Monthly Archives: November 2018

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE: Fun in the City

Susan Frissell
Editor, WWW

I, for one, am delighted that the ‘hatchback’ version of the Corolla is here. And dare I saw it, I’m also excited about the comeback of Toyota’s station wagon.’ Of course, it will never be referred to again as a ‘station wagon,’ but the iteration in 2019, is unmistakably, that category of automobile. Too bad Toyota isn’t introducing it here in the U.S.; well, not yet, anyway.

After one week in the newly introduced Corolla Hatchback XSE, our report is favorable. I chauffeured a few friends over the weekend, all of whom liked the Corolla hatchback offering right away. So much so, they headed for the internet and began googling the specs and cost. I have yet to see one on the road, but know they are out there.

One can hardly go wrong putting themselves in a Corolla. Why, I have a neighbor who just last year traded in her old Corolla. It had to be 25 years old, the infamous racing green color, with millions of miles on it. To my surprise, she bought a Volvo SUV. Quite a change, but I think she felt she deserved it after all those years!

The 2019 Corolla Hatchback is available in three trim levels: SE ($19,900), SE AT ($21,090) and XSE AT ($24,090 for manual and $25,010 for CVT-equipped). Our XSE version came in the now popular blue car category; one Toyota calls “Blue Flame.” Liked by all, it turned heads wherever we were in downtown Chicago. Our Hatchback was a prototype model, equipped with the 2.0-liter DynamicForce 4-cylinder automatic. At 168 horsepower, it will get you onto the highway safely, and better than some. It’s quiet, as expected.

The new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback handles well and drives better with its upgraded technology. Although don’t expect the rocket-like experience of say, the VW GTI! The Corolla is equipped with a large supply of standard safety features for an entry-level four-door hatchback. While not a fan of CVT transmissions (an extra at $1,100), I might as well get used to them, but the lag when taking off isn’t always pleasurable.

Trim options available on the Corolla Hatchback are limited, but we think that is a good thing. Too many choices confuse buyers and in this category one expects the basics, and yet, receives a little more. The SE trim level will offer a Preferred Package for CVT models that includes an upgraded multimedia system with Toyota Connected Services and blind spot warning for $1,400. The XSE Preferred Package also is only available on CVT models and for $1,600 it adds a JBL eight-speaker stereo system, a wireless charging pad and dynamic navigation. An adaptive front lighting system also is available on the Toyota Corolla XSE for $415.

Competition for the new Hatchback includes Hyundai Veloster (R-SPEC), the 2018 Honda Civic Hatchback-starting at just about the same price but with a manual transmission, the 2018 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback ($22,195 starting), and the redesigned 2019 VW Jetta (base trim level $20,645). The latter two vehicles don’t match Toyota’s safety equipment, or other goodies.

Of course, the Corolla’s CVT transmission aids in fuel economy. The manual SE model gets 28/37/31 mpg city/highway, and improves to 32/42/36 mpg with the CVT. In the XSE version, the gas mileage is listed at 30/38/33 mpg. As far as the Corolla’s manual version, the numbers fall a tad behind some of the competitors. We averaged about 34-35 mpg in highway driving, in our automatic.

This is a top-notch, all around vehicle in its segment. The Corolla is peppier, and the interior refinements make this a great value. We-and a passenger-especially liked the Bi-LED combo headlights with auto on/off feature and adaptive front lighting system. It lights the way well, especially when on dark roads. Slyly pointing the way forward, the projected path camera is a welcome feature when doing some nighttime driving.

The seats are comfortable, and our XSE version came equipped with the two-tone leather, a sharp light “Cool Gray.” Legroom is decent in the front seating area, but those in back, if blessed with long legs, might find it a tad cramped. The rear seats are 60/40 split fold-down so space is increased for carrying bikes, packages, etc. Oh, and dogs!

The steering wheel is tilt/telescopic leather, 3-spoke with system controls and paddle shifters. We did not engage the paddle shifters. The leather-trimmed front seats were both heated; the driver’s seat featuring a 8-way power adjustable feature, and the passenger seat a manually adjusted front seat.

The electronics included a 7-inch multi-information display, with Entune 3.0, Auto Plus with App Suite, six speakers and 8-inch touch screen, AM/FM/HD radio and CD player. This writer couldn’t determine if there was a GPS system. A prototype model, we weren’t familiar with the set-up. Nor could we determine where the CD was located (which was listed). As a colleague often reminds me, consulting the manual is the first thing to do. One was not included in our test car.

Additional features on our test Corolla Hatchback Prototype included the Smart Key System on front doors, push-button start, remote keyless entry, LED DRL with On-0ff features, LED fog lights, LED combo tailgates, Black front grille with chrome grille surround, color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signal and Blind Spot Monitor, Acoustic noise-reducing front windshield, Dual zone A/C, and Integrated backup camera with projected path. All four windows are power with auto up/down.

The redesigned 2019 Corolla hatchback arrived on dealership lots in the U.S. earlier this year and is noticeably ‘changed.’ As an update, it rides on a lighter, more agile platform, which it also shares in some version on the Prius hybrid, RAV4 and Avalon. In addition, fuel economy is markedly improved.

