No other automaker has sold more hybrid electric vehicles than Toyota, the brand having initiated the electrification revolution way back in 1997, and now it’s surpassed 15 million units globally.
It took three years to get a slightly updated version of the first-generation Prius to North America in 2000, but four generations and some interesting side roads later (notably the subcompact Prius c hatchback and tall wagon-like Prius v) Toyota’s dedicated Prius hybrid has long become legend. It has sold more examples than any other electrified car in history, but Toyota has plenty of additional hybrids to its name.
Along with the plug-in Prius Prime that allows for more EV-only range, Toyota most recently added the all-new 2020 Corolla Hybrid to its gasoline-electric lineup, while the Camry Hybrid has long been popular with those needing a larger sedan. We don’t get the Avalon Hybrid here in Canada, but the RAV4 Hybrid more than makes up for the large luxury sedan’s loss, and next year it arrives as the 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in too, whereas the Highlander Hybrid remains the only electrified mid-size SUV available in the mainstream volume-branded sector. Additionally, Toyota offers one of the only hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles available today, its innovative Mirai taking the hybrid-electric concept into completely new territory.
Of note, Toyota’s 15-million hybrid milestone was partially made up by its Lexus luxury division, which adds seven more gasoline-electric models to Toyota’s namesake range of eight, including (in order of base price) the entry-level UX 250h subcompact crossover SUV, the NX 300h compact SUV, the ES 300h mid-size sedan, the the RX 450h mid-size SUV, the RX 450h L three-row mid-size SUV, the LC 500h personal sport-luxury coupe, and finally Lexus’ flagship LS 500h full-size luxury sedan (Lexus previously offered the HS 250h compact sedan, the CT 200h compact hatchback and the GS 450h mid-size sport sedan).
While 15 hybrid models from two brands is impressive, outside of Canada Toyota and Lexus provide 44 unique hybrid vehicles, while hybrids made up 52 percent of Toyota’s overall volume in Europe last year. What’s more, Toyota accounts for 80 percent of all hybrid sales globally.
Despite recently dropping the Prius v and Prius c models, Toyota shows no signs of slowing down hybrid integration, or continuing to develop its hydrogen fuel cell and full electric programs moving forward. Back in June last year, Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi announced that half of the automaker’s global sales would be electrified by 2025, which is five years more aggressive than previously planned. This would likely be a mix of hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and fully electric (BEV) vehicles, but Terashi was clear to point out that an entirely new line of BEVs would be designed for global consumption, and while Toyota had previously spoken of 2020 for the launch of its first BEV, our current global health problem and concurring financial challenges will likely interfere with this plan.
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Toyota
Toyota may have said sayonara to its Scion line a few years ago, but the youth-oriented brand’s spirit continues to live on in cars like the impressive new Corolla Hatchback. The Corolla Hatchback takes…
Toyota may have said sayonara to its Scion line a few years ago, but the youth-oriented brand’s spirit continues to live on in cars like the impressive new Corolla Hatchback.
The Corolla Hatchback takes over from the Corolla iM, which was previously the Scion iM, one of the industry’s best compact five-door hatchbacks from model years 2016 through 2018. It was finished to a higher level than most rivals, partly because it was actually a rebadged second-generation Auris from Europe, where they generally finish cars to higher levels than we get here. In Australasian markets this model was long dubbed Corolla Hatchback, so it only made sense to adopt the simpler, more familiar name when this new model arrived on North American shores for 2019.
While this five-door Corolla isn’t as popular as its four-door sibling, you may recognize the redesigned Hatchback’s snazzy new LED headlight-enhanced face now that the 2020 Corolla sedan is starting to show up everywhere. Both new models are high on style and big on substance, and while they’re not going to give the mighty Honda Civic a run for its money, the Corolla line will once again finish 2019 well ahead of every other compact competitor.
No matter the angle, the new Corolla Hatchback looks good, something I can’t say for Honda’s five-door rival. While the Toyota has plenty of sharp angles in keeping with today’s styling preferences, its basic shape is organically flowing, something I’ll hazard to guess will stand the test of time more easily. No doubt outward design influences the Corolla’s high resale value, its second-place standing in the 2019 Canadian Black Book’s Best Retained Value Awards only beaten in the compact car class by Toyota’s own Prius, although this impressive result will also be due to the Corolla Hatchback’s superb value proposition, Vincentric having also honoured the car with its 2019 Best Value In Canada Award in the Compact Hatchback category.
