After about 12 years of driving my 2004 Dodge Neon, I finally retired it and got a new car. I wanted something reliable and versatile, with good gas mileage, upgraded specs, and some built-in tech for navigation and music. After comparing a number of makes and models online, and test driving a few in person, I finally settled on a 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback SE. I don’t intend to make a full review, as those are all over the internet already, but I thought I’d publish a few notes of my own firsthand experience as an owner – things that I haven’t seen others mention.

  • The car handles a lot like my old Neon. Ride is smoother, wind noise is quieter.
  • I am a gentle driver, and my gas mileage has exceeded the EPA rating. My first month of driving netted me a 38 MPG average, including a lot of idling and revving while I familiarized myself with all of the features and characteristics of the car. I have had an occasion where, on a midnight drive home from work (7 mi hwy, 5 mi city), I managed just over 51 MPG.
  • The center cup holder fits a 30oz Yeti-style tumbler perfectly.
  • The adaptive cruise control works very well at keeping pace of the car in front of me. One annoying thing is that it will brake on a down slope if the car exceeds the set speed. Some people may prefer this, but I’d rather it milk the energy for gas mileage.
  • The Lane Trace Assist feature is good in theory, annoying in practice. Just as I am gentle on the gas pedal, I am also gentle on the curves, and will move laterally within my lane to ease irregularities in lane geometry. Even on its least sensitive setting, it is constantly beeping at me if I am not perfectly centered between the lines at all times. The steering assist is constantly fighting me if I try to drive normally, while if I hold the wheel loosely to let it do its thing, it will give me warnings.
  • The vertical space of the cargo area is less than some hatchbacks. The lowest clearance is just 23″ at the top of the hatch door, though it opens up to 27″ farther in. The spare takes up a lot of space, though there are lots of nooks and crannies around it to stash tools for emergencies. Note to Toyota designers: Would be nice if the rear seat were removable, and the spare tire were lower. Like a mini minivan.
  • I’m a tall guy, and given how much I have to move the driver’s seat back, the passenger seat behind it is almost too small to accommodate anybody.
  • No Android Auto (yet?). The included map program, Scout, requires your phone to be connected via USB, and for the appropriate app to be installed. It works adequately, such that I’d rather use it than have to look at my phone screen to access (the much better) Mapfactor,  but has annoying quirks in the interface and the way it positions the map view, which can’t be permanently set manually. It can be disorienting. Supposedly, though free for now, it will become a paid program in the future.
  • The center console screen size and position is very, very nice, prominent without being intrusive. Makes it easy to glance at a map while keeping the road in my vision at all times.
  • The media player works well with AIMP on my phone, via Bluetooth. You do not need to turn on your phone for it to begin play; if it’s in your pocket, just get in your car and go. Artist, title, track length, and play position all display correctly.