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Over the years, the role of the Toyota Corolla has always been the same, being the humdrum daily commuter that got its patrons from point A to point B with as little fuss as possible. With our sights now set on 2019, Toyota, and its all-new Corolla Hatchback are serving up something that we weren’t quite expecting.

The main focus of the Corolla hatch is to be sporty – hence the two SE and XSE models available starting at $21,090. Performance has been revved up to correlate its sporty new flair and while it may not support the hot hatchiness of the Golf GTI or Hyundai Veloster R-Spec, the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder packs a tall tale of quirkiness with 168-horsepower. Both the SE and top trimmed XSE can be had with a row-your-own six-speed manual or by way of the commuter friendly CVT transmission. For the sake of this article, we went with the manual route – could you blame us?

With a set highway acceleration time hitting the eight second mark, the Corolla Hatchback isn’t going to be the quickest. Then again it doesn’t need to be. Its performance is more than ample for the daily run of the mill routine – all while still providing us over 33 mpg combined. The manual here has an familiar set up with a graceful clutch and an undramatic arrangement between gears. The shifter is overall smooth and cohesive with fairly decent encouraged responsiveness from the clutch. The i-MT button below the gear lever offers a cooperative provision of rev-matching. Though to those that already know how to heel and toe, the rev-matching features offers an imperturbable, teachable tool for those that are learning to drive a stick.

The chassis refinement in the Corolla has been bumped up significantly. There’s additional structural integrity correlates to a more poised driving behavior. Steering follows in the footsteps of the traditional Corolla ways with very little sensations as the proportions has been engineered for more of the city roundabout amusement. The light engagement  fits well within the day-to-day motions of the Corolla’s ultimately main purpose – providing the right amount of receptiveness  for  quick darting lane-changes and city street formality.

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When it came to our sampler here, the XSE, we couldn’t help but stand back and recognize that the Corolla Hatchback is one handsomely good looking car starting at $22,090. While the Blue Flame paint may enhance the Corolla’s aesthetics – its upgraded 18-inch alloys and largely pronounced sporty rear wing help bring the Corolla’s brawny flair to a dazzling head turning element. The XSE brings it adaptive LED headlights that swivel when the wheels turn, LED Fog Lights, LED taillights, and even LED turn signals – consider us smitten, oooohh.

The interior of the hatchback features an attractive layout that is quite different from the previous gen Corolla iM hatchback. The use of materials carries a much more superior approach with a fetching array of metals and dark glossy plastics. Soft touch materials and faux leather cover the dash and an enormous, 8-inch screen dominates the interior cabin.  The design carries a well-executed display of quality fit and finish controls – the dual-zone climate control buttons for instance, carries a metal presence and tactile feedback that brings the Corolla out of a just an ordinary economy car and into a premium state that follows similarly in line with the Kia Forte5 and Mazda 3 5-door.

The Corolla’s interior cabin space is plentiful – rear occupants can fit comfortably for long set amount of time while the driver carries an array of power seat adjustments. The leather interior on our XSE supported a mish mosh combination of leather and cloth that was very attractively used – the XSE also incorporates heated front seats

Technology and safety is always a big deal when looking into a new car.  With Toyota offering such an array of standard technology and safety feature, it makes it one of their biggest selling points.  On top of added in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity to their Entune system, the Corolla Hatchback integrates Toyota’s latest Safety Sense 2.0. Carrying Forward Collision Warning with Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, and High Beam Assist – TSS 2.0 now inherits Road Sign Detection. That nifty tool helps detect road signs that perhaps you can’t quite see or as we always like, the speed limit signs.

We’ve been waiting several generations for the Corolla to break out of its shell. Now offered in a sporty hatchback, we can’t think of reason why not to have one. With everything but the name being upgraded, the Toyota Corolla is one hot tamale.