A quick visit to CarCostCanada (where you can also find the latest rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands, plus factory leasing and financing rates that started from 0.49 percent at the time of writing) will show 2019 Corolla Hatchback pricing starting at just $20,980 plus freight and fees, which is actually $1,770 less than the old 2018 Corolla iM mentioned earlier, and believe me the redesigned model is a much better car.
Its standard auto on/off headlamps are full LEDs, compared to halogen projectors in the outgoing model, while the new taillights continue with standard LEDs. The old car’s remote entry has been upgraded with standard proximity-sensing keyless access plus pushbutton ignition, this not even available before, its classic handbrake replaced by an electric parking brake, while the compact Toyota’s advanced driver assistive systems have been upgraded from just including auto-dimming high beams, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure alert, to now featuring frontal pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane and road departure steering assist, plus adaptive cruise control.
Items like LED daytime running lights, LED turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, a rear spoiler, fabric-wrapped A-pillars (another sign this car comes out of Toyota’s European division), piano black lacquer and metallic interior accents, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, power windows with auto up/down all around, and cloth sport seats continue forward, as does a touchscreen infotainment system atop the centre stack with a backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, voice recognition, and six-speaker AM/FM/USB/AUX audio, but the new 8.0-inch centre display is now a full inch larger than its predecessor and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration plus Toyota’s proprietary Entune system that also comes with Entune App Suite Connect featuring traffic, weather, sports, stocks, a fuel station locator, Slacker, Yelp, and NPR One, making the new Corolla Hatchback much more modern.
That said the old iM’s standard 17-inch alloys are now replaced with a comparatively rudimentary set of 15-inch steel rims with covers in base trim, while its leather-wrapped steering wheel rim and shift knob is now urethane, dual-zone auto climate control system now single-zone, albeit still automatic, heated front seats now optional, and the list goes on, all of these reminders that Scion (and the Corolla iM that followed) was mostly a single-trim, no options, one-size-fits-all brand, which meant its cars were always nicely equipped in “base” trim, albeit with entry-level pricing that was often a bit higher than some rivals, and there was no opportunity to add higher end features, such as larger wheels, fog lamps, upgraded instrumentation, navigation, leather upholstery, heated rear seats, etcetera.
This is not a problem for the new Corolla Hatchback, as is immediately noticeable from its front fog lamps and stunning machine-finish 18-inch alloy wheels with black painted pockets. These come standard in my tester’s top-line XSE trim, but before I delve into its details I should take you on a short tour through some of the 2019 Corolla Hatchback’s other trim packages.
For instance, a reasonable $1,000 replaces the rev-matching six-speed manual gearbox with a Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) featuring sequential shift mode, while its completely automated shifting also allows for an automatic upgrade to full-speed adaptive cruise control and lane tracing assist.
Both manual and CVT models can be had with one of three packages above base, including the $1,600 SE, $3,000 SE Upgrade, and the as-tested $6,000 XSE. The SE, which pushes the Corolla Hatchback’s price up to $22,580 for the manual or $23,160 with the CVT, adds 16-inch alloy wheels, some additional chrome exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, heatable front seats, a theft deterrent system, and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters with the CVT, while the SE Upgrade package, increasing the price to $23,980 for the manual or $24,160 with the CVT, provides some heat for that steering wheel, plus adds convenient wireless device charging, blindspot monitoring, and those 18-inch alloys noted a moment ago.
As for my tester’s XSE trim that starts at $26,980 with the manual and $27,980 for the CVT, and I’ve got to point out how fabulous it is that Toyota combines its sportiest, highest end trim with its most performance-oriented gearbox, it includes the LED fog lights mentioned before, a 7.0-inch TFT digital driver’s display, plus special Sport fabric upholstery with leatherette trim, dual-zone auto HVAC, Entune 3.0 Premium Audio that adds embedded navigation/route guidance to the centre touchscreen (with automatic map updates for three years), plus traffic and weather info, Entune Destination Assist (with a six-month subscription), Entune Safety Connect featuring automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance (SOS) button, and enhanced roadside assistance, plus satellite radio.
A few dealer-added accessories worth getting include a dash camera for $650, a cargo liner for $155, a cargo net for $80, and doorsill plates for $250, while the Corolla Hatchback’s exterior can be dressed up with an ultra-sporty extended rear rooftop spoiler for $535.
