How the Toyota Corolla Hatchback Carries the Fun-Commuter Torch

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

Photos by Kyle Patrick

It wasn’t that long ago that hatchback cars ruled the weekly commute. Small, efficient, and relatively inexpensive, these were the top choice for those enduring mundane drives to work.

But both the automotive and workplace landscapes have changed. Crossovers and SUVs are in high demand while more people work from home, negating the need for a commuter-specific car. In last decade, the class of cheap, cheerful hatchbacks has dwindled significantly. Gone are the Chevrolet Spark, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Mazda2, and Toyota Yaris. The Mitsubishi Mirage is really all that remains.

Looking a segment higher, there’s just a handful of hatchback options left as well, like the Honda Civic, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, and Toyota Corolla. Of those four cars, there’s one that feels a lot like commuter hatchbacks of old, and we mean that in a good way. That car is the Corolla Hatchback. Let us explain why.

It’s Efficient

One of the main reasons people opted for a small hatchback was due to their efficiency. Commutes in traffic are major fuel wasters, so having something that sips the least amount of gas is a major plus. Officially, the Toyota Corolla Hatchback can achieve 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

Turing to the competition, that’s a slight improvement over the Civic hatchback with the optional 1.5-liter turbo engine, which is rated at 31 mpg city and 39 mpg highway. For a more apples to apples comparison, entry level versions of the Civic Hatchback with the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivers worse efficiency, rated at 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway.

When looking at the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza, the gap widens even further. Officially, the most frugal Impreza is rated for 27 mpg city and 34 mph highway, while the Mazda3 does a bit better at 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.

It’s Small

For those that commute into large cities, having a small car is a huge advantage when parking in a public garage or on the street. Measuring in at 172.0-inches in length, the Corolla Hatchback is smaller than any of its main competitors.

The Mazda3 Hatchback is over 3.5-inches longer, while the Subaru Impreza is over 4.0-inches. The real giant of the segment is the Honda Civic Hatchback which is a foot longer than the Toyota Corolla Hatchback.

It’s Nimble

A fun commuter needs to be at least somewhat entertaining to drive. Of course, we aren’t expecting MX-5 Miata levels of engagement or Challenger Hellcat acceleration from this class. But still, a little enjoyment on the gruelling drive to and from work helps make the day better.

The Corolla Hatchback is surprisingly nimble, with the small radius steering wheel featuring good response. The car handles better than expected, providing ample grip during high-speed cornering. The 2.0-liter engine revs freely and the CVT does its best to simulate gear changes.

The only real shame is that the manual transmission is gone from the lineup, as that just made things more fun, albeit less efficient.

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Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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 1 comment
  • David David on Feb 08, 2024

    Reminds me of my '85 Tercel 3 door hatch with 4 speed. Lots of fun on twisty, hilly back roads where it really shined!