2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE new car reviews

Photography Courtesy Toyota

Now that we know a super-hot GR model is on the way, is the more pedestrian Corolla Hatch still relevant?

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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard

It’s painted a stunning shade of blue, wears tires with a treadwear rating under 300 and sports a 6-speed manual transmission. Oh, and did I mention it looks awesome? I wasn’t sure exactly what was parked in my driveway, but I was pretty sure it was cool.

Maybe this Corolla was Toyota’s answer to the Honda Civic Si, or perhaps one step down from the 300 horsepower GR Corolla.

But sadly, no. It’s just an econobox.

Just over $28,000 only gets you 168 horsepower, and it doesn’t arrive until 6600 rpm. The naturally aspirated two-liter is responsible for propelling more than 3000 lbs. of car. That means you’ll be spending plenty of time working the excellent six-speed manual (with automatic rev-matching on downshifts).

Driving this Corolla feels like paddling a canoe, as you’re just constantly rowing to make forward progress. 0-60 takes right around 8 seconds, which is slower than the brand’s Sienna minivan.

Despite being slow in a straight line, the Corolla is delightful to drive when the road gets curvy. Corners awaken a fun, playful and even neutral chassis–one that had me wishing for more power, though.

This car is a fantastic place to spend time, too, with plenty of interior space, comfortable power seats, and a good infotainment system. There’s real practicality paired with the fun thanks to the rear hatch, and you’ll even find modern driver aids that will happily keep you in your lane and away from the car in front of you on the highway.

But is it worth $28,000? Well, uh, no.

Honda’s Civic Si only costs a few hundred dollars more, and it feels and drives like a bigger, faster, better car. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the Corolla XSE. Ditch the fancy black roof and the fun paint color, and you’ll save $1500 off the sticker price.

That sub-$27,000 price tag would turn this car into a Civic Si competitor at a decent discount, and there are probably plenty of buyers for that car–especially since Honda won’t build any Civic hatchbacks in Si trim.

On second thought, do you know what would definitely fix this car? 300 horsepower. I'm now more excited than ever to drive the GR Corolla.

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