The Corolla Hatchback’s cabin is as attractive and nicely put together as the car’s exterior, with plenty of soft-touch composites covering the dash top, the inside portion of the lower console, the front door uppers, plus the armrests side and centre. The mostly black interior motif gets highlighted by cream/grey-coloured contrast stitching in key areas, while the aforementioned sport seats feature the same thread along with a unique two-tone colour treatment thanks to a lighter grey used for their fabric inserts. The seats’ two-way warmers heat up quickly, and can be set to do so automatically each time the car is restarted, as can the heatable steering wheel that makes better equipped Corolla Hatchbacks a lot more pleasurable to live with year round.
The contrast stitching doesn’t transfer over that steering wheel, but its meaty, nicely shaped sport rim feels good in the hands no matter the temperature, and the telescoping steering column provides a lot more reach than the iM’s did, allowing me to set up the driver’s seat more ideally for my long-legged, short torso body. Comfort in mind, the two-way powered lumbar support did a reasonably good job of applying pressure to the small of my back, although slightly lower would’ve been better.
Set up and ready to go, the upper half of the sport steering wheel frames a brightly lit primary instrument cluster featuring the usual array of tachometer, speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges, with the first one set up in a semicircle to the very left, the second dominating the middle position, and the latter two combined in another semicircle to the right. At the centre of the arching speedometer is the multi-info display, providing the usual types of functions a driver might need, from trip information to fuel economy, phone info to cruise control details, etcetera, all accessible via a really nice set of steering wheel controls.
The big centre display hovers above the dash like a fixed tablet, and features quick-access buttons down both sides, plus rotating power/volume and tune/scroll knobs at the bottom of each row. The touchscreen responds to tap, swipe and pinch gesture inputs quickly, this especially useful for the navigation system’s map, while screen resolution is good, aiding the clarity of the backup camera, the colours are attractive with reasonably deep contrast, and the graphics are more functionally straightforward than outright good looking. In other words, Toyota’s Entune interface looks as if a team of engineers designed it rather than a graphic artist, but it certainly works well.
Another carryover feature from Corolla iM to Hatchback is the independent multi-link rear suspension (IRS), something now also provided by the 2020 Corolla sedan, albeit for the first time. The two new Corollas ride on the completely different Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform architecture, so it’s not exactly the same IRS, but it nevertheless improves the Corolla’s ride and handling more than if set up with this segment’s usual torsion beam rear suspension design, while the new TNGA platform increases torsional rigidity by 60 percent, again aiding handling while also making the body and all occupants safer from impact.
The stiffer construction can certainly be felt on the road, more structural strength allowing for greater compliance from the suspension and therefore the better ride quality just noted, while the IRS also prevents secondary jarring from the rear when pushing it a bit harder over bumpy roads. This kept my tester’s 225/40R18 Bridgestones in better contact with the road below, and the more often a tire’s contact patch is touching pavement the more chance it has of making a given corner, the Corolla Hatchback much more stable through fast-paced curves than some of its peers that don’t yet offer such sophisticated rear suspension setups.
I honestly had no complaints about the old Corolla iM’s 16-valve, DOHC, 1.8-litre four-cylinder that put out just 137 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque, as it was a free-revving engine that was plenty of fun to row through the gears, although the six-speed manual was more fun to play with than the easier-to-live-with CVT-S automatic, the “S” referring to Sport. Every aspect of new Corolla Hatchback’s drivetrain is a great deal more enthusiastic, however, so I’m not lamenting the loss of the iM one whit, its direct-injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder making 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, which is 31 horsepower and 25 lb-ft of torque more than the iM, and therefore more than enough to offset the new Hatchback’s 118-kg (260-lb) gain in curb weight, to 1,388 kg (3,060 lbs).
Of course, nothing increases output better than cubic centimetres, and 200 is roughly 10 percent of added displacement, but Toyota replaces its old Valvematic system with much more sophisticated VVT-iE (Variable Valve Timing – intelligent by Electric motor), a Lexus development now trickling down to Toyota’s offerings. Basically it’s the same dual VVT-i system used in other applications, albeit with an electrically operated actuator adjusting and maintaining intake of the camshaft timing. Exhaust camshaft timing remains controlled via a hydraulic actuator. In other words, the new engine is much stronger and maintains its energy over a wider rev range.
As for the upgraded continuously variable transmission, usually the Achilles heel of any car attempting to be sporty, the old iM’s was good and the new Corolla Hatchback’s is ruddy brilliant. Truly, this is one of the best CVTs I’ve ever tested, with really quick, snappy shift increments when in Sport mode. What’s more, Toyota’s Direct-Shift CVT includes a whopping 10 gear ratios, which is more than any other I’ve experienced. Of course, they’re pseudo gears, but they nevertheless feel very realistic and are plenty of fun to actuate via the paddles noted earlier. Left to its own devices it’s a smooth, linear shifting CVT that most should appreciate, while it really helps to lower fuel economy.