Frissell Fido Friendly Rating

The Frissell Fido Four didn’t get a chance to ride in the Corolla Hatchback, but had they, rear seats would have been collapsed to accommodate all four more leisurely. Although the fit would have been made, the space wouldn’t have been anymore generous than their everyday sedan; in fact, the sedan they ride in on most days is probably more generous.

When thinking about buying a vehicle “fit for a dog” (king?), one’s money is probably better spent (or so friends tell me) on a large SUV (think GMC Terrain, Toyota Highlander, etc), or a minivan than on a compact hatchback. What most pet owners know-or should know-is that transporting a dog in a car without a harness is dangerous. Should a sudden stop be made, any dog, particularly a small dog, will fly through the car, much like a projectile. The best option no matter the wheels, is to crate your dog(s).

All dogs are different in their preferences and when riding in a vehicle, this becomes clear. Most prefer standing, but two of mine, like sitting-or sleeping (Chihuahuas). The Whippets prefer stretching their heads out the window, grabbing plenty of fresh air. This doesn’t accommodate seat belt wear very easily. Truth be told, we don’t seatbelt the dogs like we should. Rather, their leashes are tied to the seatbelts.

Why do dogs love riding in cars? According to Kevin Behan of Natural Dog Training, it may be because they feel as though they are on a hunt. While this could certainly be accurate for the
Whippets, I’m not sure about the Chihuahuas; although Lucille is a different story. She is a hunter by nature.

Apparently, a dog is induced by the synchronized physical movement of a car into a state of emotional suspension; therefore, a dog feels as if it is part of the group that is on the hunt. How much sensory input (energy) can this feeling of weightlessness sustain seems to be determined by the temperament of a dog. They will respond in different ways. For some dogs the feeling can be very strong and when their emotional capacity is exceeded, may strike out at things going past (don’t quote me on this!)

Most of us assume that hunting for a dog means stalking, chasing and killing prey to obtain food. In the animal mind, however, a hunt is a “state of emotional suspension;” the animal projecting itself into its prey. If the prey acts like ‘prey,’ the predator mirrors it by feel with equal and opposite movement in order to counterbalance.

What’s ahead for the Corolla

Expect new changes in the Corolla design coming for the year 2020. Toyota isn’t saying much about the up- and-coming redesigned 2020 Corolla sedan; its 12th generation to go on sale in the U.S. Is there a compact sedan that’s lasted this long? And still gets good ratings. The current design dates back to 2014 and although has had a few tweaks here and there, will welcome a total redo. Particularly, with all the competition today. We can certainly say that about the redesigned-long overdue-Camry. Finally, it’s got some style.

Next week will bring the debut of the redesigned 2020 Corolla which Toyota will emphasize for its ‘global nature’ as a compact sedan. Most likely seen for the first time in the U.S. will be at the L.A. Auto Show in California later this month, with its initial debut at the Guangzhou auto show in China.


Engine: 2.0-liter DynamicForce 4-cylinder DOHC, 66—rpm
16-valve, Dual injection with dual VVT-1, 168 hp., 151 lb.ft. torque
Transmission: Dynamic shift, CVT with physical first launch gear. Drivetrain FWD, suspension independent MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear.
Wheelbase: 103.9 in.
Length: 169.9 in.
Width: 69.9 in.
Curb weight: 3,060 lbs.
Height: 57.1 in.
Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.
EPA Fuel Economy: 28/37 mpg.
Wheels: 18-inch machine finished alloy
Tires: P225/40R18 in.
Sound system: Entune 3.0 Auto Plus with App Suite, 6 spkrs, 8-inch Touchscreen AM/FM/HD Radio, CD player
Bi-LED combo headlights with auto on/off feature and adaptive front lighting system
LED DRL w/on-off features
LED fog lights
LED combo taillights
Black front grille with chrome grille surround
Color-keyed power outside mirrors with turn signal and blind spot monitor
Acoustic noise-reducing front windshield
Dual zone A/C
Integrated backup camera with projected path
Power windows with 4-window auto up/down
Smart key system on FR doors and trunk with push-button start remote keyless entry
Aux port, USB media port 2 usb charge ports advanced voice recognition
7-inch multi-information display
Leather-trimmed heated front seats with 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, manually adjusted front passenger seat
60/40-split fold-down rear seats
Tilt/telescopic leather e-spoke steering wheel with system controls and paddle shifters
Interior cool gray
Exterior: Blue Flame
Warranty: Full. Basic: 3 yrs./36,000-miles; Powertrain: 5 yrs.

The Guinness Book of World Records’ best-selling two-seat sports car: 2019 Mazda MX-5 (Miata) RF

Susan Frissell
Editor, WWW

This is not a point one can argue. Anyone who has owned-or even driven a Miata (as we grew up referring to them), knows, this is, indeed, the best little two-seat sportscar out there.

As those in my generation have mused, when growing up in the 1960s, many ached for those British MG’s, Triumphs and of course, the iconic Jaguar XKE. Who could not love these beauties and aspire to owning one.

