Lat­est Corolla ex­udes so­phis­ti­ca­tion, style

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Saltwire wheels - BY JUSTIN PRITCHARD WHEELS

2019 Toy­ota Corolla hatch­back XSE (1): As it is around town, the Toy­ota Corolla hatch­back’s ride con­sis­tently bal­ances sporti­ness and com­fort.

The new-for-2019 Corolla Hatch­back is a (very) fresh new take on Toy­ota’s small-car sales su­per­star. This time around, Toy­ota didn’t want to sim­ply up­date its leg­endary Corolla as they must ev­ery few years — they wanted to raise the bar in the Cana­dian small-car seg­ment in a big and real way.

Sure, ev­ery new car ever launched makes that claim, but Toy­ota’s re­ally backed it up. This lat­est Corolla vari­ant is among the mar­ket’s most com­pre­hen­sively-equipped, af­ford­able, high-tech and stylish of­fer­ings. It comes wrapped in one of the most strik­ing bod­ies in the seg­ment, with plenty of an­gu­lar de­tail invit­ing in­spec­tion, and a mean lit­tle mug cap­ping off the front end.

Here’s a small car with many strengths, few weak­nesses and one that ticks more of the right boxes in more of the right ar­eas than many a com­peti­tor — and all at a strong price point.

If you like, you can or­der yours with a sweet six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion. The shifter, de­spite a long throw, is smooth and easy­go­ing. The clutch is light, but with­out feel­ing mushy or vague. The throt­tle pro­gram­ming feels nat­u­ral. Re­sult? It’s smooth with­out much ef­fort, easy to learn on, and will likely feel ‘just right’ to guys and gals who have been driv­ing man­ual trans­mis­sions for decades. Give it a try, it’s quite good.

Power comes from a new, two-litre, 168-horse­power, four-cylin­der that prom­ises great mileage and comes with a su­per-ex­cit­ing (al­beit pos­si­bly mislead­ing), nick­name whipped up by the mar­ket­ing de­part­ment.

The so-called Dy­namic Force pow­er­plant is a thrifty en­gine with a sporty name that works best when driven gen­tly — where it’s smooth, rel­a­tively quiet, very easy on fuel and rarely makes a peep. En­thu­si­asts will ap­pre­ci­ate the en­gine’s high-revving red­line, pegged at the bet­ter part of 7,000 RPM. Thing is, you’ll need all of those to get the Corolla Hatch­back mov­ing in any sort of hurry, since low-end torque is fairly mea­ger.

Worked hard, the en­gine sounds fairly un­re­mark­able and be­comes nois­ier than the norm in the seg­ment. Over­all per­for­mance is de­cent, but de­spite the sporty Dy­namic Force moniker, this en­gine is most im­pres­sive for its re­fine­ment when driven gen­tly and not for its per­for­mance when pushed.

A tidy, for­mal, dark and techy cabin flaunted gen­er­ous amounts of stitch­ing and soft-touch ma­te­ri­als to im­part a higher-end feel. Gloss-black ac­cents and a big touch-screen, front and cen­tre, con­veyed modern flair. All said, the cabin tends to feel and look pricier than it ac­tu­ally is. There’s a def­i­nite Euro­pean in­flu­ence to the de­sign — log­i­cal, clean and up­scale but with­out be­ing glitzy. Lit­tle you can look at or touch, on board, comes off as low-bud­get.

I noted no is­sues with en­try and exit to the front seats. With­out a sun­roof, your 5’11 cor­re­spon­dent found at least

five fingers worth of room be­tween his head and the ceil­ing, in my ideal driv­ing po­si­tion.

This isn’t the big­gest or roomi­est car avail­able for the money, though those of av­er­age size will find it just fine, if a touch sporty-snug. This is re­flected in the cargo area, which is shal­lower and shorter than you may ex­pect. It’ll fit a few suit­cases or a load of gro­ceries and comes with fold­ing rear seats to help ac­com­mo­date big­ger items. But there are nu­mer­ous other op­tions at this price if cargo ca­pac­ity is of prime con­cern.

The load floor sits at or above bumper height and the low rear win­dow means taller items will chew up rear­ward vis­i­bil­ity quickly. Out­ward sight­lines are gen­er­ally good, while blindspot mon­i­tor­ing and a backup cam­era sup­ple­ment vis­i­bil­ity to­ward the trick­ier rear of the ve­hi­cle.

Ride qual­ity is well done. Even nasty and beaten-up roads do lit­tle to break the com­po­sure and the Corolla Hatch­back feels dense and durable over badly bro­ken pave­ment, with a ride that’s slightly sporty, but never spine-smash­ingly so.

The sus­pen­sion is taut, though a layer of soft­ness around the edges seems care­fully de­ployed to min­i­mize harsh­ness. Steer­ing also stays nicely iso­lated over bumps and rarely tugs or pulls from your grip. It’s all nicely di­alled in for con­sis­tent com­fort, even on crum­bling roads.

It’s an apt high­way tourer as well. For in­stance, a slight numb­ness on cen­tre means the steer­ing is easy to op­er­ate smoothly at speed and once the numb-zone is over­come the steer­ing re­sponds quickly and with a ra­tio fast enough to di­rect things with your wrists and fingers, not your arms and shoul­ders. Noise lev­els are about av­er­age, with min­i­mal need for voice rais­ing un­til slightly past the high­way speed

limit.

As it is around town, the ride con­sis­tently bal­ances sporti­ness and com­fort, the first just slightly more so than the lat­ter. Brakes of­fer good ini­tial bite at the pedal, strong over­all per­for­mance and a slightly more pre­cise-than-av­er­age feel at the pedal, round­ing out Corolla’s fine-tuned feel.

At night, ex­pect good head­light per­for­mance from the low beams and great per­for­mance from the (au­to­matic!) high­beams.

In tighter spa­ces, the fast and light steer­ing and backup cam­era sys­tem aid in con­fi­dent ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity, though the turn­ing cir­cle ra­dius feels a touch big­ger than the ve­hi­cle’s size leads on.

A fi­nal strength of note is the fea­ture con­tent and price. My tester clocked in around $24,000 with lit­tle less than ev­ery­thing you may want from a small car. Ap­ple CarPlay func­tion­al­ity, radar cruise, push­but­ton start, heated seats, wire­less Smart­phone recharg­ing, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, lane de­par­ture alert with steer­ing as­sist, and a large cen­tral touch-screen in­ter­face were all in­cluded.

And that’s only a par­tial list. Trans­la­tion? For very rea­son­able money, you’ve got all the safety, con­nec­tiv­ity and con­ve­nience gad­gets go­ing, as well as some of the most in­stant­lyrec­og­niz­able looks in the game.

If your pri­or­i­ties in a small car lean less to­ward max­i­mum size for the buck and more heav­ily to­ward fuel econ­omy, strik­ing style, abun­dant fea­ture con­tent and a gen­er­ous help­ing of ad­vanced safety fea­tures, this lat­est Corolla hatch­back should be on your radar.

It’s a rolling col­lec­tion of the most in-de­mand fea­tures, fu­el­sav­ing im­ple­ments, safety tech­nolo­gies and styling touches in the seg­ment to­day.

And it’s a car that’ll see nu­mer­ous com­peti­tors step­ping up their game, per­haps es­pe­cially on the stan­dard safety equip­ment front.

That’s a good thing for the shop­per.

TOY­OTA PHO­TOS

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