Despite all the extra engine output and added mass noted a moment ago, the new Corolla Hatchback more than edges the old Corolla iM out when it comes to fuel economy, the new model’s claimed 7.5 L/100km city, 5.8 highway and 6.7 combined rating much thriftier than the iM’s 8.3 city, 6.5 highway and 7.5 combined rating. The new car’s manual is better on fuel too, with a rating of 8.4 L/100km in the city, 6.3 on the highway and 7.5 combined, compared to 8.8 city, 6.8 highway and 7.9 combined for the old model.
I love it when automakers provide us with a “have your cake and eat it too” experience, and for the most part that pretty well sums up this car. It’s faster and more fun to drive yet saves money at the pump, and improves most every other aspect of car ownership too, but nevertheless all that mass noted earlier, which was partially acquired by making the Corolla Hatchback 100 millimetres (3.9 inches) longer than its predecessor with a 40-mm (1.6-in) longer wheelbase, plus 30 mm (1.2 in) wider, albeit a slight 25 mm (1.0 in) lower to the ground, doesn’t add up to inches inside. In fact, while front legroom, rear headroom and rear shoulder room have been increased fractionally by 7 mm (0.3 in), 2 mm (0.1 in) and 10 mm (0.4 in) respectively, front headroom is less accommodating by 33 mm (1.3 in), front shoulder room is narrower by 10 mm (0.4 in), and rear legroom is shorter by 71 mm (2.8 in), while the dedicated cargo compartment is 14 percent smaller, shrinking from 588 litres (20.8 cubic feet) to just 504 litres (17.8 cubic feet).
Nevertheless, I found it roomy enough and comfortable in all outboard positions, although take into consideration that I might be long-legged but only measure five-foot-eight on a particularly elevated day, so taller folk may feel more confined. Like the iM, the Corolla Hatchback’s cargo area gets a removable carpeted load floor with a compact spare and tiny bit of stowage space below, while 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks can be laid flat to expand its cargo capacity, although Toyota makes the size of the Hatchback’s maximum gear-hauling capability a secret, just as it did with its predecessor.
I can’t for the life of me comprehend how an automaker makes a car larger in almost every respect, yet loses interior room, unless they’ve taken a car that had already some of the highest safety accreditation it could have and made it better, and to its credit the new model achieves best-possible “Good” ratings in all IIHS categories, except for “Crash avoidance & mitigation” in which the headlights merely achieve “Acceptable” or “Marginal” ratings depending on trim or option, although it should be noted this is a U.S. agency and the U.S.-spec Corolla Hatchback isn’t identical to ours. The Corolla Hatchback actually gets a rare “G+” rating for its child seat “LATCH ease of use,” while the NHTSA gives it a 5 star safety rating.
I give the new Corolla Hatchback four stars for being a superb little compact hatch that’s big on style, build quality, features and performance, yet a bit smaller than expected on interior roominess. This said it should be high on your list if you’re considering a compact hatchback.
The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde…
The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde Honda Civic or Toyota’s visually complex 2020 Corolla.
Where both the Civic and Corolla succeed for being very good cars wearing extremely well respected nameplates, their styling is a bit more hit and miss. Obviously they appeal to enough peoples’ tastes to have become Canada’s best-selling and second-most popular cars (not including trucks and crossover SUVs), at least with respect to their four-door variants, but I personally believe the new Forte is easier on the eyes.
This is true for the entire Kia lineup. Unlike both Honda and Toyota that have regularly been called out for design misses (Honda more for the bizarre and Toyota for the bland), Kia has long been making news for styling hits, with this latest Forte definitely holding its own in a crowded compact segment. Rather than making up for an awkwardly proportioned three-box layout with acres of plastic body cladding, the Forte starts off with a leaner, more sweptback profile that doesn’t need as much embellishment to look good. Certainly there’s some nice attention to detail from front to back, but the sporty upgrades on my top-line Forte EX Limited enhance this sedan’s overall design instead of overwhelming it.
Some noteworthy styling features start with a fresh version of the brand’s bisected oval trademark grille, filled with a sporty gloss-black insert above yet more glossy black detailing within an even sportier lower front fascia, this bookended by deeply sculpted corner vents incorporating horizontal LED fog lamps. A truly interesting set of available “X” accented LED headlights are positioned above, offsetting comparatively conventional taillights at the other end, albeit infused with complex LEDs within and connected in the middle by a rather nice narrow reflective centre lens.
