2021 Toyota Corolla continues to offer value, safety Featured

Posted On Saturday, 10 July 2021 21:28 Written by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)
For 2021, Toyota has introduced the new Apex edition on some trim levels of the Corolla, offering a bolder style. For 2021, Toyota has introduced the new Apex edition on some trim levels of the Corolla, offering a bolder style. Photo courtesy of Toyota

When the Toyota Corolla first went on sale, Lyndon Baines Johnson was president. In the 55 years since, the vehicle has sold more than 45 million units worldwide. That’s quite a run, one of the best ever in fact, and there is no end in sight, with the Corolla selling over 237,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2020.

Those are impressive numbers considering how the pandemic hit the industry last year, and are helped by the fact that the vehicle got a sharp redesign for 2020. Even more positive are the numbers in 2021 so far, with the Corolla on track to far exceed last year’s total.

I recently spent some time in a 2021 Corolla, and I’m back with a full report on how it measures up in the small car segment.


The 2021 Toyota Corolla features a bold exterior look, including available 18-inch machined alloy wheels with dark gray accents, a sport mesh gray metallic front grille, LED headlights and taillights, and a dark gray rear spoiler.

Entering the vehicle, a few positives on the interior are a power tilt/sliding moonroof, as well as premium sport SofTex-trimmed heated front seats, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Front row seating is comfy, but there is a somewhat tight back seat and a small trunk (13.1 cubic feet of space). The back seats fold down in a 60/40 split to boost cargo space when needed.

You also have less head room that most competitors offer. Looking at the bigger picture, many vehicles in the small car segment are really stepping up the quality of their interiors, and the Corolla is lagging behind a bit in this regard.

The 2021 Corolla is available in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback versions. New for 2021 is the more aggressively styled Apex edition.


The standard engine on the 2021 Corolla is a four-cylinder, 1.8-liter powerplant offering 139 horsepower and 126 lb.-ft. of torque. You can also opt for the more powerful four-cylinder, 2.0-liter engine, offering 169 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. Not huge numbers, but decent for the segment.

The Corolla I tested had the better engine offering. It could be fun to drive at times in Sport mode, but isn’t going to offer a driving experience as strong as some of its competitors can. For example, the best you’ll do for 0-to-60 time in a Corolla is over 7 seconds, which is way behind some rivals such as the Mazda3.

All-wheel drive is not offered on the 2021 Corolla, as it’s only offered in front-wheel drive.

Handling and overall ride quality is decent, but not a match to the overall experience some of its competitors can claim. The Corolla, to sum it up, is a strong A-to-B car, not one you will have the urge to drive for fun.


The infotainment setup in the 2021 Corolla offers accessible and easy-to-use technology. Touch commands are a breeze, and voice commands are also very effective. The only knock on it is that the look and design of the system and its 8-inch touchscreen are a bit dated vs. the Corolla’s rivals.

The sound system features six speakers (with an option to upgrade to a 9-speaker system), and there is a hands-free Bluetooth connection. It’s also compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for phone mirroring. Satellite radio is featured, with a 3-month free trial before subscription is needed.

On the safety side of things, Toyota has you covered well. The Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system includes: Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control (which will stop the vehicle completely on its own if needed), lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist (automatically centers the vehicle in your lane if you start to drift), automatic high beams, and road sign assist.

There are 10 air bags in the Corolla, and you get a helpful blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. All together, these are plenty of strong systems to help you avoid an accident, but in a worst-case scenario, the Corolla has extremely strong government safety ratings (four or five stars in all categories).


The official fuel mileage numbers on the 2021 Corolla are 31 city/38 highway/34 combined. In real-world testing, I averaged 35 mpg. These are strong numbers for the segment. The Corolla features a 13.2-gallon fuel tank, so total range is upwards of 400 miles on a full tank. A hybrid version of the Corolla is also offered, offering a very impressive 52 mpg, and nearly 600 miles on a full tank.


As a smaller vehicle, the Corolla is quite affordable. The vehicle I tested was at the very top of the price range, trimmed out with a final price tag of $28,845, but most buyers won’t go this route. The good news for more budget-conscious buyers is the base price for the Corolla starts about $20K, which is quite affordable, especially when considering the long life spans and reliability of Toyota vehicles.


A vehicle that remains strong on safety and reliability, with a stylish look and design and solid fuel economy, the Toyota Corolla will continue to be a top seller in the small car segment for 2021 and beyond, despite lack of performance credentials.

There remains strong competition in this segment — from entries such as the Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra, Honda Civic, Mazda3, and Hyundai Elantra — and I recommend trying multiple options before purchasing to see what fits your needs best, but many small car buyers will no doubt continue to end up with a Corolla in their driveway.


AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

Search Reviews by Make

AutoTechReviews  is your home for In-depth reviews of the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs; information on all the emerging vehicle technology; and breaking news from the world of NASCAR and other motorsports.