models — the iM — was rebadged as the Toyota Corolla iM. (Trivia fact: Although the Scion logo got replaced by a Toyota badge, the Corolla emblem was never applied.)

The compact hatchback crowd includes the recently introduced hatchback versions of the Honda Civic and the Chevrolet Cruze, the Mazda 3 and the Volkswagen Golf. All these models are available with equivalent four-door sedan models.

The Corolla Hatchback is available with either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. Cars equipped with the CVT have four trim levels, compared with the manual transmission’s three.

I drove a CVT model with the XSE trim package, the top of the line for the model.

The Corolla Hatchback sits on Toyota’s New Global Architecture platform, which also underpins a number of Toyota and Lexus models.

If you have oohed and aaah-ed over the latest Toyota and Lexus design language, you will not be disappointed with what they have done with the Hatchback. With a gaping maw, piercing projectors for eyes and curves everywhere, it is a very sporty-looking car.

At 4,375 millimetres long, the Hatchback is slightly longer than the Golf, but shorter than others mentioned above.

While some manufacturers have chosen to stuff a turbocharger under the hood, Toyota has instead to stick with a twin-cam 16-valve engine with both direct and port fuel injection instead.

The inline four produces 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. While its horsepower output is impressive, the Corolla trails all but the 2.0-litre Mazda in low-end thrust. Not surprisingly, all the vehicles boasting more torque are equipped with turbochargers.

The continuously variable transmission is unique as it features both belts and pulleys and an actual gear. The physical gear engages first, then passes the power over to its gearless cousin. Toyota engineers claims this aids initial acceleration and gives drivers a more conventional feel than a CVT at launch.

They have also programmed 10 simulated gears a driver can manually select via steering-wheel paddle shifters.

Even with all this engineering wizardry, the Corolla Hatchback is no speed demon, but it is no slouch off the line either, with ample power for most road situations.

A manual transmission is available for those who still demand the utmost control over engine gearing.

The suspension inspires confidence thanks in part to an independent rear suspension. With a lower centre of gravity than a typical crossover or SUV, the Corolla brings back that joy of driving back roads.

Toyota is a master when it comes to delivering high quality at a very reasonable price point, and the new Hatchback interior is a good example of its craft.

Despite obvious cost constraints, the interior manages to punch above its weight, with soft-touch materials in all the right places and an attractive two-tone colour scheme. The only omission was that of a sunroof of any kind. In an era of manufacturers fitting panorama roofs on just about anything, the lack of glass over your head, even as an option, surprised me.

The XSE package includes a seven-inch infotainment screen with various controls and functions. The upgraded system includes a GPS-based navigation system, replacing the Scout GPS Link found on Entune, Toyota’s proprietary smartphone-based system. The system also includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and an emergency assistance button.

There is a Corolla nameplate on this new car. In the past, it was your assurance of quality and reliability in an affordable package. While the same attributes still apply to the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, I would like to add two more — good-looking and fun.

Canadians can now grab a double-double on their way to their medical appointment looking good in their favourite choice of vehicle. How cool is that?

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Compact five-door hatchback, front engine, front-wheel drive

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder 168 hp at 6,600 r.p.m., 151 pounds feet of torque at 4,800 r.p.m.

Transmission: CVT

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,375; width, 1,790; height, 1,435; wheelbase, 2,640

Curb weight (kg): 1,394

Price (base/as tested): $21,980/ $29,980 (includes $1,645 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: XSE package $6,000, metallic paint $255

Tires: 225/40 R18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Regular

Fuel economy (L/100km): 7.5 city/ 5.8 highway

Warranty: Three years/60,000 km new car, five years/100,000 km powertrain and roadside assistance

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