Limited practicality
THE GOOD
  • Big trunk
  • Fun for a commuter
  • On-road comfort
THE BAD
  • No standard seat heat
  • Cramped second row
  • No fold-flat seats

Where there’s a small sedan on the market, it only makes sense to offer the same car as a hatchback, too.

Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule – the Nissan Sentra, for instance, or even the Hyundai Elantra these days – but adding the bubble-like body style just makes sense. After all, it’s the same car, just made more practical. What’s not to like about that?

That’s mostly true of the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, except there are some fundamental differences compared to its sedan counterpart that impact its ability to move people in the quest to stow more stuff.

Practicality: 7/10

Perhaps the best example on the modern market of the simple switch between sedan and hatchback is the Subaru Impreza. While the former is slightly longer overall, they share the same wheelbase, which means interior dimensions are identical between them. The same is true of the overhauled Honda Civic, as well as the Kia Forte and Forte5 twins.

The Corolla hatch isn’t just a shorter car compared to its sedan sibling – its wheelbase has been chopped down, too. And the 60 mm (2.4 in) given up has a direct impact on rear-seat space. Officially, there’s some 125 mm (4.9 in) less legroom here than in the Corolla sedan; heck, there’s even less legroom than the smaller Mitsubishi Mirage offers.

Beyond what’s listed on paper, the rear seats feel cramped and difficult to climb into, but the trade-off is the 660 L of cargo capacity behind them. (For the record, that’s more than the five-door Impreza has to offer but less than the 2022 Honda Civic hatch.) Lift the tailgate, and the cargo well is deep and boxy, with enough room to accommodate Pattie, the AutoTrader.ca pedal car, under the privacy cover with ease.

The extra space in the back comes at the cost of a spare tire, which was replaced a couple years ago with a tire inflation kit instead. Sadly, it means the rear seats don’t fold flat with the load floor, instead leaving a tall and awkward hump to work around. Strangely, Toyota doesn’t publish a seats-down cargo figure.

User Friendliness: 7/10

Beyond the limited space in the back seats, the doors don’t open especially wide, a problem shared with the Corolla sedan. The result is an awkward step-in on either side of the car, particularly with long-legged occupants up front. Space in those seats is decent, with the lack of a sunroof paying dividends in the headroom department, while the windows all around provide good outward visibility. The only issue from behind the wheel is the awkwardly tall position of the driver’s seat, which has the sensation of sitting on a stack of phone books even in its lowest setting. Tall drivers take note.

Toyota took the opportunity to relocate the heated seat switches and lone USB port in the new Corolla Cross subcompact crossover, which shares an identical interior with this car from the B-pillars forward. Unfortunately, those features in the Corolla hatch (as well as the sedan) remain tucked awkwardly under the dash alongside the optional wireless phone charger, all of which are tough to see and reach.

Features: 7/10

The Corolla hatch skips the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that comes in the cheapest sedan and crossover models in favour of an eight-inch display that’s responsive to inputs and features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections. Beyond that, it’s a car that requires diving into the options list to get even basic creature comforts like heated front seats.

In the case of this tester, the SE Upgrade package ($3,910) added those heating elements alongside a wireless charger, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, satellite radio, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Meanwhile, an upgraded eight-speaker stereo, power-adjustable driver’s seat, and fabric and faux-leather seats, among others, make up the XSE package that’s another $1,870.

Safety: 8/10

Beyond blind-spot monitoring, there’s a good selection of standard advanced safety equipment, but it varies slightly depending upon transmission choice. For example, it comes with forward collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with keeping assistance, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control; but only when equipped with the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) does that system work in stop-and-go traffic, while the brand’s so-called lane-tracing that adds steering assistance is also included. With the six-speed manual, the adaptive cruise control only works at speeds faster than 40 km/h or so.

Power: 8/10

There’s only one engine offered here: a 2.0L four-cylinder that delivers smooth servings of torque, particularly when paired with the car’s standard six-speed manual transmission. With 169 hp to go with 151 lb-ft of torque, it doesn’t look like much to get excited about at first blush, but this naturally aspirated engine serves up steady and progressive pull – perfect for passing manoeuvres or even a little fun.

