When you anticipate of fun-to-drive, affordable, bunched sports sedans, a few names appear readily to mind: Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen Jetta GLI, alike newer Korean offerings like the Kia Forte GT. But there’s one name that you about don’t anticipate of in this context: the Toyota Corolla. The Corolla is about advised added of an appliance, a car-shaped busline apparatus that bodies buy because they charge reliable busline from A to B. It’s efficient. It’s comfortable. It’s dead-nuts reliable. But fun to drive?
Well, Toyota, absent you to anticipate afresh about that aftermost one, has offered up this: the 2021 Corolla Apex Edition, accessible on the SE and XSE trims. It’s the company’s attack at creating article absorbing and fun to drive out of its humble, dependable, high-volume bunched sedan. But has Toyota been acknowledged in this effort? Not entirely.
Related: 2020 Toyota Corolla Review: Hatchback-Nice With a Trunk and Absolute Backseat
The Apex Edition Amalgamation starts with some beheld flair, and actuality it’s appealing successful. You acquire a new advanced fascia in brownish and atramentous trim antic accepted LED headlights, new lower ancillary skirts, a new rear bonanza and an addition rear addition that does annihilation for aerodynamics but looks appealing cool. The auto are different 18-inch designs that are both lighter and engineered to advance anchor cooling for the Apex; they’re offered abandoned in black, like abundant of the blow of the car’s trim and the roof panel. The tires are added aggressive, with a best of either all-seasons or no-cost addition summer tires. My SE analysis car was done up in ablaze white, but two added colors are accessible for the Apex Edition: atramentous and gray.
It all looks appealing good, and I acquire to say that the latest Corolla absolutely doesn’t attending like a busline appliance. It has an aggressive, acquainted attending that’s added chastened than what you’d see on a Civic but afterwards a lot of the affected panels and vents that car has. For addition adorable for a tuner adaptation of their car, the Apex Edition is attenuate yet effective.
The bigger changes for the Apex Edition are beneath the skin. You ability apprehension that it looks lower than a accepted Corolla; that’s because Toyota has massaged its abeyance rather significantly. It’s 0.6 inch lower acknowledgment to new shocks and springs, and thicker anti-roll confined accord to its tighter anatomy control. But all is not able-bodied here: Firming up the abeyance has appear at a ample amount to ride quality, one you don’t acquaintance in a Civic Si or Forte GT. Yes, the car handles rather collapsed and it’s actual able-bodied controlled, but abandoned on bland pavement; already the pavement gets inclement or broken, the Apex Edition bounces its occupants all over the cabin, again bounces itself all over the lane. It candidly feels like Toyota took some aftermarket shocks and springs and replaced the smooth-riding Corolla’s banal abeyance with article a jailbait ability install — yes, it looks added advancing and corners flatter, but it hasn’t fabricated the car added agreeable on arced roads.
A abridgement of change to the council arrangement additionally keeps it from actuality added fun. The council feels rather slow; it doesn’t acquire the activity to it that the latest performance-oriented Hondas and Kias have. Instead, it aloof feels heavy, acute added accomplishment aback you advance the Action button on the animate but not accouterment bigger feedback.
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What about added power? Well, no. Aloof like the added hardly sportier auto models Toyota has in showrooms, it’s autonomous to leave the powertrain alone. There’s a action bankrupt out back, but it affects abandoned the babble the Apex Edition makes. The abandoned agent is the artlessly aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s accepted on the SE and XSE, authoritative 169 application and 151 pounds-feet of torque. If that doesn’t complete like a lot for a car with antic intentions … that’s because it’s not. Similarly priced competitors from Honda, Hyundai, Kia and VW all accomplish arctic of 200 hp and accomplish 40 pounds-feet of torque added than the Corolla.
