For decades the Toyota Corolla has been the go to car for buyers that wanted a reliable and practical compact car, but no one has ever really said that the Corolla is exciting, with the exception of the rear-wheel drive AE86 models from the 1980s. Well it’s about time for a change. The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is determined to forever change what you think and feel when you hear the name Corolla. Boring is out and in its place Toyota has introduced one of the most “exciting” models that we’ve seen in years with a Corolla badge on the trunk.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review

The compact hatchback segment is very crowded. Just a few years ago, there were only a few compact hatchbacks available in the United States, but it looks like buyers in the U.S. are finally seeing the light. Now nearly every mainstream automaker offers a compact hatchback, which means that Toyota couldn’t just simply do a boring redo of the outgoing Corolla iM. The segment is dominated by the Honda Civic and Mazda3 hatchbacks, both of which are far sportier and more exciting than the previous Corolla iM.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review

To start with, the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is based on Toyota’s new TNGA platform, which is used by a growing number of models, like the Camry, Prius and Avalon. The TNGA platform is the basis for Toyota’s attempt to infuse a bit more excitement into its cars. Toyota has finally realized that reliability will only take you so far, today buyers demand more style and tech features than ever before. The 2019 Corolla Hatchback is lower and wider than before, which gives it a more planted look. The wheels have also been pushed further to the corners of the car.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review

On the outside, the 2019 Corolla Hatchback is stylish and sporty. At the front it gets a massive grille, like the latest Camry and Avalon, although its better integrated here. Standard LED headlights give the front fascia a more techy look and the available 18-inch wheels continue the sporty theme. At the rear the hatch is more sculpted than before with an integrated spoiler and more athletic rear spoiler.

Toyota did a lot more than just add sportier styling to the Corolla Hatchback. Under the hood there’s a new 2.0L four-cylinder engine that generates 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft. of torque, that’s 31 more horsepower and 25 more lb-ft. than before. The four-cylinder can be mated to either a new CVT with a real first gear or a six-speed manual transmission. The CVT has a real first gear to help alleviate some of the whine that plagues other CVTs, while the manual has a neat iMT mode with a rev match feature. The Corolla Hatchback also has a sport mode to liven things up further and if you choose the CVT, you’ll also get paddle shifters that will let you run through the 10 simulated steps (not gears).

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review

During our drive around San Diego, California, the 2019 Corolla Hatchback was actually fun to drive, again something we’d never really say about a Corolla. The manual transmission with the iMT function makes the Corolla feel more like a hot hatch than the old Corolla iM. The steering isn’t too light and the suspension is more athletic than you’d expect. Through the winding back roads, the Corolla Hatchback stayed composed, while the Sport and iMT modes added to the fun.

The more powerful four-cylinder is an improvement, but its still not as fun as the Civic Hatchback’s turbocharged four-cylinder. The Mazda3’s optional 2.5L engine is also more powerful. We asked Toyota if there are any plans to offer a more powerful version of the Corolla Hatchback, but all we got was a “not on the drawing board” reply. There has been reports about a hotter version, so lets hope it happens. The Corolla Hatchback’s platform is a great starting place, it could just use a bit more power under the hood.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review

Since Toyota is aiming the 2019 Corolla Hatchback at the 35 and under crowd, it knew that it needed to follow up the sportier styling with the latest tech features that millennials demand. The standard 8-inch touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay connectivity, Entune 3.0 apps. There’s also a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless charging for your phone, Amazon Alexa integration, and you can even control some of the Corolla Hatchback’s functions via your smart watch. In front of the driver there’s multi-information display that comes in either 4.2. or 7-inch sizes. With the all the latest features, there seems to be only one thing missing – a sunroof. Also Toyota is still not comfortable with the amount of data that Google captures with Android Auto, so it’s not an option, yet.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback Review

Just like the exterior, the Corolla Hatchback’s interior is more stylish than before. Its front seats look and feel sportier with their thicker side bolsters and there’s more high quality materials throughout. There is one thing that definitely stood out compared to the Civic and Mazda3, the interior feels more snug than its two main rivals. Toyota says that the 2019 Corolla Hatchback has 85 cubic feet of passenger volume, but that comes in below the Civic with its 97.2 cubic feet of space and the Mazda3’s 96.4 rating. There’s also less cargo room with the Corolla Hatchback only offering 18 cubic feet of space with the rear seat up, compared to 25.7 with the Civic Hatchback and 20.2 in the Mazda3.

The 2019 Corolla Hatchback comes standard with all the latest safety tech, like a Pre-Collision system with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam and Lane Tracing Assist. A Blind Spot Monitor is also available, but for some reason Toyota decided to not offer it on manual equipped models.

With Toyota’s new focus on making stylish and fun to drive cars, Toyota is entering a new era that finally ditches that “appliance” label. The 2019 Corolla Hatchback’s combination of style, more agile handling and available features combine to create one of the best models that we’ve seen with a Corolla badge. The 2019 Corolla Hatchback will arrive in showrooms in July. When you visit your dealer, make sure you bring up the need for a hot hatch version, it couldn’t hurt…