2021 Toyota Corolla Review
  • Car Review

2021 Toyota Corolla Review

By Autolist Editorial | December 16, 2020

Quick Facts:

Pros:

  • Exceptional practicality and fuel economy.
  • Impressive standard driver safety aids.
  • Long-running reputation for reliability.
  • Spacious interior with many features.

Cons:

  • Not as fun to drive as some rivals.
  • Few premium infotainment options.
  • Subdued styling lacks excitement.

Would we buy one? Yep!

Vehicle Type: Compact sedan and hatchback.

Price Range: $20,920 - $29,205, including destination but before options.

Powertrain: A 139-horsepower four-cylinder gas engine paired with a single-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT) and front-wheel-drive is standard.

A 169-horsepower four-cylinder gas engine and a six-speed manual transmission is optional.

A 121-horsepower hybrid engine is also available.

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Overall Score: 8/10

Safety Features: 9/10

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Toyota is at the forefront of standard driver safety technology, and its compact Corolla sedan has one of the best feature sets of any small car. Its suite of Toyota Safety Sense systems includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. There is also a lane-tracing feature that keeps the Corolla centered in its driving lane. All but the base trim come with a security alarm. The Corolla also has front and rear side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, a front knee airbag, and pedestrian detection.

The fancier Corolla XLE and XSE trim come with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. All of the Corolla's safety technology is easy to use. Many of the features can be turned off within the infotainment system. When the features are active, they remain on in the background, monitoring until an impending collision is detected. The Corolla's standard safety technology places it at the forefront of the compact car segment.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet rated the 2021 Toyota Corolla. The 2020 model year Corolla received the organization's 'Top Safety Pick' award, scoring highly in all crash-safety categories. The IIHS has one higher award, 'Top Safety Pick Plus.'

Likewise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the US government's crash-testing branch, gave the 2021 Corolla high ratings. It received a five-star overall front crash rating, five stars in the side pole crash category, and four stars in the rollover test.


Value: 9/10

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The Toyota Corolla is one of the best values in the compact sedan segment. Its high crash-safety scores and driver assistance systems like lane-departure warning make it one of the most modern cars for its price. The Corolla is also known for having excellent reliability, and it maintains its value fairly well on the used market. Its blend of practicality, helpful tech, and expected dependability make the Corolla a superb value for its reasonable price. Some competitors have lower pricing and similar safety and reliability scores, but few have the Corolla's name recognition.


Tech Features: 8/10

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Judging from all of the Corolla's standard driver technology, it is safe to expect it would be generally well-equipped. All trims come with automatic LED headlights, power side mirrors, keyless entry, and automatic climate control. Heated front seats, push-button start, and a remote engine starter are standard on upper trims like the Corolla XSE.

The base Corolla L trim has a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, and all upper trims come with an 8.0-inch unit. The system sits atop the dashboard. It has user-friendly menus, and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and a WiFi hotspot are included. The Corolla XLE and XSE have satellite radio and HD Radio.

A six-speaker audio system is standard; a nine-speaker JBL premium sound system is available in an optional package, including a dynamic navigation system. Another notable option is the Advanced Lighting Package, which includes curve-adaptive headlights and ambient LED interior lights.

Top competitors also have upscale available infotainment and audio systems. Top trims of the Mazda Mazda3 feature an 8.8-inch touchscreen and 12-speaker Bose premium audio system. The Honda Civic's top-of-the-line Touring trim comes with a 450-watt audio system. Subaru includes a Harman Kardon audio system in its Impreza Limited.


Practicality: 7/10

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Small cars like the Toyota Corolla gained popularity for several reasons; all of them practical. The Corolla's small exterior dimensions make it a good city car, capable of squeezing into tight parking spots and maneuvering around heavy traffic. Its fuel-sipping powertrain and high marks for reliability make it a low-maintenance daily driver.

The Corolla has decent interior storage, with a narrow center console bin, front door pockets, and a deep tray beneath the dashboard, and there are cupholders in both seating rows. The Corolla sedan has a small but usable trunk. It has 13.1 cubic feet, which is plenty for groceries, though competitors like the Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra, and Honda Civic have more cargo space. The Corolla's rear seat folds, expanding space.

The Corolla Hatchback has a similarly small cargo area for its body style. The sporty tailgate opens to a 17.8-cubic-foot cargo bay, which is less than the Subaru Impreza, Honda Civic, and Hyundai Elantra hatchbacks.


Styling & Design: 7/10

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The Toyota Corolla has gotten dinged in the past by critics for being dreary looking. In recent years, Toyota has restyled the Corolla multiple times, and the 2021 Corolla is the most stylish yet. Its sleek body silhouette, aggressive front grille and headlights, and the sporty SE and XSE trim levels help the Corolla gain some cred as an eye-catching small car. The Corolla Hatchback is even more stylish. Newer variants like the Nightshade Edition and the Corolla APEX trims include dark wheels and unique exterior styling.

The Corolla's cabin is likable but not as fashionable as some rivals. Toyota plays it safe with the interior, employing good-quality materials and a simple color scheme. The sleek dashboard, 'floating' infotainment screen, nicely-stitched steering wheel, and well-placed transmission gear lever gives the Corolla a modern and somewhat sporty appeal. Cloth upholstery comes standard; Softex leatherette trim is available. Leg room in both rows is good, though it is not as large as the midsize Toyota Camry, and some rivals have roomier interiors.

Those wanting a sportier interior should check out the Mazda3 or Honda Civic, while the Subaru Impreza feels pleasantly rugged and utilitarian inside. The Corolla lacks the same amount of character as the cars mentioned above. Nonetheless, the well-rounded Corolla is worth a trip to the dealership.


Driving Experience: 8/10

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While the Toyota Corolla is not dull to drive, it is not the most fun car in its segment. Its standard 139-horsepower four-cylinder engine is underwhelming to drive fast, though it provides good enough for commuting and getting around town. The CVT is smooth and fuel-efficient. Toyota also offers a 6-speed manual on some trims, but it is not as sharp as the stick-shifters in a Mazda or Honda.

The available 169-horsepower engine livens things up, adding a bit of spark to the daily drive. But the Corolla's comfort-focused suspension lets down any sporty pretensions. The ride is smooth and absorbent, making the Corolla comfortable enough for long trips. The seats are also suitable, with decent support. An eight-way power driver's seat comes with the Corolla XLE. Outward visibility is excellent.


Fuel Efficiency: 8/10

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The Toyota Corolla L, Corolla LE, and Corolla XLE trims come with the base 1.8-liter engine, returning an EPA-estimated 30/38/33 mpg city/highway/combined. Stepping up to the Corolla SE's more powerful 2.0-liter engine gives the Corolla better efficiency, surprisingly. Drivers can expect around 31/40/34 mpg.

The Toyota Corolla is also available with a hybrid powertrain. Its innovative start/stop system, built-in battery pack, and regenerative braking system allow it to get 53/52/52 mpg, which are impressive figures.

Few competitors get better gas mileage than the Corolla. The Honda Civic's 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is sportier and thriftier, getting 32/43/36 mpg in EPA estimates. The Hyundai Elantra comes in an efficiency-maximizing Eco trim, which returns 33/41/36 mpg.


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