The 2021 Toyota Corolla buffs the automaker’s small-car credentials in some obvious ways, and some subtler ones, too. An absurdly good value especially in hybrid trim, the 2021 Corolla’s a resale monolith—and hasn’t lost those attributes even as it’s grown more stylish and more nimble.
For 2021, all versions gain Android Auto compatibility, two more airbags, and available satellite radio. Blind-spot monitors are more widely available, too.
Sold as a sedan or as a hatchback in a host of trims, the 2021 Corolla earns a TCC Rating of 6.7 out of 10, based on the smaller-engined sedan.
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With the latest Corolla, Toyota applies some of its current styling cues, but not the more extravagant ones. The Corolla hatchback’s the more striking of the duo; sedans have more interesting fillips but a traditional outline. Neither’s as exhausting to the eyeballs as the Mirai or as of-the-moment as the RAV4. The interior strikes a better compromise of function and form, with smartly arrayed controls and a dash-mounted infotainment touchscreen.
Hybrids and base Corollas putter, while “S” models keep a more brisk pace. The Corolla Hybrid’s 121-horsepower output may shy from acceleration, but delivers 52-mpg combined EPA fuel economy—which shames the otherwise excellent gas mileage that comes from the Corolla’s 1.8-liter inline-4 and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Either of those satisfy the Corolla’s mission as innocuous but capable transformation; SE and XSE cars with the 169-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 thrash their way to quicker acceleration and come with manual shifters if you like, but could use a round of refinement. All Corollas handle with aplomb; the steering’s never too heavy, the ride quality never too bobbly.
In either Corolla, the front passengers have the room they need to prosper, but sedans have superior rear seats, from the cushions themselves to the head and leg room that surrounds them. Hybrids have some of the best chairs of all, though all Corollas get taxed by a five-passenger road trip. Cargo space is shy on sedans, but hatchbacks have plenty of storage behind the back seats and behind the fronts when the backs fold down.
Every Corolla gets automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors are standard or available on almost every model. Corollas also get touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, power features, and cloth or synthetic leather upholstery. At about $25,000 either the very well-equipped Corolla XLE or the super-frugal Corolla Hybrid LE make perfect sense to us.