The bad news, as all know, was that they were not at all dependable. The old joke was “if you owned a Jaguar, you had two. One was always in the shop.”

No matter. We still coveted them. And in Mazda’s wisdom, they knew it too. So, when the little sportster made it over to the U.S. in 1989 as a 1990 model, we were hooked. And as time passed, there were more than one iteration of this little bugger: Our test car for the week, the MX-5 RF edition.

Some debate the value of hardtop vs. soft top. We think both are desirable and perhaps for different driving times. It’s convenient to have a hardtop during cooler months, and when navigating highways, having a quieter cabin is a luxury.

But when temps are upwards of 80 degrees, and the sun is bright in the sky, there’s nothing like the ease and convenience of a soft top. And the Miata’s is so easy to drop at a moment’s notice.

The 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF is for those purists, and those willing to pay an extra $3,000 for the hardtop. Our test 2019 MX-5 RF carried a MSRP of $33,335 and a total price of $36,005. While this may seem like a high price tag lot to many, it’s money well-spent, or so our reasoning goes.

One will have this Miata for years, and with little upkeep. The styling never goes out of fashion, and once a convertible driver, always a convertible driver.

Having assembled more than one million Miatas over the years, those who haven’t spent seat time in the MX-5 have no business criticizing. When Mazda introduced the RF some 18 months ago, adding a retractable roof to the fourth-generation MX-5. They must have known, as the NC model by the end of its life accounted for more than half of the MX-5 sales.

Some owners do make their MX-5 an all-season car. Power windows, cruise control and air conditioning make it all the more practical. The manual soft top can easily be unlatched, thrown over the driver’s shoulder and in five seconds, you’ve gone topless. The soft top is now easier to open and close, but don’t expect much more head room than before. The RF feels even closer inside. In fact, the driver who delivered the MX-5 RF last week was over six feet tall. How he managed that space for 4 hours is amusing.

The MX-5 has been given a bump-at last-in horsepower for the 2019 model year. You can now get your kicks with the 181horsepower engine at 7,000 rpm (17 percent improved). Torque is at 15 lb.ft. at 4,000 rpm.

Roomy trunk space

The RF roof more resembles the targa top. It makes for a quieter cabin, although the newest ragtop iteration is a much better quality soft top. A car buff can argue that while today’s vehicles are easier to drive, they lack the feel of the road. Not so with the Miata, and perhaps that is its number one appeal.

Mazda boasts that the RF hardtop opens and closes in 13 seconds. The switch is located on the dash, easy to see and use. The RF is available in Grand Touring and Club levels. New for 2019 are a standard tilt/telescoping steering column, standard rearview camera, Metallic black wheels, Newly available Smart City Brake and New Traffic Sign Recognition. New packages for 2019 include the New Club i-ACTIVSENSE Package which includes Smart City Brake Support and Lane-Departure Warning, New GT-S package which includes a limited-slip rear differential (our test RF came with this option), Bilstein dampers, shock tower brace and a black roof on the six-speed manual transmission only.

Performance highlights on our RF included a sport-tuned exhaust system, Sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers on manual transmission models, Limited-slip differential on manual transmission models, and shock tower brace on MT only.

The Bose 9-speaker audio system with headrest speakers was a nice upgrade and the sound takes off in this little roadster. Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, along with Adaptive Front-Lighting System are standard highlights with Mazda’s Advanced Keyless Entry. Pushbutton start is also standard.

The 4.6-inch full-color TFT display is easy to read and works fairly simply. However, the controls are located on the center console so setting down your arm/elbow there-a natural driving position-inadvertently turns the channel when you don’t intend to.

This RF offers so many up-to-date features, it would take a page to list them all. Be assured, you’re getting what you pay for. Just to name a few: power automatic door locks, power windows, one-touchdown, clear wind blocker, tire pressure monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning system, heated power side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats, etc.

No rides for the Frissell Fido Four this time. although someone before us did give a pooch a ride. The Chi’s would easily fit in the front seat; a squeeze for the Whippets. I once transported all four Fidos in my 2003 Corvette-all in the passenger seat! They weren’t happy.


Engine: 2.0L SKYACTIV Inline-NE-Four Cylinder, 181 HP., 7,000 RPM, 151 LB-FT. Torque, 4,000 RPM
Transmission: Rear-Wheel-Drive, Six-Speed Manual
Type of Vehicle: retractable hardtop sports car
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires: P205/45R17
Price: As Tested: $33,335; Total price: 36,005; Destination: $$895
Standard Features:Power-retractable hard top, 17-inch alloy wheels, sport suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, limited slip differential, strut tower bar, advanced blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-t… Read More
Options: Machine Grey Metallic paint AND Auburn Napa interior ($600), GT-S package: Limited Slip Differential, front shock, tower brace black roof ($750), Interior package for M/T, alloy pedals, Red engine oil cap, WMX logo ($425)
Weight: 2,453 LBS
Fuel Economy 26/34/29 MPG