Probably one of the most popular cars in the subcompact and compact car segment, the Toyota Corolla doesn’t need any introduction. Introduced to the world in 1966, the Corolla has gone through several changes and upgrades over the years and is currently in its 12th generation of production introduced for 2020, of which the current 2021 model is also a part of.
One of the best selling cars in the world and also in the US for a reason, the Toyota Corolla is known for its extreme reliability, affordability, and good build quality as well. The Toyota Corolla got its last major upgrade in 2019 for the 2020 model year, the changes and improvements being carried over to the 2021 model as well.
The 2021 Toyota Corolla is available in five main different trim levels with two special trims as well. With a price range of $19,825 to $25,725, it competes with other very capable compact cars in the market like the Kia Forte, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, etc.
What’s new for 2021?
With a major upgrade for the 2020 model with a generation change as well, the jump to the 2021 model is a minor refresh and a significantly less notable one. Most of the trims remained unchanged, although the CVT automatic transmission and the manual transmission options for the SE trim are clubbed under the same umbrella.
Some of the other changes include the inclusion of the Apex sport package with summer tires available for the SE and XSE trims and making the Android Auto smartphone integration standard on all the trims. The rest of the car remains more or less the same without any change in looks whatsoever.
How well does the Toyota Corolla perform?
As mentioned earlier, the 2021 Toyota Corolla is available in five main trim levels and two special trims, and depending on the trim you choose, the Corolla gets powered by either a 1.8L Inline-4 motor or a bigger more powerful 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The 1.8L engine produces 139 HP @ 6100 rpm and 126 lb-ft. of torque @ 3900 rpm. The 2.0L motor on the other hand is good for 169 HP @ 6600 rpm and 151 lb-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm.
On top of that, the Hybrid LE variant is powered by a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine with an assist from a single electric motor, together producing 121 HP @ 5200 rpm and 105 lb-ft. of torque @ 3600 rpm. So nothing significant in terms of engine output from the Corolla there, and actually falling behind most of its competitors, the Corolla gets the job done and makes up for it with its comfortable ride quality and strong fuel economy.
Again nothing remarkable in terms of handling as well, the Corolla gets the job done with its Independent MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar and a multi-link rear suspension. The ride quality is really comfortable and is a great car for day-to-day city driving and also for long journeys as well.
Just like any other car in this price segment, the interior of the 2021 Toyota Corolla is quite basic in terms of looks but is highly functional nonetheless. The layout is simple and elegant and all the buttons and knobs for adjustments and the infotainment system are ergonomically placed and are easy to use. The car is quite spacious overall, although it might be a bit of a squeeze for taller adults in the rear seats, especially in terms of headroom. The boot space seats at around 13.1 cu.ft., which is actually below average, especially compared to its competitors.
Although the 2021 Toyota Corolla hasn’t been crash-tested by NHTSA yet, it is safe to assume that it would perform similar to the 2020 model which managed to get a perfect score of 5 stars, with 5 stars in all the individual tests except for the rollover test where it scored 4 out of 5 stars with only 10.50% of rollover risk.
Trims and Features
As mentioned earlier, the 2021 Toyota Corolla is available in five main trim levels viz. L, LE, SE, XLE, and XSE. On top of these five trims, two special trims viz. Hybrid LE and SE Nightshade Edition trims are also available.
Starting off the list with the base L trim, it comes standard with all the basic features like 15” steel wheels, 4-way manually adjustable front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, 7” touchscreen for the infotainment system, air conditioning, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a 6-speaker sound system, adaptive cruise control along with some safety tech which includes 10 airbags, Toyota’s Safety Connect emergency communications, forward collision warning with emergency braking, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, energy-absorbing collapsible steering column, etc.
The LE trim adds bigger 16” wheels, automatic climate control, better upholstery for the interior, heated mirrors, and a few other minor upgrades.
The Hybrid LE trim gets equipped with a single electric motor working in tandem with the 1.8L motor and it comes with different driving modes as well such as Normal, Power, and Eco driving modes.
The SE trim takes a sportier approach with a bigger more powerful 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, upgraded headlights, and a sporty exterior treatment along with a bigger 18” alloy wheels. With front sports seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, it is the one to go for if you are more of an enthusiast and want to spend some time enjoying driving the car. Moreover, only SE trim gets the option of a 6-speed manual transmission on top of the default CVT automatic. But the CVT variant is the one with selectable driving modes like Normal and Sport.
Then there’s the SE Nightshade Edition trim with blacked-out exterior and a pronounced rear diffuser.
The XLE reverts back to the 1.8L motor with a smaller 16” alloys but with selectable driving modes like the SE trim. It gets a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and a bigger 8” touchscreen display for the infotainment display. The interior quality is also upgraded with SofTex material and comes with a Blind-Spot Monitoring System as well.
And lastly, the XSE trim is a combination of both the SE and XLE trim featuring the more powerful 2.0L Inline-4 engine with bigger 18” wheels and a power-adjustable front sport seats.
Available as an option on the lower trims and standard on the higher trims, some of the notable features include a premium 9-speaker JBL audio system, Smart-Key system, and a blind-spot monitoring system. Moreover, ambient interior lighting and adaptive headlights are available for the XLE and XSE trims.
Which variant should you go for?
Although the base L trim offers most of the necessary features and technologies along with a host of active and passive safety features as well without much compromise, the LE is probably the sweet-spot with upgraded automatic climate control, upgraded interior along with a few other minor improvements with very little difference in the price tag, providing the best value for money proposition.
That being said, if budget is not an issue, you won’t regret getting the more luxurious XLE or XSE trims as these trims do come with some notable luxury upgrades. But if you are more of a petrol-head and love driving cars, the SE trim with the 6-speed manual transmission is definitely the one to go for.