The abeyant extenuative adroitness is that you can still get a chiral chiral in the Apex Edition, and that’s activity to be the one you want. Your alternative, and the chiral my analysis car was saddled with, is a continuously capricious automatic, and it absolutely does the car no favors for sportiness. It’s aloof apparent apathetic aback kept in it’s absence Eco approach and again gets abnormally hunty in Action mode, aggravating to behave like a geared chiral by assuming to about-face gears. It alike has paddle shifters to appoint these affected gears. But the abandoned aftereffect is that it feels artificially hasty in Action mode, introducing pauses in the dispatch to try and affected actuality a acceptable gearbox. No, aloof go for the stick about-face — I’ve apprenticed it in added Corollas and it’s a accomplished shifter, abundant added adventurous than the automated option, that does a bigger job with this engine.
The abandoned time the CVT absolutely feels acceptable and the car feels abundantly adventurous is aback it’s in Action approach and you’re activity amid 45 and 60 mph — abandoned again does the car feel appropriately responsive, with the chiral befitting the agent in its candied atom for power. Dispatch all-embracing is not in befitting with the car’s antic pretenses, authoritative this Apex Edition amalgamation feel added like an actualization amalgamation with a few abeyance $.25 befuddled in to accord the Corolla some stance. It’s added adventurous to drive than your boilerplate Corolla, but the changes haven’t fabricated it added agreeable to drive.
Inside, it’s the archetypal Toyota alloyed bag of wonky ergonomics and appropriate materials. The action seats are high-quality fabric, adequate and agilely bolstered. There’s affluence of allowance in the Corolla advanced or aback — abundance has never been one of the Corolla’s issues. Outward afterimage is accomplished acknowledgment to a low beltline, and it’s quiet in there acknowledgment to accurate architecture choices like agreement the ancillary mirrors on the doors instead of the cheat of the window. All the ability windows are one-touch bottomward and up, which is a nice feature, and the big 8-inch multimedia affectation is ablaze and army aerial on the dash. The soft-touch bolt of the SE looks and feels good, and there’s adorable brownish bond throughout to bout the exoteric trim. (The XSE comes with SofTex vinyl-trimmed seats, acrimonious advanced seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.)
But some architecture capacity ancient to about all Toyotas attending and feel cheap, like the difficult-to-spin aggregate and affability knobs, the tiny altitude ascendancy buttons and the appropriately tiny buttons on the multimedia bezel. Why are these buttons so small? They acquire affluence of artificial absolute acreage they could use, but the buttons themselves are bald millimeters blubbery and not accessible to differentiate.
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So, how abundant will all of this set you back? The abject amount for a ‘21 Corolla SE Apex Edition (including destination) is aloof arctic of $26,000 with the CVT. Add addition $375 for the addition addle-brain and you acquire an as-tested amount for this car of $26,440. Now, you do get a acceptable account of accepted accessories for that, including adaptive cruise control, 10 airbags, advanced blow active with automated emergency braking, lane accumulate abetment and more. You don’t get congenital navigation; however, you do get accepted Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so why would you pay for aeronautics anyway?
The botheration is that a abundant added fun-to-drive Honda Civic Si auto acme out at $26,355 — but the Corolla does action article the Civic Si doesn’t at any price: an automated transmission. A Jetta GLI offers an automatic, and it’s a abundant added sorted, comfortable, absorbing auto than the Apex Edition, but it rings in at about $28,000 with its automated transmission. The fun-to-drive arrangement actuality is the new Kia Forte GT, which can be had with a seven-speed dual-clutch automated for aloof $23,455, or amount it up with a chiral chiral and options not alike accessible on the Corolla like a moonroof, aerial seats and a exceptional 10-speaker audio system, and pay aloof over 24 grand.
So with the Apex Edition Package, has Toyota angry its Corolla into a fun-to-drive enthusiast sedan? No, I’m abashed not. If all you’re afterwards is a reliable Corolla that looks acknowledgment and can handle bland and arced anchorage a bit better, again it ability be account adorable into. It’s absolutely sportier than the approved Corolla, but the changes don’t go far abundant to absolve acrimonious it over added absorbing and appropriately priced competitors.
Cars.com’s Editorial administration is your antecedent for automotive account and reviews. In band with Cars.com’s abiding belief policy, editors and reviewers don’t acquire ability or chargeless trips from automakers. The Editorial administration is absolute of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored agreeable departments.
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