The rear deck lid, with its subtly integrated spoiler, is nicely done, while at the base the Forte’s hind end is yet more gloss black trim on the rear bumper cap, formed into triangular bezels housing the rear fog and backup lights, which hover over a diffuser-style lower garnish incorporating a chromed exhaust finisher, while the entire package rides on a smart looking set of twinned five-spoke machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels with black-painted pockets.
Inside, the new Forte is more upscale and European-like than its predecessor and a number of compact competitors, its design coming across as conservatively tasteful, similar to what you might find in a premium brand. Most of the dash top an instrument panel is finished in high-quality soft-touch synthetics, as are the front door uppers, the door inserts, and armrests front to rear. I’m not going to say that Kia covers more surfaces in premium-level composites than average for this class, but the brand is well respected for being one of the first to push compact models into near-premium territory with respect to refinement and features, with most others now catching up.
Features in mind, EX Limited trim includes perforated leatherette upholstery that feels a lot more realistic than most fake animal hides, the perforations necessary up front to allow forced three-way ventilation to seep out. This trim also gets rear seat heaters for the outboard positions, while three-way front seat heaters are standard, as is a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel.
Yes you heard me right. The Forte’s standard steering wheel rim is leather-wrapped and heatable. Consider for a moment that Toyota doesn’t even provide Canadians with an option for heating a Camry’s steering wheel, even in top-line trim that costs nearly $24k more than the Forte’s $17,195 base MT trim, and $13k more than this top-tier $28,065 Forte EX Limited, while not offering ventilated front seats or heatable rear cushions either (make sure to find out about all 2019 Kia Forte pricing, including trim levels, packages and options at CarCostCanada, as well as rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
I don’t know about you, but after the last few winters we’ve experienced I don’t want to use my fingers for warming a steering wheel when embedded elements are readily available, and my rear passengers certainly shouldn’t be forced to freeze their butts off either. What’s more, why shouldn’t I be able to cool my derriere during July, August and the first half of September? Fortunately, Kia doesn’t cause us to ask such questions, but instead makes the first of these comforting features standard in one of their most affordable cars, and the latter two available (to be fair, the 2020 Corolla sedan offers a heatable steering wheel rim with an upgrade package, but no ventilated front seats or heated rear seats).
Back to some other 2019 Forte improvements, Kia upgraded its stylish automatic shifter with a leather-clad palm rest overtop a satin-silver metallic grip, while surrounding it all in a stitched-leatherette boot that’s encircled by the same satin-silver surfacing. The Forte uses this classy matte silver treatment for the steering wheel spokes too, as well as for a decorative strip across the instrument panel and the trim around each corner vent bezel, not to mention the inner door handles and as an embellishment for the power window and side mirror switchgear, plus even for the handbrake’s thumb release button.
Yes, a handbrake seems somewhat archaic in today’s world of electromechanical sophistication, but really it’s nothing I thought twice about during two weeks of testing. In fact, I only noticed this throwback to simpler times when taking notes on the last day. It exists for the base Forte’s six-speed manual, a transmission I wish was available in trim lines further up the car’s price range, like sister company Hyundai does with its impressive 200-horsepower Elantra Sport, a worthy Civic Si competitor that also gets suspension and styling upgrades. This said, if you don’t mind waiting another model year, last November Kia announced a new GT trim for the upcoming 2020 Forte that will provide all of the same performance updates as the Elantra Sport, but of course in Kia’s unique way. I’ll do my best to get into this car as soon as one is made available.
Unlike that Elantra, the new Forte uses one single 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a carryover from last year that continues to dole out 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. While a relatively competitive engine in this class, this lone mechanical offering is not only a far cry less varied than the three engines Toyota is providing for its latest Corolla sedan (one now a hybrid), or the trio of powerplants available in Honda’s Civic Sedan (one being a 205-horsepower dynamo in the just-noted Si, and a realistic fourth powertrain being the hybrid used in the new Insight that’s little more than a face-lifted Civic Hybrid), it’s also not going to attract performance-oriented buyers.
In the previous second-generation Forte sedan, Kia offered Canadians two engine choices, the outgoing option being a more advanced direct-injected version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder just mentioned, albeit dubbed 2.0 GDI and producing a considerably more robust 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Earlier, when writing my “Garage” preview of this new 2019 sedan, I mused about this more potent engine possibly becoming a late arrival along with the redesigned Forte5, but Kia now shows this renewed five-door hatchback in 2020 form (set to arrive later this year, although for the time being it remains suited up in its previous 2018 gen-2 design) in the “Upcoming Vehicles” category of their retail website, with no sign of the upgraded GDI engine’s availability, but with the same base “2.0L MPI” powerplant as used for this sedan, plus last year’s (and the still current) top-line turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder as an option, still making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, while mated to a paddle shift-actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox.