Fuel Economy: 7.5/10

This is no Corolla Hybrid, a car that’s only available as a sedan on these shores, but it’s fairly efficient in its own right. Officially, it’s rated for 8.4 L/100 km in the city, 6.7 on the highway, and 7.6 combined with the manual transmission, and 7.5 around town, 5.8 on the highway, and 6.7 combined with the CVT. That’s regular-grade gas, too.

Despite the differences between the two transmissions on paper, the manual-equipped car returned an average of 6.4 L/100 km across an initial evaluation driven spanning some 290 km, with a good bit of fun along the way. The final tally after a week-long test registered at 7.3 L/100 km across a total of 600 km.

Driving Feel: 9/10

In the context of being a commuter car, the Corolla hatch is genuinely enjoyable to drive (again, especially when equipped with the six-speed transmission). While it’s unlikely to impress enthusiast-minded individuals pining for the Toyota Yaris GR sold in other parts of the world, there’s more playfulness when prodded than the average five-door provides.

The clutch pedal feels long at first, but this is a manual transmission that’s easy to learn and difficult to stall – perfect for novices and veterans alike. It also benefits from a button-activated rev-matching system that spikes the engine speed like computer-controlled heel-and-toe during downshifting, which comes in handy when having fun.

The proportions make this a particularly responsive little hatchback, while the steering provides admirable artificial feedback. Add in suspension tuning that’s not too stiff, and the five-door Corolla is as agreeable to drive as it is comfortable.

Comfort: 9/10

Across the lineup, the Corolla just carries a slight edge over its rival Civic in the ride quality department. The multi-link rear suspension is balanced and does well to reduce the chatter that’s common in compact cars like this one, with most road imperfections rolled over with ease. Road noise is perhaps a few decibels louder than it could be, but that’s likely the fault of the 18-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires worn by this tester. (For what it’s worth, no such issues arose during an identical evaluation of the Corolla Hybrid that rides on tires that are some 15 mm taller.)

Aside from the elevated noise levels, the front half of the cabin is a cozy enough place to commute in. The seats are supportive and well-bolstered, with just enough hip-hugging to keep occupants of all shapes and sizes from sliding around, while the cushion density is good for gobbling up hours of driving. While some of the plastics on the doors, dash, and console look and feel a little low-rent, it’s not out of the ordinary for the segment as a whole.

Styling: 8/10

Where the Corolla faces its biggest challenge beyond the sales charts is the overhauled Honda Civic that boasts a sleek and stylish interior. By contrast, the Corolla’s is rather boring, its bulging dash and simple styling cues doing little to turn heads. While that’s long been OK in a commuter car like this, its rival from Honda has truly raised the bar.

Outside, the Corolla hatch wears its proportions well, with a wedge-like shape and an aggressive fascia. Finished in a coat of deep turquoise paint dubbed Galactic Aqua Mica and riding on slick two-tone alloy wheels, this Toyota is as striking as any other compact out there.

Value: 8/10

Competitive pricing might be the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback’s finest quality, though its upgrades that are all but necessary can’t be overlooked, either. It starts at $23,080 before tax including a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,690 – add another $1,000 for the automatic transmission – but needs a package worth a little more than $2,000 to get items like heated seats and alloy wheels.

Over at Subaru, the Impreza five-door rings in at $23,670 in its cheapest duds and also does without heated seats and alloys, but it benefits from standard all-wheel drive, while the Kia Forte5 starts at $23,940. Then there’s the Honda Civic hatch that’s better equipped in base trim (heated seats and alloys are standard) but starts at a whopping $29,700. For context, that’s more than this SE Upgrade version that’s similarly equipped and carries an as-tested price of $26,990 before tax.

The Verdict

As a commuter car, the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback is affordable, fairly efficient, and enjoyable to drive – a trifecta if there ever was one. Add in the spacious cargo hold, and the hits just keep on coming. But where it comes apart at least a little is the limited rear-seat space, which impacts its ability to carry passengers, including those young enough to require car seats. It’s a bit of a bizarre package, and one that warrants a drive of its sibling sedan and crossover models before making a decision.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.0L   Model Tested 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
Engine Cylinders I4   Base Price $21,390
Peak Horsepower 169 hp @ 6,600 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 151 lb-ft @ 4,500–4,900 rpm   Destination Fee $1,690
Fuel Economy 8.4 / 6.7 / 7.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $27,090
Cargo Space 660 L  
Optional Equipment
$3,910 – SE Upgrade Package, $3,910