The last time a Toyota Corolla hatchback received this much fanfare, Ronald Reagan was in office and Michael Jackson was serenading us over the radio waves with Billie Jean. The early ’80s wasn’t the last time we saw a hatchback from Toyota, but, since Scion dissolved and Toyota absorbed the five-door iM, it was only a matter of time before the Japanese brand slapped its highest selling name on the back. This isn’t a lazy badge-engineering job, though. The 2019 Corolla hatchback looks like it has the potential to be Toyota’s latest weapon in its campaign to be fun and entertaining again.

Based on Toyota’s new platform, the Corolla’s dimensions are nearly identical to the Volkswagen Golf, give or take an inch here and there. A new 2.0-liter inline four can be paired with an optional lightweight six-speed manual that Toyota equipped with rev-matching technology. Toyota’s heart is definitely in the right place.

Now, it’s easy to throw all that enthusiast-focused engineering into a tiny car and market it as a return to greatness, but Toyota’s recent run of form would suggest the new Corolla stands a fighting chance against the relatively unchallenged VW hatch. The Japanese brand recently refreshed its TRD lineup, announced the return of the Supra and formed the GR division, where Toyotas will go to get tuned and upgraded by Gazoo Racing — think of it as Toyota’s AMG.

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