It’s understandable why Kia chose to simplify the Forte’s engine lineup when last year’s sales only came to 14,399 units (including the just-noted Forte5 hatchback), down 12.1 percent from 2017, which compares poorly to the Corolla’s 48,796 deliveries throughout 2018 (including its Corolla Hatchback—an excellent car, by the way), and the Civic’s leading 69,005-unit sum over the same 12 months (which included the Civic Sedan, Hatchback, and Coupe).
I should probably also make mention of the previously noted Hyundai Elantra’s sales too, this highly popular model (that’s new in sedan form for 2020) finding a respectable 41,784 new Canadian customers last year (currently in sedan, Sport sedan, and five-door GT trims), albeit this was a 9.4-percent drop from the year prior.
Another reason Kia may have solely gone for the less formidable powerplant comes down to the Forte’s base price and ongoing running costs, the Korean company probably assuming correctly that buyers in this price-sensitive segment wouldn’t want to pay a larger sum initially if the only engine offered was the more advanced GDI powerplant, nor more at the pump, being that the chosen MPI engine is more efficient. Looking back at 2018 Transport Canada fuel economy figures, the base MPI engine had a rating of 8.0 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined, whereas the more powerful GDI was rated at 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.3 combined. That’s a significant difference in a compact market segment that’s ultra-sensitive to seemingly ever-increasing pump prices.
While we’re talking fuel economy, I should also point out that Kia has made considerable headway with its MPI engine in the new 2019 model, with the new six-speed manual-equipped base trim achieving a claimed Transport Canada rating of 8.6 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.6 combined, compared to last year’s numbers of 9.4, 6.8 and 8.3 respectively. Not quite as impressive yet still allowing for a noticeable improvement is this year’s all-new Hyundai/Kia-developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) when compared to last year’s six-speed automatic, with the 2019 model receiving a 7.7 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.9 combined rating, and the 2018 car only capable of 8.0, 6.1 and 7.1 respectively.
That CVT, which Kia smartly calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) in order to separate it from the deluge of CVTs taking over this market segment, is a $2,500 option with the base LX model and comes standard with all other trims, while it does almost as good a job of putting power down to the front wheels as it does at saving fuel. That’s high praise for a CVT, by the way, this being one of the better variations on the theme I’ve had the pleasure of driving in this class, and easily up to the task required by a comfort-oriented compact sedan.
The Forte takes off quickly and smoothly enough, with both engine and transmission providing smooth, linear performance, plus not too much noise from ahead of the firewall. The powertrain works well in its Normal default mode, or for that matter its Eco, Sport and Smart “Drive Mode Select” settings, my preference being Smart mode as it automatically adjusts all of the above to maximize fuel economy, performance or any capability in between.
The Forte’s ride is smooth and comfortable too, while its handling is sharp and responsive unless pushed extremely hard through bumpy backroads. Unfortunately it utilizes a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle than either the Civic or new Corolla, the latter finally receiving an upgrade to its underpinnings for 2020, but Kia’s suspension tuning team deserves credit for making the most of this less appealing package, as its wonderfully smooth most of the time, and its rear tires don’t get unglued until those just-noted extreme limits are met.
Keeping the Forte within its lane are the usual active safety features such as stability and traction control, while some nearly standard advanced driver assistance systems (they’re standard when upgrading to the CVT) include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), and Driver Attention Alert (DAA).
Additionally, on top of everything already mentioned both manual- and CVT-equipped LX models include auto on/off projector headlamps, splash guards, body-colour mirror caps and door handles, heated side mirrors, air conditioning, a really nice new fixed tablet-style 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display with tap, pinch, and swipe capability in some applications (plus immediate response to finger gestures), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera with helpful dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/MP3 radio, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio steaming, USB audio input and charging ports, cruise control, Hill-Assist Control (HAC), 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks that expand on a sizeable 434-litre (15.3 cu-ft) trunk, and more.
If you’d rather have 16-inch machine-finished alloys instead of 15-inch steel wheels with covers you’ll need to upgrade to $20,995 EX trim, which also includes the noted LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lights, turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, a gloss black grille with chrome accents, chrome window trim, aeroblade wipers, a chrome exhaust tip, satin chrome interior door handles, a supervision LCD/TFT primary instrument cluster, a wireless device charger, rear climate ventilation, a rear centre armrest, tire pressure monitoring, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).
