The most versatile subcompact is likely to be a hatchback. They usually provide more options than equivalent sedans for stowing gear, but tend to give up some rear-passenger room. The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback perfectly illustrates this.
The car was new for 2019, replacing the Corolla iM hatch, and has the same front-end design as the Corolla sedan. That means it has a similar-looking wide-mouth grille that’s typical of many Toyotas. The oversize nose doesn’t appear all that out of place on the Hatchback, possibly because big grilles are all the rage these days.
The Hatchback is shorter than the sedan by about 25 centimetres and the distance between the front and rear wheels is about six centimetres less. But what’s affected most by the smaller measurements is a nearly 13-centimetre reduction in rear-seat legroom. That, plus somewhat restrictive rear-door openings makes it more difficult for larger/taller folks to enter and exit.
On the upside, maximum stowage volume with the rear seatbacks folded is roughly double that of the sedan. You can increase that amount by opting for a tire-repair canister — in place of the spare donut — which lowers the load floor.
The hatchback’s well-bolstered front seats are plenty comfortable and supportive for the long haul, and the gauges, graphics and assorted knobs and switches are easily understood. The upright 4.2- or optional 7.0-inch touch-screens aren’t as obtrusive as they might seem. Overall, the quality of the seat fabrics, dashboard and door trim is first-rate.
The hatchback’s standard engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This powerplant, which is optional for the sedan, is linked to a six-speed manual transmission or available continuously variable unit (CVT).
For the 1,365-kilogram hatchback, the 2.0 is lively, assisted by a suspension that delivers a just-right balance of firmness and ride comfort. It’s also incredibly quiet over bumps, potholes and cracks in the pavement.
The CVT-equipped Hatchback is rated at 7.5 l/100 km in the city, 5.8 on the highway and 6.7 combined. That’s better than the 8.4/6.7/7.6 numbers the manual-transmission models achieve, but for more sporting flavour, the manual is the one to pick.
The shifter’s smooth and precise action makes rowing through the gears a pleasant experience, hampered only by a light clutch pedal that’s a bit hit and miss on timing of engagement. At least enthusiasts can thank Toyota for making manual gearboxes available since other automakers have been abandoning them.
The base SE hatchback starts at $23,200, including destination charges. That’s less than $2,000 more than the base Corolla L sedan with the smaller 1.8-litre engine.
SE content includes climate control, leather-trimmed steering wheel and 15-inch steel wheels, plus an array of dynamic-safety technologies that includes active cruise control, emergency braking assist, lane-departure alert and pedestrian detection.
The SE Nightshade Edition comes with a blacked-out grille, spoiler, outside mirrors, rocker panels, 18-inch alloy wheels and various other trim pieces.
The premium XSE ($29,000) gets leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels and 7.0-inch multi-information driver’s display that shows current/average fuel consumption, trip distance and timer and outside temperature.
XSE models also get a premium JBL-brand audio system, wireless phone charging, heated front seats and eight-way power adjustable driver’s seats.
As hatchbacks go, the Corolla has plenty to offer in terms of style, substance and affordability. For shoppers requiring more space, Toyota is also introducing the larger Corolla Cross tall wagon.
For those who can’t wait, the Hatchback remains one cool Corolla.
What you should know: 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Type: Front-wheel-drive subcompact hatchback
Engine (h.p.): 2.0-litre DOHC I-4 (168)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (CVT)
Market position: Hatchbacks are popular — particularly in this class — where utility is a factor. They also tend to be less expensive than similarly sized utility vehicles.
Points: Design is quite attractive and sporty. • Dashboard controls are straightforward. • Front seats are supportive. • Rear-seat space is tight. • Standard 2.0-litre I-4’s output is sufficient and the available six-speed manual gearbox makes for easy shifting. • Most active safety tech is standard. • Versatile cargo space trumps the sedan’s. • Excellent driving qualities.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); front and rear emergency braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (n.a..); lane-departure warning (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 32/41 (CVT)
Base price (incl. destination): $23,200
Honda Civic Hatchback
- Base price: $27,000 (est.)
- New 2022 model looks similar to the 2021 and offers non-turbo and turbo I-4s.
Hyundai Veloster N
- Base price: $39,850
- Sporty three-door hatch comes in N trim only for 2022 with a 275 h.p. I-4.
Mazda3 Sport Hatchback
- Base price: $23,500
- Unique styling is backed with a 186-h.p. I-4. A 250-h.p. I-4 and AWD are opt.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media