With its sharply styled Corolla Hatchback, Toyota has created a car for budget-minded driving enthusiasts who appreciate excellent fuel economy. It stands out for its simple controls and standard advanced safety features at a competitive price, going against cars such as the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza.
We were pleased with the Corolla Hatchback's tied-down handling. It's fun and predictable through turns, and its steering is precise. It enthusiastically took corners at our test track. The car's ride is stiff, however, with short and quick ride motions that make it feel nervous at times--although it's on a par with most of its peers. The ride is even stiffer in with the 18-inch tires that come on the XSE trim.
Our test car returned an impressive 36 mpg overall, several mpg better than its direct competitors, such as the Mazda3. But we had to push the 168-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine hard to find real power; when power came on, it was accompanied by a loud, raspy noise. The well-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) does a fine job keeping the revs low when the Corolla is driven at lower speeds, thanks to simulated shifts that make it feel more like a conventional automatic transmission.