The move up to $22,495 EX+ trim includes all of the above while adding 17-inch machine-finished alloys, LED taillights, LED interior lighting, and a powered moonroof, whereas $25,065 EX Premium trim also features High Beam Assist (HBA) for the LED headlights, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, adaptive cruise control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, SOFINO synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, UVO Intelligence connected car services, a Smart release trunk lid that automatically opens when you’ve been standing behind it for three seconds with the key fob in your pocket or purse, Advanced Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), and more.
Lastly, my $28,065 EX Limited tester came with everything already noted as well as the ventilated front seats and heatable outboard rear seats I’ve gone on and on about, plus an upgraded multimedia infotainment interface with an accurate and easy-to-use navigation system, and finally a great sounding Harman/Kardon premium audio system.
I should also mention that the driver’s seat was especially comfortable and, while only offering two-way powered lumbar instead of four, it neatly fit the small of my back ideally and was therefore quite helpful in minimizing lower back pain. What’s more, when set up with the Forte’s standard tilt and telescopic steering column, the car provided excellent ergonomics, even for my unique longer leg and shorter torso body type. On that note I’ve often had problems properly fitting into Toyota products, including the outgoing 2019 Corolla, because it didn’t provide enough telescopic reach for me to set its driver’s seat far enough rearward for optimal comfort and control, but no such problems with the Forte.
Sitting behind the driver’s seat when it was set for my long-legged five-foot-eight height left me plenty of space to get comfortable, including more than enough room for my feet, approximately five inches ahead of my knees, another three and a half or so above my head, plus about five between the window ledge and my shoulder, and four beside my outer hip. The dual cupholder-infused folding centre armrest was ideally positioned for resting adult arms, but this is hardly unusual in this class, nor were dual rear vents fed through the backside of the front centre console, or the webbed magazine pocket behind the front passenger seat, but of course the previously noted rear outboard seat heaters, which kept my derriere comfortably warm, were much appreciated while taking notes. I also liked the tiny rear quarter windows that provided a little more light and visibility for rear passengers than some cars in this class that leave the C-pillars blocked off despite showing black glass on the outside.
So, there you have it. The latest 2019 Kia Forte isn’t perfect, but it’s the best this model has ever been, and if it weren’t for lacking some optional power and a multi-link rear suspension it might just have earned best-in-class status. This said, the Forte addresses the majority of compact sedan buyers’ requirements, such as attractiveness, spaciousness, comfort, and safety, while going way above par when it comes to standard and optional features. Those who want more performance can currently opt for the sportier 2018 Forte5 hatchback and will be able to get into a redesigned version and the new Forte GT sedan in 2020 guise. Regular Forte sedans will still lack the power of some mainstream rivals and the high-speed handling benefits of an independent rear suspension, but the value-oriented way Kia is approaching this compact class seems like a good compromise from a smaller market player, and reason enough for anyone to consider this impressive compact sedan.
Toyota will give its ever-popular Corolla compact sedan a fresh new face for 2020, but thanks to the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback there’s no need to wait. This sporty new five-door variant carries…
Toyota will give its ever-popular Corolla compact sedan a fresh new face for 2020, but thanks to the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback there’s no need to wait.
This sporty new five-door variant carries on where the Corolla iM left off, the latter model a superb little car that deserved a lot more attention that it received due to impressive interior quality and adept handling, but alas it struggled from anonymity because it wore a Scion badge.
Past brand identity problems aside, the real reason the iM was so good had to do with its European roots. The iM, and now the new Corolla Hatchback, are in fact second- and third-generation Toyota Auris models, their more demanding Euro-target audience making them feel more upscale inside than any previous North American-market Corolla, and causing them to drive with greater focus on performance.
The new Corolla Hatchback offers one engine and two transmission choices. The engine, a direct-injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder, incorporates the usual VVT-i as well as VVT-iE, the former electrically powering the variable valve timing system via the intake cam, and the latter via the exhaust cam, resulting in 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, whereas the transmissions include the usual six-speed manual in lower trims and a rather elaborately named alternative dubbed Direct Shift Continuously Variable Transmission (Direct Shift-CVT), which is an automatic CVT boasting a manual mode with 10 forward speeds via Simulated Shift Control. Agreed, it doesn’t sound like an ordinary continuously variable transmission, but does the Direct Shift-CVT live up to the hype of its complex nomenclature?
Of course, we’ll tell all in our upcoming road test review, including commentary on ride and handling that should continue to be a highlight with the Corolla Hatchback thanks to a variation of the iM’s independent multi-link rear suspension, the sedan outfitted with a less capable rear twist-beam design.
All of this high-end kit doesn’t come cheap, although the 2019 Corolla Hatchback’s $20,980 starting only seems steep when comparing it to the entry-level Corolla sedan’s $16,790. The new Hatchback comes well equipped for just under $21k, including full LED headlamps with automatic high beams, LED taillights, proximity-sensing access, pushbutton ignition, automatic climate control, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, an 8.0-inch centre touchscreen with a backup camera, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, Toyota’s proprietary Entune smartphone integration that also comes with Entune App Suite Connect featuring traffic, weather, sports, stocks, a fuel station locator, Slacker, Yelp, and NPR One, while additional standard kit includes six-speaker audio, power windows with auto up/down all around, all the segment’s usual active and passive safety features plus an airbag for the driver’s knees, pre-collision warning and mitigation with pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane departure alert and road departure warning with steering assist, and adaptive cruise control.
Move up to the CVT for a reasonable $1,000 and the list includes full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane tracing assist, and Scout GPS Link navigation/route guidance added to Entune App Suite Connect, while my tester was also outfitted in top-line XSE trim that substitutes Scout GPS Link with its own embedded navigation and otherwise fills the centre touchscreen with Entune 3.0 Premium Audio that includes traffic and weather info, Entune Destination Assist, Entune Safety Connect featuring automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator, an emergency assistance (SOS) button, and enhanced roadside assistance, and otherwise updates infotainment with satellite radio and wireless charging.
What’s more, the base model’s 15-inch steel wheels get replaced by a sweet looking set of machine-finished 18-inch rims on grippy 225/40 all-seasons, while LED fog lamps enhance the front fascia, chrome gets added to the rear bumper, and the interior gets updated with an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar, front seat heaters, special Sport fabric upholstery with leatherette trim, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel (with paddle shifters when upgraded to the CVT), a 7.0-inch digital driver’s display, dual-zone automatic climate control, blind spot monitoring, and an anti-theft system, all for $26,980 with the manual or $27,980 with the CVT.
Notably, some of that kit gets pulled up from lesser SE and SE Upgrade trims, which are available for $22,580 and $23,980 respectively, but that’s it with respect to factory options except for $225 Blizzard Pearl paint that’s only offered in top-line XSE trim. This means my tester’s Smoked Paprika Metallic is one of six available no-cost standard colours in XSE guise, the seventh a shade dubbed Super White that’s only offered in base and SE trims.
Some dealer added accessories worth noting include a dash camera for $650, which really should be on everyone’s must-have list, a $155 cargo liner, an $80 cargo net, and $250 worth of door sill plates, while the exterior can be dressed up with a seriously sporty extended rear rooftop spoiler for $535.
By the way, all of the 2019 Corolla Hatchback’s pricing information can be found at CarCostCanada, including trims, packages, and standalone options, plus you can also find out about any available rebates, as well as dealer invoice pricing that could help you save thousands when negotiating the purchase of your new car.
The new Corolla Hatchback, which gets the more exciting Corolla Sport nameplate in Japan, rolls on the compact GA-C version of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) modular unibody platform that also underpins current versions of the Corolla sedan and Touring Sports (the latter wagon sadly only available in other markets), Prius/Prius Plug-in/Prime, C-HR compact crossover, and upcoming Lexus UX compact luxury crossover, making it one of the more ubiquitous platforms in existence.
I know that most readers will be unfamiliar with the outgoing Corolla iM, but for the interest of the few that are this new Corolla Hatchback measures a full 100 millimetres (3.9 inches) longer than its predecessor at 4,375 mm (172.2 in), while its wheelbase spans 40 mm (1.6 in) farther between the axles at 2,640 mm (103.9 in). The new model has also grown from side-to-side, expanded by 30 mm (1.2 in) to 1,790 mm (70.5 in), while its overall height has decreased by 25 mm (1.0 in) to 1,435 mm (56.5 in). What about mass? The Corolla Hatchback’s curb weight is actually up by a substantive 118 kilograms (260 lbs) to 1,388 kg (3,060 lbs), but this extra girth is more than offset by the aforementioned engine’s increase of 31 horsepower and 25 lb-ft of torque, at least on paper.
Come back for our review to find out how it feels by the seat of the pants, and whether or not its supercalifragilisticexpialidocious CVT lives up to its longwinded name. Until then, scroll back up to enjoy our comprehensive photo gallery…